A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Students' with Disabilities Transition to Community College

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Students with disabilities are significantly underrepresented in the nation's community college population for multiple reasons. These include low expectations, poor high school preparation and transition planning, lack of communication or support services, and ineffective or poor support from school services personnel and faculty. This paper presents a literature synthesis. Its purpose is to inform an initial framework for building towards a conceptual framework for understanding the transition to community college by students with disabilities. The framework was developed from an earlier mixed methods study involving 100 college students with disabilities and 10 disability resource counselors in eight universities and colleges, six of which were community colleges. The framework was examined by comparing six reviews from the What Works in Transition: Systematic Review Project (meta-analyses of previous studies) and five meta-syntheses (rigorous evaluations). Based on these analyses, elements of the framework were confirmed and redefined to show what was needed for (a) high quality preparation in secondary education (self advocacy development and peer/teacher awareness and sensitivity to foster maximizing postsecondary options, focused training on self-advocacy, and college visits and orientation activities); (b) planning (ongoing communication between high school and postsecondary school); and (c) access and accommodations in community colleges (instructor awareness and sensitivity, financial aid opportunities in order to foster social support networks, mentoring support, and formulation of goals for future employment). Five recommendations are provided suggesting how community college leaders, policymakers, and practitioners could use the framework to enhance the transition to community college by students with disabilities. (Contains 2 figures and 2 tables.)