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Texas colleges offer job training for students with disabilities. Here’s how to use those programs.

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Texas colleges offer job training for students with disabilities. Here's how to use those programs.

Texas colleges offer job training for students with disabilities. Here's how to use those programs.” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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When Julia Gault was in high school, she went to a football game with her dad.

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The football game was at Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University is where Julia's dad went to college.

When Julia went to the football game, she really liked Texas A&M. She wanted to go to Texas A&M.

“I did really want to go college, like really bad,” said Julia, who is 26. “I mean, everyone else wanted to. I was like, ‘I want to, too.'”

Julia has a disability. Her disability makes it hard for her to read.

When Julia turned 18, she tried going to a public school program for students with disabilities who are 18 to 21 years old. She did not like that program very much.

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Now, Julia goes to Texas A&M. She is happy there.

Julia goes to a program at Texas A&M for people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Intellectual and developmental disabilities are disabilities that affect the way people think and learn.

Colleges have not always treated people with disabilities fairly.

People with many types of disabilities were not always allowed to go to college. Colleges did not give people with disabilities the help they needed to succeed.

Some people with disabilities were separated from people without disabilities.

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The government passed 2 laws that made schools and colleges better for people with disabilities.

James Patton is an expert on special education. James said that after these laws were passed, colleges started trying harder to make it easier for people with disabilities to do well.

Now, colleges have to treat people with disabilities fairly.

Colleges have to provide reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodations are changes that schools have to make so that people with disabilities can have the same chances as everybody else.

Some types of reasonable accommodations are:

  • Having someone take notes for students with disabilities
  • Giving extra reading that makes it easier to understand the class
  • Recording classes so people can listen back later

In 2008, the government passed a law called the Higher Education Opportunity Act. This law made it so students with intellectual disabilities could have help paying for college.

Now, there are programs that help people with disabilities with college and careers. They help students live on their own and get jobs in their communities.

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Julia Gault, a junior in the Aggie ACHIEVE program, talks with another student during office hours at the Texas A&M University campus in College Station on Nov. 15, 2022.
Julia Gault, a junior in the Aggie ACHIEVE program at Texas A&M University, talks with another student during office hours Nov. 15, 2022, on the College Station campus. Credit: Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune

About 1 out of every 4 adults in Texas has a disability. This information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Texas, more than 1 out of every 10 students have received special education services from their schools in recent years. This information is from the Texas Education Agency.

“In more recent years, what has dramatically changed, I think, is an effort to get more students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities — so students with some more challenges — into higher education,” James said.

[As demand for skilled workers rises in Texas, work-based educational programs see a resurgence]

People who have more education are more likely to get jobs. Most people with disabilities get a job after they go to a college program.

It can be hard to figure out what programs are available for people with disabilities. It can also be difficult to figure out how to pay for these programs.

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This guide will have information about what options are available to Texans. This guide will also have information on how to find the right program for you.

Resources during and after secondary school

For students in kindergarten through 12th grade, public schools are supposed to help figure out what students have disabilities.

Public schools have to make changes to lessons and programs to help every student do well in school.

In Texas, schools are supposed to start talking to students with disabilities about what will happen after high school. This usually happens when a student is around 14 years old.

When a student is 16 years old, their individualized education plan has to include transition services. Transition services are programs that help students get ready for life after high school.

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You can learn more about transition services through the Texas Education Agency's website. You can also contact your school for more information.

Joe Tate, a program director, teacher and disability advoate at E4 Youth, teaches students with developmental disabilities about disability advocacy and becoming personal care attendants in the Biomedical Engineering building at UT Austin on Nov. 29, 2022. The students were part of a workforce development program at UT Austin called E4 Texas, an inclusive job training program open to students with developmental disabilities.
Joe Tate, a program director, teacher and disability advocate at E4Youth, teaches students with developmental disabilities about disability advocacy and becoming personal care attendants on Nov. 29, 2022, at the University of Texas at Austin. The students were part of the E4Texas program. Credit: Jack Myer for The Texas Tribune

James Patton said that it is important for families to look at all of their options. He also said to ask questions to help find the best fit for a student. It is important to prepare for changes that come after high school.

There are many types of transition services. Some high schools offer programs for students who are younger than 22 years old. There are also college programs and job training programs.

