May Policy News Round-Up

A federal study finds more college students report having a disability but graduation rates lag, two new bills are introduced to support college students with disabilities, and progress is made in Minnesota. Learn more about what NCLD did in May.

New Federal Report Finds a Rise in College Students with Disabilities

A new report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows the number of students in college reporting to have a disability rose from 11% in 2004 to 21% in 2020. The report, requested by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Bob Casey (D-PA), states that the “increase is largely driven by more students reporting mental health conditions or attention deficit disorder”. Unfortunately, the GAO also found that students with disabilities were more likely to leave school with no degree (47 percent) than get their bachelor’s degree (21 percent). Read the full report and with GAO’s recommendations for next steps here

Expanding Disability Access to Higher Education Act

The Expanding Disability Access to Higher Education Act was introduced by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) to provide $50 million to TRIO programs to enroll and support eligible students with disabilities. TRIO programs aim to help first-generation and low-income students pursue higher education by providing mentoring, career development services, and preparation for postsecondary education. This bill would provide students with disabilities the resources and skills needed to support their path to postsecondary education. 

Higher Education Grant Flexibility Act

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) also introduced the Higher Education Grant Flexibility Act, to allow students with disabilities who are taking a reduced course due to their disability to receive the same federal financial aid as other full-time students. Many students with disabilities taking reduced course loads as an accommodation are required to prorate their financial aid, which can put their financial aid in jeopardy and essentially force students to choose between their accommodation and the full amount of financial aid they are awarded. This bill would make it possible for students with disabilities to use their necessary reduced courseload accommodations without financial consequences.

Comments Supporting a Ban on the Use of Electric Shock

NCLD joined other disability rights organizations with the Consortium for Constituents with Disabilities (CCD) to provide comments on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed ban on electrical stimulation devices for self-injurious or aggressive behavior- also known as electric shock “treatment”. The comments strongly supported the proposed ban on electric shock, stating that “for decades, disability professionals, provider associations, family groups, consumer-run organizations, State legislatures, and even the United Nations have unequivocally disavowed the use of contingent electric shock for the care and treatment of people with disabilities.” Read the proposed rule here


State Spotlight—Minnesota RISE Act Passes

A state-level version of the Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act was passed in the Minnesota legislature and has been sent to the Governor’s office for signature. The law, slated to go into effect at the start of 2025, would require public colleges and universities in Minnesota to accept an existing Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan as sufficient proof of a student’s disability status when requesting accommodations. This marks a significant win for the disability community in Minnesota, and makes the state the third to adopt such legislation, joining Illinois and Arizona.

In Case You Missed It

  • The Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions, and Seclusion (APRAIS) coalition hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill to raise awareness around the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, which has lasting negative impacts on students, and disproportionately impacts students with disabilities. 
  • The Consortium for Constituents with Disabilities (CCD) submitted a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees highlighting the need for federal funding for programs supporting individuals with disabilities in the upcoming fiscal year. 
  • The U.S. Department of Justice released a video online describing what accessibility features are needed to ensure public schools are accessible to students with disabilities as mandated in the Americans with Disabilities Act.