Leaving high school

Are There IEPs and 504 Plans in College?

By Jim Rein

My daughter is in high school and is starting to worry about what kinds of services and supports will be available to her if she decides to pursue higher education. Are there IEPs and 504 plans in college?

Jim Rein

Former Dean, Vocational Independence Program, New York Institute of Technology

The short answer is there are no IEPs or 504 plans in college. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the law that provides students with IEPs, no longer applies to them once they graduate from high school.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 still protects students from discrimination when they get to college. However, they won’t get a 504 plan like they had in high school. In other words, a student’s 504 plan doesn’t “travel” with her to college.

Students can still receive accommodations in college, though. Colleges have to provide accommodations under Section 504. You aren’t likely to hear many colleges use the phrase “504 plan,” though.

The disability service model at college is very different from the one high-schoolers (and their parents) are used to. Colleges tend to offer different types of support. That’s why it’s important to learn as much as you can about disability services in college.

For example, the process of requesting and receiving accommodations in college is not the same as in high school. Colleges may also vary in their requirements for documentation. Another big difference between high school and college is that your child has to seek out the supports that colleges offer.

It’s also important for your daughter to understand her learning or attention issues and be able to talk about them. That’s one reason why it’s important for your daughter to work on self-advocacy skills in high school. (Having your child attend IEP meetings can help with this. You may also want to ask the IEP team to include self-advocacy goals in your child’s IEP.)

There’s one other thing I want to mention related to your question about supports in college. Unlike high schools, colleges are not allowed to send progress reports to parents unless students give permission for them to do this. When you’re talking with your child about college, it might be a good idea to encourage her to give the college permission to keep you in the loop.

Watch an expert talk about why students should take the lead in finding a college. And be sure to read these seven things to know about college disability services.

About the Author

Portrait of Jim Rein

Jim Rein has lectured on postsecondary options and summer programs for kids and young adults with learning and attention issues.

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