Many colleges and universities have ways to help students with disabilities. But students must tell their college what their disability is and what type of help that they need.

In college, students might not get the same accommodations they did in high school. This is because high schools require individualized education plans, and colleges do not.

Think College has more information on laws that protect high school students and college students with disabilities. You can also learn more about your rights at Disability Rights Texas.

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Sometimes, just getting accommodations is not enough to help some students with disabilities succeed in college. Here are some programs that were made for students with developmental or intellectual disabilities.

Job training programs

Job training programs help students learn what they need to get specific jobs. The Texas Workforce Commission will help students with some disabilities pay for these programs. To learn how to get funding for these programs, contact your local Vocational Rehabilitation Office at this website.

One program is E4Texas at the University of Texas at Austin. The E4Texas program is accessible for people with disabilities.

The University of Texas at Austin is also called UT-Austin.

Some jobs that students learn how to do at this program are:

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  • Personal care attendants
  • Child care associates
  • Teachers assistants

This program is three semesters long. Students at this program can:

  • Take special classes at UT-Austin
  • Sit in on other classes at UT-Austin
  • Volunteer
  • Get work experience

This program has extra support for students with disabilities. The program is also open to students without disabilities.

Ayala Montgomery is 20 years old and is from Dallas. Ayala has an intellectual disability. Her disability makes it hard for her to understand words when she is reading.

20-year-old Ayala Montgomery, a student studying disability advocacy and becoming a personal care attendant, seen outside the Biomedical Engineering building at UT Austin on Nov. 29, 2022. Montgomery and her classmates were part of a workforce development program at UT Austin called E4 Texas, an inclusive job training program open to students with developmental disabilities.
Ayala Montgomery, 20, who is studying disability advocacy and how to become a personal care attendant at the University of Texas at Austin, stands outside the biomedical engineering building on Nov. 29, 2022. Credit: Jack Myer for The Texas Tribune

Ayala is in the E4 program. She joined the program because she wanted to meet other students with disabilities.

“I also wanted to help people that actually struggle with disabilities, like, to let them know that you're not alone, and there's many people just like you that struggle with the same things day to day,” Ayala said. “I wanted to leave an impact.”

Ayala is taking a class on how to be a personal care attendant. She learned how to help people get out of a wheelchair. She also learned about resources that help people with disabilities.

She helps older people by volunteering at a home for seniors in Central Texas.

E4 students live on campus. People help them live independently and do things in their community, according to the director of the program.

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At the end of the program, students get certificates of completion. They can go on to get job certifications in some types of jobs.

Students in these job training programs do not usually get college credits. They also cannot get federal financial aid for the job training programs.

Students with disabilities can get help to pay for job training through the Texas Workforce Commission.

Ayala Montgomery, 20, volunteers at AGE of Central Texas in Austin, Texas on December 2, 2022. Montgomery was part of a workforce development program at UT Austin called E4 Texas, an inclusive job training program open to students with developmental disabilities.
Ayala Montgomery volunteers at AGE of Central Texas in Austin on Dec. 2, 2022. Credit: Jack Myer for the Texas Tribune

Every summer, E4 accepts 10-15 students. The program costs $8,000 per semester. Housing is a separate cost.

Other job training programs for people with disabilities in Texas include:

The PATHS Certificate Program

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The PATHS Certificate Program is at Texas A&M University. This program teaches people skills to get jobs working with children or jobs that support people with disabilities.

The program will now begin accepting up to 15 students per year..

Information about program costs will later be shared on the PATHS website.

HOPS

HOPS is a program at Texas A&M University. It is two semesters long. Students learn how to do jobs like:

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  • Greenhouse nursery
  • Landscape management
  • Floral arrangement

The program will have 25 students in the fall.

The HOPS program also has a 6-week summer program at Texas A&M. The summer program costs about $11,500. This includes housing and food.

Each semester of the HOPS program costs about $10,000. This does not include housing costs.

STEPS

The STEPS program is at Austin Community College. At this program, students can prepare for jobs, or they can continue to study.

This program takes about 2 years to complete for most people.

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The program has ways for students to take more classes at Austin Community College. These classes can lead to jobs like:

  • Administrative assistant
  • Teaching assistant
  • Office medical support

The program accepts 30 students per semester. It usually costs $1,790 each semester.

