In this section you will learn about the history and background of postsecondary education options. You will find out how postsecondary education programs for students with disabilities began, along with the laws that support their development. Comprehensive Transition Programs are also described as well as programs in Florida. Family2Family films in this section highlight how parents began planning for college.

Let’s break it down a bit. Think of the word, post It means after. Next, secondary, in this case, means high school. If we put these words together, we get after high school. We are talking about any type of education or training that comes after high school, and it may take place at a community college, state college, university, technical school, or vocational training program.

From a national perspective, the number of postsecondary programs increased largely because of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) that was legislated in 2008 as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education ACT of 1965. The passage of this legislation was important to students and their families because it was one of the first times postsecondary education for students with intellectual disabilities was addressed!
  • gives us a definition of Comprehensive Transition Programs (more on that later) and defines how students who attend programs can be eligible for federal financial aid.
  • provides us an opportunity to fund projects that demonstrate effective education models,
  • designates a national center to coordinate these projects.

While students are enrolled in K-12, they are protected by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) , the law that provides special education supports and services to students with disabilities. Once students leave high school, they are no longer under the protection of IDEA, but the work the students have done for their transition to postsecondary education should be done in their K-12 years, particularly in middle and high school.
  • requires schools to provide free and appropriate public education for all students, including those with ID.
  • expects teams that include the student, family members, school personnel, agencies, and other stakeholders to plan for transition from high school to adulthood.
  • requires that one of the student’s goal areas in the transition planning is postsecondary education.
  • promotes early planning for postsecondary education to make sure students have an easier transition to a postsecondary education environment.
Once students enroll in postsecondary education, they are protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)(1990,2008).
Section 504 and the ADA:
  • Are civil rights laws for individuals with disabilities.
  • Guarantee students with disabilities access to education and other supports and services with reasonable accommodations.
  • Removes barriers and guarantees reasonable accommodations so that persons with disabilities have an opportunity to participate.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (2008) described what Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary programs (CTPs) are to clarify this information for students, families, program personnel, and universities.
Information to know! CTPs :
  • Are housed on a participating college, university, technical school or career center campus.
  • May offer a degree, certificate, credential, non-degree, non-certificate program, or other exit documents.
  • Are provided to students who attend the institution in person.
  • Have been developed to specifically support students with ID.
  • Support continued academic, career and technical, and independent living to prepare students for future employment.
  • Have personnel that serve as advisors to students.
  • Have a structured curriculum (Papay, 2019).
Additional information about CTPs may be found on Think College, an organization that serves individuals in the United States and is committed to “developing, expanding, and improving inclusive higher education options for people with intellectual disability.” An example of various CTP resources can be found on this FIZZ.
According to Think College, there are well over 320 programs as of October Fall 2023 that serve students with intellectual disabilities. To look at updated states’ programs, visit the FIZZ to navigate to the Think College website. All states, have a minimum of one college program, and the East Coast of the country and California have the largest numbers of program options. In 2023 , Florida is among the top five in the country for the number of programs in a state!

Yes! The Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program Act (FPCTP)(FS §1004.6495) became a law when the governor signed in in early 2016.

The purpose of the Act is to “increase independent living, inclusive and experiential postsecondary education, and employment opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities through degree, certificate, or non-degree programs and to establish statewide coordination of the dissemination of information regarding programs and services for students with disabilities. It is the intent of the Legislature that students with intellectual disabilities and students with disabilities have access to meaningful postsecondary education credentials and be afforded the opportunity to have a meaningful campus experience.” (FS §1004.6495(2))

How fortunate we are to have state legislation that supports students with ID in their postsecondary education goals.

  • Created the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities (FCSUA) at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando, FL (
  • Charges the FCSUA with managing all the applications to be a Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program (FPCTP) .
  • Tasks the FCSUA with evaluating and approving programs to be a FPCTP.
  • Sets criteria or requirements for FPCTP approval.
  • Awards scholarships for students to attend approved FPCTP programs.
  • Awards funding to develop new FPCTP programs .
  • Awards funding to enhance existing programs .
  • Ensures accountability and quality among FPCTP approved programs.

The Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program Act sets the following requirements:
  • In order to enroll in a FPCTP, applicants must have an intellectual disability and must have exited high school-K-12 grades.
  • FPCTPs verify students’ eligibility to enroll in programs.
  • FPCTPs must prove that the institution has a federally approved CTP, documentation of the submission of an application for federal approval of a program, or documentation that the institution intends to submit an application during the following academic year of FPCTP approval.
Programs in Florida

The FCSUA staff devotes a page on their website to give students and families information about the programs in Florida. Check this site often because more and more programs are becoming established and approved programs. Click on the FIZZ Logo to see Florida programs and discover what components such as housing, contact information, or access they offer.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (2008) requires CTPs to ensure that students with ID have at least one-half of their activities or participation in the program that includes one or more of these program components:

    Students who enroll in a class for credit receive a grade at the end of the class based on their work in all class experiences and activities, test scores, group projects, or writing projects or papers. The students complete the same work as their peers in class and may use approved accommodations to complete their class work. Students with ID who take courses for credit are not allowed to modify or change the course requirements. Credit earned in the class may help the student toward earning credentials the CTP offers.

    Students may audit classes in some programs. Students participate in all class experiences and activities, including taking tests, working on group projects, or writing projects or papers. Students with ID who audit courses may be allowed to modify or change the course requirements. Instructors, sometimes in partnership with CTP personnel, may grade work in audited courses, and the work may help the student toward earning credentials or certificates the CTP offers.

    Students may have the opportunity to sign up for courses in such areas as time management, study skills, using an electronic classroom or first aid, and they take these classes with their peers from all parts of campus. These classes do not usually count toward a degree program but are classes to help students with their transition to college or technical school.

    Students have opportunities to participate in internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing or any workshops or training about employment that are offered both on or off campus. Many times, these opportunities are offered by the Career Services office on campus. The internships or workshops may help student fulfill requirements for a credential or certificate the CTP offers.

    Students may join groups on campus that reflect their extracurricular interests. They might participate in a singing group, the pep band for games, the drama club. or play soccer with a team from their residence halls.