IN! (Colorado Initiative for Inclusive Higher Education) Interview with Shelby Bates
I had the pleasure to speak to Shelby Bates from IN! to find out some information on what they do. Shelby is the Education and Outreach Coordinator of IN! and has worked with them for over 2 years (as of April 14, 2020).
IN! is a nonprofit that was founded in 2014, mainly by parents of children with intellectual disabilities who were looking for college options in Colorado for their children. IN! helps provide funding for services at Arapahoe Community College, University of Colorado Colorado Springs and the University of Northern Colorado. IN! leads a meeting with all the schools each semester to discuss the development of inclusive higher education in Colorado.
Q- What ages/grades does IN! work with?
A- IN! trains teachers in K-12 schools on opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to go to college. Students interested in going to college have to be 18 years old or older; there is no upper age limit. Students must apply directly to the school they are interested in.
Q- Who do you help? What type of intellectual disabilities do you work with?
A- The college programs serve students with intellectual disabilities who would not traditionally be accepted to college. Some examples of this would be if the student does not meet the prerequisites needed, they have not taken the ACT or SAT due to their disability, or they need accommodations and modifications to their classes. Accommodations would be using technology to help with reading and writing, for example, or getting more time to take a test. An example of modifications would be shortened assignment or a multiple choice test instead of a written final..
Q- How do you connect with families to get the information out? Do you have case managers to walk through the process with families?
A- We do not have case managers. We work to get the word out about IN! and college options by talking to school districts, attending conferences, going to resource fairs, speaking at parent meetings and have monthly webinars (the recordings for the webinars are on youtube).
Q- How many people have been helped through your program?
A- 70 students are enrolled in the three colleges this year (2019-2020). In 2016; the first year, there were 11 students enrolled and this year will be the first graduating class.
Q- How do you enroll in the IN! program? Can you attend only certain colleges or do all colleges have equivalent programs?
A- You do not enroll in the IN! program. Instead students reach out directly to the schools Inclusive Office and they will fill out a separate application. There is currently three schools that choose to have these supports. The offices are Elevate at Arapahoe Community College, GOAL at University of Northern Colorado and the Office of Inclusive Services at University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
Q- What is the cost to families who use IN!'s help?
A- No money gets directly paid to IN!. Students will need to still pay for their tuition and fees directly to the school where they enroll. The fees for Inclusive Services varies by school.
Q- Do students have a one-on-one para to help them?
A- There is nothing equivalent to a para for college. The staff at the Inclusive Office helps students to navigate college, select classes, get accommodations and modifications needed and implemented. They check in with the student weekly and help make sure the supports are in place for students.
The Vocational person helps take care of getting the student work during school, getting a summer job in their home community and getting jobs set up for after graduation. They also help the students with making resumes and practicing for interviews.
The Social person helps make sure students are active in campus activities.
Peer Mentors help students with social engagements, help build relationships and is a peer for students to turn to do things with, to trust and to learn from.
Q- What classes do students take?
A- Each semester students will take 2 core classes and 1 specialized class. The core classes are related to their job interests and are available to all students. The specialize classes are available to only students with intellectual disabilities. They are life skill type of classes. Some examples of specialized classes would be; planning social activities with their friends including how they will get to the event and how they will pay for it, financial management and budgeting, skills for relationships, etc.
Q- Do students require the same amount of credits as other students to graduate? Do they graduate with a college degree?
A- The students will graduate with a Comprehensive Higher Education Certificate with a concentration in their area of interest. The certificate requires less credit hours but takes into account work experience. The certificate is for modified education.
Q- Is there specific financial aid available for students with intellectual disabilities for college?
A- If the college has a CTP (Comprehensive Transition Program) then students with intellectual disabilities can apply for financial aid. If the college does not have a CTP then they can not apply for financial aid. When the students do apply for financial aid they can get grants, work study, scholarships and disability specific scholarships; but, they can not get loans. Currently only University of Northern Colorado and the Arapahoe Community College have CTPs.
Q- Do you offer help transitioning from the school environment to the work place?
A- The Vocational person from the school helps find compatible jobs for the student based on their interests. Students also have access to other on-campus supports, like the Center for Career Readiness.
Q- What are 3 things you want people to understand most about IN!?
A- The three things I want people to know are:
1- Students with intellectual disabilities can go to college with the proper support.
2- These options are so new that if you have questions it is totally ok to ask them.
3- Parents with younger children need to know early on that college can be an option, so that they have more time to prepare.