Addressing Education and Postsecondary Inequities for Kentucky Students with Intellectual Disabilities

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On May 20, 2021, the University of Kentucky submitted application to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid to establish a Comprehensive Transition & Postsecondary (CTP) Program for students with intellectual disabilities (ID). Upon approval, this program – which will be known as UK-SHEP (University of Kentucky Supported Higher Education Partnership) – will begin accepting applications for admission.

CTPs were created by the Higher Education Opportunity Act (2008) and are higher education programs for students with ID who want to continue academic, career and technical, and independent living instruction in order to prepare for competitive integrated employment.

The underrepresentation of students with ID in higher education is a longstanding and pervasive problem in Kentucky, one that presents both an economic challenge and opportunity for our state. As an Employment First state, Kentucky is committed to ensuring that competitive integrated employment is the first and preferred option for citizens with disabilities, and we expect the UK-SHEP will contribute positively toward building a truly inclusive workforce in Kentucky.

As the state’s flagship University and home to the Human Development Institute (HDI) –  our state’s University Center on Disability – UK is uniquely positioned to implement and sustain a CTP program. HDI is also the statewide technical assistance center supporting three current CTP programs (Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University, and Bluegrass Community & Technical College), and a resource to other Kentucky institutions of higher education interested in establishing a program.

UK-SHEP will provide students with ID a fully inclusive college experience which will better prepare them for competitive integrated employment and independent living.

What will this mean for current students and instructors at UK?

The addition of a CTP program will not change any current courses or the way they are taught. Rather, the same courses that are currently offered will continue to be offered. The biggest change you may see is the inclusion of students with ID on campus – perhaps in one of your classes, or in other areas of student life. With chosen supports and person-centered planning, UK-SHEP students will engage in all areas of campus life, from classes to clubs to social events and activities.

Kathy Sheppard-Jones, Executive Director of HDI, said, “The UK-SHEP will advance our efforts to address the inequities that have disproportionately characterized the education and postsecondary life of Kentucky students with ID.”

If you would like to learn more about the proposed UK-SHEP program or about HDI’s role in supporting this work, please contact Erin Fitzgerald (Erin.Fitzgerald@uky.edu) or Johnny Collett (Johnny.Collett@uky.edu) for more information.