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Minnesota Parents Helping People With Intellectual Disabilities Get College Degrees

In 2019, Mary Hauff and fellow parents founded the Minnesota Inclusive Higher Education Consortium to advocate for students with intellectual disabilities, like her daughter Jean. Their efforts led to the allocation of $2 million, by the Minnesota Legislature in 2023, for inclusive higher education, ensuring equal access and meaningful credentials for these students.

Most of the funds will support colleges in enhancing enrollment opportunities, with $500,000 allocated to a technical assistance center at the University of Minnesota operated by the consortium. Despite nearly 200 colleges in Minnesota, only three are designated for specific programs benefiting students with intellectual disabilities, highlighting the need for broader support.

Intellectual disability, characterized by challenges in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior, often manifests before the age of 18. Research indicates that students with intellectual disabilities who attend college are more likely to secure employment, earn higher wages, and live independently. The initiative in Minnesota aligns with national efforts, such as the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which aims to improve college access for students with intellectual disabilities.

Other states, like Kentucky, have also invested in similar programs, reflecting a growing trend nationwide. In Minnesota, the technical assistance center at the University of Minnesota serves as a hub for expertise and support, with input from an advisory committee that includes 50% student representation with intellectual disabilities.

Colleges and universities in Minnesota will soon have the opportunity to apply for grants to enhance accessibility, with funding available for developing or improving programs supporting students with intellectual disabilities. The Minnesota Inclusive Higher Education Consortium is actively assisting institutions in preparing for these grants and federal designations for financial aid, aiming to broaden educational opportunities and support for students with intellectual disabilities across the state…

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