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Predictors of Higher Education Participation for Students with Disabilities

by Seb Prohn

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Introduction:

The benefits of higher education have been widely documented. Comparisons repeatedly show that those with a college degree (associate, bachelor, master, doctoral) fair better in life than people with a high school degree or less. They earn and save more money, they are more insured and healthier, and they experience lower rates of unemployment.

Considering the benefits, understanding how to increase one’s chances of accessing higher education is a worthwhile endeavor. Fortunately, over the past decade researchers have identified practices that predict the likelihood that students with disabilities will participate in postsecondary education.

Predicting the likelihood of a future event is not the same as stating with certainty that outcomes will occur. Instead, predictors function in the realm of probability. For example, maintaining healthy diets, exercising, limiting alcohol intake, and not smoking reduce but do not eliminate the chances of a heart attack. Similarly, insurance companies have found over time that factors such as marital status predict the likelihood of car crashes. What predictors have in common is that evidence is built from events that have already occurred. To understand what will help students go to college, researchers examine what has helped students go to college.

Another truth is that predictors function within context. Some students may do everything needed to improve their chances of going to college, but policy and geography may prove powerful enough to restrict options. Therefore, when reviewing predictors of college participation for students with disabilities, one should know that some postsecondary environments are more inviting than others.

Keeping those restraints in mind, this topical paper describes predictors of post-school success and access to postsecondary education opportunities. It should be noted, however, that conditions which predict one type of post-school success often predict other successes too. This means that often the opportunities that help students go to college are the same ones that help students get jobs.

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