What can disabled student services offices do to help students with disabilities successfully transition from two- to four-year colleges?

Date Updated

Students with disabilities often face challenges as they transfer from two-year to four-year institutions of higher education. There are many things that the institutions can do, individually and cooperatively, to ease this transition. Forty-six staff and faculty from two- and four-year institutions representing a total of twenty-four states made suggestions as part of five focused discussions hosted by DO-IT at the University of Washington. Listed below are some of their ideas.

Two-year institutions can help students with disabilities successfully transition to four-year schools in the following ways:

  • Become more familiar with four-year college policies, procedures, programs, and services.
  • Educate faculty and staff about disability and transfer issues, accommodation strategies, and resources.
  • Share information about transfer strategies and steps using publications and the World Wide Web.
  • Assure disability-related documentation used is acceptable to most four-year schools. Give students copies of documentation to take to four-year schools.
  • Provide academic and career counseling to students, which includes how a four-year degree might support their goals.
  • Encourage transfer students to select four-year schools early and help them make good choices.
  • Help students develop transition plans and work through the process (e.g., how to fill out financial aid forms).
  • Arrange visits to four-year schools for students with disabilities so they can learn about services, sit in on classes, talk to faculty, and meet disabled students.

Four-year colleges and universities can help students from two-year schools make a successful transfer in the following ways:

  • Make sure that campus recruiters, admissions staff, and academic counselors are knowledgeable about disabled student services.
  • Include information about services for disabled students in all general student orientations, student handbooks, and other publications and programs.
  • Attend two-year college career/transfer "fairs" to share information about services and programs for disabled students.
  • Educate faculty and staff about disabilities and transfer issues, accommodation strategies, and resources. Create a summary sheet of all intake documentation requirements for all state schools; standardize requirements if possible.
  • Proactively address campus access issues (e.g., dorm rooms, transportation, technology).
  • Create a publication and web pages with procedures, map, and campus overview.
  • Have special orientation sessions for disabled students.
  • Simplify the transfer system where possible.

Two-year and four-year institutions can work together in the following ways to help students with disabilities make a successful transition between schools:

  • Visit each other's campuses to become more aware of campus climate, offerings, and services.
  • Develop a cooperative relationship between disability student services, coordinate activities, cooperate and follow through, and share resources.
  • Coordinate acceptance of documentation.
  • Create a state/regional advisory group of faculty, staff, and students from two- and four-year schools to discuss system and policy issues.
  • Cosponsor transfer fairs that include disability student services information.
  • Coordinate campus visits to local four-year schools.
  • Facilitate contact between two-year and four-year students with disabilities; coordinate peer mentoring.
  • Develop a one-to-one handoff system for students with disabilities.

More information about this study can be found in the following article.

Burgstahler, S., Crawford, L., & Acosta, J. (2001). Transition from two-year to four-year institutions for students with disabilities. Disability Studies Quarterly, Winter 2001.