University of Rochester

Institute for Innovative Transition at University of Rochester Awarded $2.5 Million Grant

October 13, 2010

New Local Initiative Will Help Students with Intellectual Disabilities Go to College

Graduating from high school is an exciting time for students and their families. But when students with disabilities consider what's next, college is not always presented as an option for many of them. A new consortium between several local higher education institutions, K-12 school districts, and agencies will help students with intellectual disabilities to attend and succeed in higher education.

Funded by a five-year, $2.5 million grant awarded to the Institute for Innovative Transition at the University of Rochester under the new U.S. Department of Education Transition and Postsecondary Program for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID), the consortium will establish, implement, and sustain four TPSID model demonstration projects that will create new, and expand existing, inclusive postsecondary programs at the University of Rochester, Keuka College, Monroe Community College, and Roberts Wesleyan College.

Each higher education institution will partner with a local school district or adult agency, including the Rochester City School District, Penn Yan Central School District, Monroe 1 BOCES, Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES, Lifetime Assistance Inc., and Arc of Yates, with the support of New York State's Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals With Disabilities (VESID) and Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). Students from other school districts in Monroe and Yates Counties will also have access to these postsecondary programs if their schools have made arrangements to subcontract with the four partnering districts.

The Institute for Innovative Transition at Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, a partnership of the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation and the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education and Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, will coordinate the local TPSID initiative, as well as the model demonstration project located at the University of Rochester, and will manage the evaluation, technical support, training, and information dissemination nationwide. The model demonstration projects will serve at least 50 18- to 21-year olds with intellectual disabilities each year and will improve students' outcomes for employability and independence by significantly increasing their access to higher education.

"One in five people has a disability," says Martha Mock, director of the Institute for Innovative Transition who holds joint appointments at the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education and the University of Rochester Medical Center's Department of Pediatrics. "Parents who have a son or daughter with disabilities will begin to see a significant difference in the number of higher education options available to them compared to the few options offered the past couple of decades. We're very excited about the potential these four TPSID model demonstration projects will have for people with intellectual disabilities in New York and across the country as we share our successes with other colleges and universities so that they can learn from and expand the number of initiatives nationwide."

Historically, students with intellectual disabilities have had no or limited opportunities to participate in a college environment, and of the 250 campus-based initiatives across the nation in which they might participate, the majority are segregated and under-budgeted. These four new model programs are unique in that they will be fully inclusive. Students with intellectual disabilities will not only be on campus, but they will be an integral part and a valued member of the community.

Students who take this alternative pathway to college will benefit from an inclusive college experience that focuses on academics and instruction, campus activities, employment through work-based learning and internships, and independent living. At the end of the program, students will receive a credential from the college/university that has been approved by the institution.

Research shows that students with intellectual disabilities continue to fall behind, and are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed in comparison with their peers without disabilities. A study in 2003 by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) revealed that employment rates for people with disabilities were approximately 25 percent lower after high school than individuals without disabilities. Many experts have attributed this gap to the lack of support and limited high-quality, inclusive higher education programs available to students with disabilities.

"We're very fortunate to have so many institutions in New York that have blazed the trails through their experiences of working with people with intellectual disabilities on their own campuses over the past few years," adds Mock. "Some states have no or few options."

The Institute for Innovative Transition was one of 27 TPSID grantees, located in 23 states. The U.S. Department of Education TPSID program, launched in 2011 by Congress, provides grants to institutions of higher education or consortia of institutions of higher education to enable them to create or expand high quality, inclusive model comprehensive transition and postsecondary programs for students with intellectual disabilities.

The Institute for Innovative Transition, which was launched in 2008 and sustained through $1.5 million in grants from the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation, aims to improve the quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families as they transition from school age to adulthood. The Institute is well poised to lead this initiative as it has already made progress statewide in addressing this transition issue in the higher education community and community at large.

Last year, the Institute launched a Think College NY! initiative, supported in part by a grant from the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, that enabled the Institute to hold four regional summits conducting statewide strategic planning in the area of campus-based transition programs for students with intellectual disabilities. The four TPSID model projects are an expansion of this Think College NY! initiative. For more information about these new TPSID projects or other initiatives of the Institute for Innovative Transition, please contact Martha Mock at or visit

About the University of Rochester
The University of Rochester ( is one of the nation's leading private universities. Located in Rochester, N.Y., the University gives students exceptional opportunities for interdisciplinary study and close collaboration with faculty through its unique cluster-based curriculum. Its College, School of Arts and Sciences, and Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are complemented by its Eastman School of Music, Simon School of Business, Warner School of Education, Laboratory for Laser Energetics, Schools of Medicine and Nursing, and the Memorial Art Gallery.