House Higher Education Bill Limits Access for Students with Disabilities

Written by NCLD Policy Team | 2 weeks ago

Many parents of students with learning and attention issues think about and plan for the day their child might go to college. And college should be an option for any child who wants to go. But proposed changes to federal law might make it harder for some students to attend and succeed in college.

Last week, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act was introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the chairwoman of the House education committee, and Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY).

The legislation is a major overhaul of our nation’s higher education system. It touches on and changes how high school students apply for federal aid for college, the U.S. Department of Education’s role overseeing teacher preparation, and support for students with disabilities as they navigate college campuses across America.

NCLD is taking a stand because college access is important to many families and should be a viable pathway for the majority of students with disabilities. The Higher Education Act plays an important role and must include programs that help achieve this goal. Unfortunately, as written, the PROSPER Act makes it harder for students with disabilities to enroll and succeed in college. We are specifically concerned that the PROSPER Act:

  • Eliminates programs that support teachers.  PROSPER removes all of HEOA’s Title II, which included grants that improve teacher quality and incentivize teachers to serve in high-need areas like special education. This will only worsen the special education teacher shortage crisis that 98% of school districts are already facing.
  • Does not include the RISE Act. PROSPER fails to include an essential component of the RISE Act that would require colleges and universities to accept a student’s individualized education plan (IEP) or 504 plan as evidence of their disability. The RISE Act is a bi-partisan proposal that seeks to help more students with disabilities get in the door of their college’s Disability Service Office and seek the accommodations they need to succeed.
  • Eliminates grants that increase accessibility on college campuses. PROSPER eliminates a grant program that supports faculty who work with students with disabilities and one that supports accessible materials in college. This will make it more difficult for students with disabilities to secure technology and accessible materials in postsecondary education. And it will leave college faculty with fewer resources and less training to support and instruct students with disabilities.

NCLD will be sending a letter to Members of the House of Representatives outlining these concerns and opposing the PROSPER Act. We will continue to work with Congress to pass an equitable bill that doesn’t threaten our children’s education. If you’d like to join our advocacy, you can use our advocacy toolkit to make your voice heard in Congress.

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