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Colleges Supporting Students with Learning Disabilities

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Colleges Offering Services for Students with Learning Disabilities

Managing learning disabilities in college represents a unique challenge – for both the students who have them and the schools that want to help. And while colleges and universities in the United States are required by law to offer certain services for students with disabilities, these services only guarantee the bare minimum regarding academic assistance and accommodations.

Fortunately, there are a few schools that have gone above and beyond that minimum threshold. These colleges provide specialized support programs for young adults who have the potential to succeed academically, but who may face cognitive obstacles like dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia; language or auditory processing disorder; Asperger’s Syndrome or autism; or related issues such as ADD/ADHD. (You can learn more about the types of learning disorders here). Students with physical disabilities or chronic medical conditions may also experience cognitive impairment and require some extra academic support to succeed.

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Thanks to the unique opportunities available at these colleges, hardworking students can overcome many of the challenges their learning differences create and gain the skills – and degree credentials – they need to achieve their personal and professional goals.

Top 10 Rankings

Rank School Location
1 Beacon College Leesburg, FL
2 Landmark College Putney, VT
3 Mitchell College New London, CT
4 Dean College Franklin, MA
5 Lynn University Boca Raton, FL
6 Lesley University Cambridge, MA
7 High Point University High Point, NC
8 Curry College Milton, MA
9 College of Charleston Charleston, SC
10 Westminster College Salt Lake City, UT

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The 20 Best Value Colleges for Learning Disabilities Ranking Methodology

How do you pinpoint the schools with the best programs for learning disabled (LD) and special needs students? We started by searching the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPED database for the colleges that attract an unusually large number of students with disabilities. More specifically, we only considered schools at which more than 5% of undergraduates are formally registered with the office of disability services. From that point, one of the main factors we considered in our ranking was the actual percentage of undergraduate students at the college who have learning disabilities. In the list below, the values range from 7-100%!

However, just because a program is popular with LD individuals doesn’t mean its services are necessarily successful. Therefore, we also considered each school’s overall undergraduate graduation rate (a measure of success for all undergrads, not just those with unique learning needs). And to pinpoint the programs that offer the most individual attention and a supportive academic environment at every stage of learning, we looked at each college’s student-to-faculty ratio. We acquired both of these statistics from the NCES’ College Navigator database.

Once we had obtained a short-list of potential top programs, we researched each college individually to assess the types of services they provide for students with learning disabilities. We considered both the range of available services as well as any particularly unique resources and opportunities that benefit LD undergrads.

The result of our research was this ranking of the 20 top colleges for students with learning disabilities. While everyone – especially LD individuals – has unique academic strengths and opportunities, we believe that this list represents the overall best schools for catering to those individual needs.

  1. Beacon College
    Location

    Leesburg, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    When it comes to the best colleges for students with learning disabilities, none holds a candle to Beacon College. As the first accredited school in the nation to cater exclusively to undergraduates with learning differences (including ADHD and dyslexia), Beacon is in a class all by itself. To help each student make the most of their college experience, Beacon emphasizes highly individualized course plans and plenty of one-on-one support. In addition to small class sizes and assistive technology, learning disabled individuals can also benefit from academic mentoring, peer tutoring, and even life coaching.

  2. Landmark College
    Location

    Putney, VT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Obviously, all of the schools on this list offer some sort of learning disabilities college program for students who need extra academic support. But Landmark doesn't just offer a single program; rather, the entire school is wholly dedicated to undergraduate education for those who learn a little differently. Academic resources include everything from executive function coaching to assistive technology, while students with ASD benefit from targeted support like the "Social Groups Cluster," which is designed to help with social interactions and anxiety issues. Landmark also offers a "Bridge Semester" that can help new/transfer students better understand their learning styles and improve their study habits before applying/returning to a traditional college.

  3. Mitchell College
    Location

    New London, CT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Given that more than a third of its undergraduates have a registered disability, it's safe to say that Mitchell is one of the most popular colleges for students with learning disabilities in the entire country. And it's not hard to see why. Indeed, Mitchell's Bentsen Learning Center provides nearly unparalleled support for undergraduates with unique learning differences and attention deficit disorders. Services include targeted instruction in various learning strategies, designated study areas for BLC members, and content workshops to improve understanding and build good study habits. On top of all this, program participants receive individualized support from an assigned learning specialist with expertise in organization, comprehension, memory, time management, test prep, and much more.

