A GUIDE TO: Understanding
the difference between High School & College
for Students with Disabilities

~ LEGAL DIFFERENCES ~

High School

  •  Services are provided under IDEA or Section 504, Subpart D.
  • An IEP, a written legal document which lays out a student’s special education instruction, supports, and services, is mandated and followed.
  • The student has a right to an education paid for by the state; therefore special programs are created to meet their needs.
  • Parents are actively involved in planning and decision-making.
  • Accommodations are provided to ensure the success of the student.
  • School districts are responsible for identifying and evaluating disability at no cost to the student or their family.
  • Parents sign documents for the student.
  • School personnel may speak freely with parents without the student’s consent.

College

  • Services are provided under ADA and Section 504 Subpart E.
  • There is no IEP at the college level. Rather, a plan is developed which lays out a student’s accommodations.
  • A college education is a privilege instead of a right; therefore, special programs are not required.
  • Students are considered to be adults and must advocate for themselves. Parents’ involvement ceases.
  • Accommodations are provided to ensure equal access. Success is the responsibility of the student.
  • The student must self-identify and provide appropriate and current documentation based on the college’s requirements. The college is not responsible for the cost of evaluations.
  • Students sign for themselves.
  • The Buckley Amendment/FERPA requires the student give written permission for school personnel to speak with parents, faculty, funding sources, etc.

~ ACADEMIC DIFFERENCES ~

 High School

  • School personnel have the responsibility to trying to shape inappropriate behaviors. 
  • Shortened and/or modified assignments and exams are often given as accommodations.
  • Teachers are asked to adapt their teaching mode to the student.
  • Students may be scheduled with resource personnel on a regular basis come to the resource room as needed.
  • Students’ studies are directed by special education teachers.
  • Special educators inform instructors about a student’s accommodation needs.
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing students have interpreting services provided.

College

  • Students are responsible for their own behavior and inappropriate behavior will be addressed according to the student handbook.
  • All students are expected to complete the same tests and assignments.
  • Faculty have academic freedom in regard to the selection, delivery, and evaluation of course content.
  • Students must initiate requests for disability support services and accommodations.
  • Students must have skills to organize, plan and study independently.
  • After accommodations have been determined, the student speaks with their instructors about their accommodation needs.
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing students must request interpreting services.

~ OTHER DIFFERENCES ~

 High School

  • Transportation and mobility assistance are provided.
  • Paraprofessionals may be provided, to assist with a student’s personal care, individualized instruction and/or behavior management. 
  • Assistive technology is used minimally.

College

  • Transportation and mobility on campus are the responsibility of the student.
  • The college is not responsible for providing assistance with personal care, individualized instruction, and/or behavioral management.
  • Assistive technology is available for student use and encouraged to increase access and independence.

More information about the transition to college for students with disabilities can be found at:

Missouri AHEAD College Guidebook

Missouri vocational Rehabilitation Transition Brochure

DSS Brochure-2022-FORPRINT This downloadable OTC brochure is free to you.