Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) enacted in 2008 created exciting opportunities for students with intellectual disability (ID) to access federal financial aid, and authorized both new model demonstration programs and a National Coordinating Center (NCC). The NCC, administered by Think College at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston, is charged with providing technical assistance, coordination, and evaluation of model demonstration programs. The NCC is also required by HEOA to convene a Workgroup to develop and recommend model criteria, standards, and components of higher education programs for students with intellectual disability. The National Coordinating Center Accreditation Workgroup issues this report in response to that statutory requirement.

The National Coordinating Center Accreditation Workgroup is composed of 15 members representing diverse expertise as required by Congress. From Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 through FY2016, the Workgroup consulted with experts, developed draft model accreditation standards, compared the draft standards to federal law and regulations, obtained public input, and finalized model accreditation standards for higher education programs for students with ID. This is the first time that accreditation for these programs has been addressed, and this undertaking will lead to oversight, accountability, and an expectation of continuous improvement.

Establishing accreditation standards will create benchmarks that will be useful for quality assurance and improvement of higher education programs enrolling students with intellectual disability. The model standards will be valuable for institutions of higher education, federal student aid offices, accrediting agencies, as well as students with ID and their parents. The implementation of model standards will validate and strengthen programs and provide guidelines for colleges and universities considering establishing high-quality programs.

A list of the model accreditation standards can be found on page 34 of this document. The list of standards contains a discussion, guidance, and “next steps” for each standard when appropriate.


Copyright © 2016 Think College National Coordinating Center, University of Massachusetts Boston



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