  4. Dean College
    Location

    Franklin, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Without a doubt, Dean University offers one of the most innovative learning disabilities college programs on our ranking. This is because the school structures its program as a "learning community," thus providing a more intimate environment and closer level of support than many other colleges. LD students who are admitted to the Arch Learning Community benefit from both individual and group academic coaching as well as personalized course advising. What's more, ALC undergrads participate in weekly seminars and can enroll in smaller-than-average courses. And of course, Dean also utilizes the popular step-down approach that encourages ALC participants to develop independence over time.

  5. Lynn University
    Location

    Boca Raton, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Why are approximately one in four undergraduates at Lynn enrolled in disability services? It might have something to do with the school's Institute for Achievement and Learning (IAL), a recognized leader in academic support and "enhanced learning experiences" for college students. And although it's hardly the most affordable college for students with learning disabilities, Lynn University's IAL is long on value. In the first year of the program (which is mandatory), undergrads build a strong foundation through specialized academic tutoring and coaching, personalized tutoring and writing help, and diagnostic assessments if needed. In subsequent years, IAL participants shift their focus away from intensive skill development and more toward self-advocacy, school-life balance, and problem-solving strategies.

  6. Lesley University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Lesley University's innovative Threshold Program goes well beyond the standard services that most of the top colleges for students with disabilities offer. Forget personalized tutoring - Threshold is a truly comprehensive, two-year program that tailors every aspect of the college experience to individuals with "special needs and diverse learning challenges." Most importantly, the curriculum emphasizes the skills necessary to get a job and live independently. As such, the program limits members to one of just two majors - Early Childhood Education or Business Services - to maximize their chances of success. Upon graduating from Threshold, most participants complete either a post-grad "Transition Year" (focusing on paid employment) or a "Bridge Year" for continuing undergrads to live on campus and pursue internships.

  7. High Point University
    Location

    High Point, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At High Point University, students with unconventional learning needs can get the help they need not just to survive college, but to achieve "extraordinary academic excellence." Although the "Learning Excellence" program is open to any undergraduate who wants to improve their study habits, individuals with cognitive impairments such as ADD/ADHD perhaps stand the most to gain from its services. From weekly meetings with a learning specialist to required study hall sessions, this program sends a clear message about what makes High Point one of the best colleges for students with disabilities. What's more, LE participants benefit from targeted tutoring sessions in specific skill areas (e.g. reading and math) as well as their course content.

  8. Curry College
    Location

    Milton, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    When it comes to helping students with learning disabilities succeed, Curry College takes a proactive approach. It all starts with Summer PAL, a transition program for incoming freshmen to help them develop effective learning habits, self-understanding, and self-confidence before the fall semester begins. During the year, members of the PAL learning disabilities college program continue to receive support through individual and small group course options that focus on functional tasks - like time management and organization - as well as skills like reading and language comprehension. PAL members also have the option to join a designated living learning community (LLC) or participate in a PAL cohort with other learning disabled students who share similar interests/majors.

  9. College of Charleston
    Location

    Charleston, SC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The goal of the REACH Program at the College of Charleston is to provide learning disabled students - as well as those with mild developmental disabilities - with a traditional and enjoyable experience on campus. REACH members live in dorms with other students, attend regular classes, and can participate in all campus activities and clubs. At the same time, this affordable college for students with disabilities offers special REACH courses in topics like "Writing Comprehension," "Interpersonal Communication," and "Career Exploration." Undergrads with certain emotional/social impairments (such as those with autism spectrum disorder or ASD) can also take advantage of social skills training workshops and will have access to a "social mentor" who will help them meet and get to know other students.

  10. Westminster College
    Location

    Salt Lake City, UT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Of the nearly 10% of Westminster undergrads who are formally registered with the school's disability services center, about half participate in the Learning Differences Program (LDP). Ideal for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, dyslexia, and Disorder of Written Expression, the LDP provides extensive support services that help LD students realize their academic potential. Of course, as one of the best colleges for learning disabilities, Westminster's program has all the standard features, like one-on-one advising and accommodations (e.g. note-taking and extended time on tests). But what sets this program apart from the pack is that it also offers supplemental courses in core areas - like the humanities and natural sciences - that are specifically designed to promote effective study habits.


Sources:
College Navigator
NCES IPEDS Data Center

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