May 28, 2004
REPORT FINDS EXTENSIVE EFFORTS TO ASSIST DISABLED STUDENTS
SPRINGFIELD - "Students with disabilities are being
encouraged now, more than ever, to continue their education and
pursue career goals." That's the conclusion of a comprehensive
look at efforts of colleges and universities to meet the needs of
disabled students on campuses across Illinois. However, the report
also sounds a warning that along with the recognition of higher
education's responsibility to disabled students "comes the
growing concern about the funding levels necessary to provide and
sustain services for students with disabilities."
The focus on helping students with disabilities is featured in the
annual Underrepresented Groups Report, which the Illinois Board
of Higher Education will discuss at its June 8 meeting at Richland
Community College in Decatur.
In addition to this year's in-depth examination of services for
students with disabilities, the Underrepresented Groups Report found
some positive trends in enrollment of minority students. The report
- African American enrollments grew 2.9 percent from 2002 to 2003
and 22.6 percent since 1993, while Latino enrollments increased
7 percent in the past year and 70 percent for past decade.
- Degrees awarded to African American students were up 10.5 percent
over the previous year and nearly 50 percent for the decade. Trends
in degrees granted to Latino students were even more impressive
- close to 12 percent in 2003 and 109 percent since 1993.
Besides tracking enrollment and degree trends, the Underrepresented
Groups Report each year zeroes in on a particular focus topic -
this year an examination of services for students with disabilities.
Those services, as reported by public community colleges and universities,
are extensive. Accommodations for students with disabilities vary
from campus to campus and case by case.
For example, the Disability Support Services office at Western Illinois
University provides such services as audio-taped texts, interpreter
services, adaptive equipment and software, voice-activated software.
At Northern Illinois University, the Center for Access-Ability Resources
offers students with disabilities priority registration, exam accommodations,
sighted guides, route training, adapted print materials, and serves
as a liaison with faculty and counselors.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale operates a wheelchair
repair service that has generated enough revenue to cover its expenses,
and the university also has a text-conversion service free to students
and on a fee-for-service basis for residents of the community. NIU
developed a volunteer reader program to turn materials around in
a more timely fashion.
Community colleges use an Individual Education Program for each
student with disabilities to determine what accommodations are needed
to ensure students have complete access to a full academic experience
at college. Academic services include modifications in course policy
or procedures (such as extended time to complete exams), sign-language
interpreters, access to alternative media (such as Braille, large
print, and audio equipment), and note-takers or taping of lectures.
Surveys of students generally find widespread satisfaction with
services offered by institutions. At WIU, 92 percent of students
taking a customer-satisfaction survey indicated they would recommend
the institution to other students with disabilities, and 86 percent
rated interpreting services at NIU good to excellent. Nine in ten
respondents said they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied"
with academic aid from the Disability Support Services at SIU-Edwardsville.
The report also details measures universities and colleges have
undertaken to reach out to high school students to inform them of
what disability services are available on campuses and to ease the
transition to college.
Finally, the report examines the question of whether institutions
promote a supportive campus climate for students with disabilities.
"Special events, support organizations, and collaboration between
institutional departments all play a role in creating a climate
of accessibility," the report notes. "Disability Awareness
events, of one type or another, are prominent on Illinois higher
education campuses. These events are designed to provide all members
of the campus community with information about disabilities; institutional
services available to assist students and staff with disabilities;
and to showcase the 'ability' in disability."
In other matters, the Board will act on several new programs, including
an honors college and a Doctor of Education in Education Leadership
at Chicago State University and a new associate of arts in science