Comprehensive transition programs

Comprehensive transition and postsecondary programs are also called CTPs. CTPs are programs made for people with intellectual disabilities.

Students in CTPs do many activities such as:

  • Taking classes
  • Doing internships
  • Doing job training

Students in CTPs can get federal financial aid to help pay for school. You can learn more about getting help paying for CTPs here.

There are 4 CTP programs in Texas. They are at:

Different programs have different lengths and costs.

The length of the programs can go from 18 months to 4 years. The programs can cost about $1,000 per semester to over $30,000 per year.

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CTPs help students learn what they need to learn to get jobs. They help students learn skills that will help them in many jobs, instead of just focusing on one kind of job.

They also offer classes and internships based on what students like.

A list of available course to students in the Aggie ACHIEVE program at the Texas A&M University campus in College Station on Nov. 15, 2022. Students take one non-credit course per semester, as well as a Physical Education non-credit course, while they pursue their certificate.
A list of courses available to students in the Aggie ACHIEVE program at Texas A&M University. Credit: Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune

Students in CTPs in Texas do not usually get degrees. Instead, they get certificates of completion.

The program at Texas A&M University is called Aggie ACHIEVE.

Students in Aggie ACHIEVE are between the ages of 18 and 27 years old. Students in this program have intellectual disabilities and autism.

The program can last up to four years.

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Students in the program can:

  • Take some college classes
  • Take physical education classes
  • Participate in activities on campus

Students in the program have helpers to help them with their classes and living on their own.

Heather Dulas is the director for the Aggie ACHIEVE program. She said that at the beginning of the program, students live on campus. Students have helpers who spend time with them during their first year.

Later on in the program, students can live off campus. Students can live on their own or have roommates.

When students finish the program, they get certificates from the university. Students do not get credit for most of their courses.

Julia Gault is a student in Aggie ACHIEVE. She learned many things in the program. She learned how to plan her schedule and how to do chores in the program.

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Now, she works at a hospital for small animals. She wants to be a veterinary assistant.

“It's amazing, so much fun,” she said. “You will get used to the campus, and they will help you, like, find classes. They help us with homework and stuff that we have trouble with.”

Christian Anguiano is 23 years old and from San Antonio. He is in the Aggie ACHIEVE program.

Christian interned for a professor who studies insects. He studied how insects can help our food grow.

Christian traveled to Washington, D.C., to talk about what he learned. He wants to work at a pharmacy.

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Christian says going to college is important for him.

“You get an amount of experience in things you want to do for your career,” he said.

Effrosyni Chatzistogianni, an academic graduate assistant with the Aggie ACHIEVE program helps Christian Anguiano, a junior in the program, during an office hours at the Texas A&M University campus in College Station on Nov. 15, 2022. Aggie ACHIEVE is a comprehensive transition program (CTP) for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) who have exited high school.
Effrosyni Chatzistogianni, an academic graduate assistant with the Aggie ACHIEVE program, helps Christian Anguiano, a junior in the program, during office hours at the Texas A&M University campus on Nov. 15, 2022. Credit: Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune

The programs at Texas A&M and the University of North Texas cost over $30,000 per year.

This includes housing for the first 2 years of the program.

The University of North Texas is also called UNT. The program there is called ELEVAR.

ELEVAR admits 10-12 new students every year. It is 4 years long.

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Students take college classes and do internships.

Some of the classes students take help them learn how to live on their own. Some topics that students learn about are:

  • Planning for their careers
  • Managing money
  • Taking care of their

Brenda Barrio helps run the ELEVAR program.

She says that the state of Texas does not usually give students money to help pay for college for these programs. This is because students in these programs do not get degrees.

Students can apply for money from the federal government to help pay for these programs through a form called the FAFSA form. If that money doesn't pay for everything, students can also ask the Texas Workforce Commission for help with money for job training programs.

Houston Community College has a program called VAST Academy. Sue Moraska is the director of the program. She says that VAST Academy has three campuses.

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There can be up to 55 students at VAST Academy. Some more students can do the program online.

Each semester of classes costs $1,036. Some students get help paying for VAST Academy through the Texas Workforce Commission.

Classes focus on skills like:

  • Communication
  • Budgeting
  • How to use computers

Texas A&M-San Antonio has a program called TU CASA. According to the program's website, the program lasts 18 months. It costs $2,019 per semester.

Students in this program learn skills they need for work, school, and life. Students in this program come from San Antonio, Bexar County, and places nearby.

There are other colleges that allow students with disabilities to take college classes. And there are ways to get help paying for these programs.

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For example, the LifePATH program at Lone Star College supports students with disabilities taking classes for college credits or an associate's degree. It also lets students with disabilities take classes through a certificate program.

Learn more about CTPs and other programs for students with disabilities through Think College and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

How to find the best fit

These programs give extra help to people with disabilities, but students still need to work hard in the programs. Many of these programs cost money to apply to them. Most of these programs cost between $15-$50 to apply. The HOPS, STEPS and VAST Academy programs are free to apply to.

If you want to apply to these programs, you should be able to do some life tasks on your own. You should also be interested in learning new things.

“You have to be able to take care of your medical needs, dietary needs, safe-navigating from place to place,” said Heather Dulas, the Aggie ACHIEVE program director. “If you wouldn't be able to spend a weekend or a week alone in your own home, you may not be ready yet to be on a college campus.”

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If you do not get into one program, you can apply again another time. You can also look for other programs.

“It doesn't mean never,” Heather said. “It means maybe give your student a little bit of room to grow and build some skills and some more self-confidence and then come in.”

Heather Dulas, the program director of Aggie ACHIEVE, looks at the costs and fees that students can expect to pay within the program, compared to the tuition costs of a degree-seeking Texas A&M University student at the university's campus in College Station on Nov. 15, 2022. Aggie ACHIEVE at Texas A&M University is a comprehensive transition program (CTP) for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) who have exited high school.
Heather Dulas, the program director of Aggie ACHIEVE, looks at the costs and fees that students can expect to pay for the program at the College Station campus on Nov. 15, 2022. Credit: Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune

When you look at programs, you should think about whether the program has what you need to do well.

You should think about whether a program has a place for students to live and people to help students live on their own.

These programs can help students get other opportunities. Some students in programs like the VAST Academy go on to get other degrees or certificates.

“Once they start in a program, they have that opportunity to go to college, and they're successful,” said Sue Moraska, the director of the VAST Academy. “They become more self-determined, and they want to go on and do more.”

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Aggie ACHIEVE and UNT ELEVAR are new programs, so we don't know yet how well students do in finding jobs after they finish. At UNT, all 10 students in the program in the spring had paid internships, according to Brenda Barrio, a program leader.

Almost half of the students with disabilities who received financial help from the Texas Workforce Commission for job training programs got jobs that matched their personalized work plans between 2018 and 2022.

Students who finished PATHS or E4 say that they learned how to be independent and stand up for themselves. They also learned job skills.

“It opened the doors for me to go to college and graduate from A&M, and then now I'm able to work for a similar program,” said Shelbi Davenport.

Shelbi has a disability that makes it hard for her to walk and move.

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She completed the PATHS program in 2015. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in leadership studies in 2020.

She now works for the HOPS program at A&M.

If you want to learn more about a program and how to pay for it, you can contact program staff or your local Vocational Rehabilitation Office for job training programs.

Students walk to class on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station on Nov. 15, 2022.
Students walk to class on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station on Nov. 15, 2022. Credit: Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune

Other resources

Think College has information about more programs available for people with intellectual disabilities.

It also has more resources for students and families, including plain-language guides on how to choose a program and how to get financial aid.

University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities are places that study people with disabilities.

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They also have resources for people with disabilities. They can help people with disabilities get technology.

There are two of these centers in Texas. They are:

Some more organizations that help people with disabilities are:

This story was adapted into plain language for accessibility by Hallie Bernstein.

This reporting was supported by the Higher Ed Media Fellowship, which is run by the Institute for Citizens and Scholars and funded by the ECMC Foundation.

Disclosure: Houston Community College, Texas A&M University, the University of North Texas, Lone Star College and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.


Go behind the headlines with newly announced speakers at the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, in downtown Austin from Sept. 21-23. Join them to get their take on what's next for Texas and the nation.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/06/27/texas-career-training-disabilities-plain-text/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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