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Options for Disabled Students in Santa Barbara
updated: Dec 28, 2013, 3:00 PM

By Eve Pearce

Disabled high school students considering their future will have watched Fox's Glee with interest this season. As the smash hit show's remaining original characters consider their life after glee club, a recent episode focused on the options for cheerleader Becky Jackson, played by actress Lauren Potter who has Down's Syndrome. Viewers saw Becky facing the decision of whether or not to apply to college, and saw her guided around a supporting ‘disabled-friendly' college with wheelchair-bound Artie. The episode has catapulted options for disabled high school students back into the spotlight in the US, after an online campaign for the show's writers to address the issues gained momentum last year. As thousands of disabled students consider their future, what are the options for education their education in Santa Barbara?

(Photo Source: Fox)

The University of California

The University of California, in Santa Barbara, (UCSB) attracts temporarily and permanently disabled students from across the country. As well as offering a wide range of study programs, Santa Barbara's warm climate provides a comfortable living environment for all, with no need to worry about adverse weather conditions such as snow getting in the way of you attending class. The college is lucky to have a flat campus environment with the majority of rooms and teaching quarters accessible for wheelchairs and people with other mobility issues. Where to live while at college is a big decision for all students. UCSB has a range of modified dorms for students who want to live on campus and enjoy the full student life experience. The college's Disabled Students Program (DSP) oversees the well being of disabled students on campus, as well as acting as a liaison with students over various issues that may arise. It also ensures that UCSB complies with all necessary disability regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, and provides equal access for all. Sitting exams can be a stressful time for all students, but with prior notice UCSB can ensure that all examination centers are accessible for disabled candidates. Students with disabilities who wish to apply should inform UCSB of their specific needs when they apply.

Santa Barbara City College

If you're not ready to head to UCSB just yet, then the Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) is a great intermediate step. The community college offers certificate and two-year degrees, as well as transfer opportunities to the University of Santa Barbara. Founded in 1909, SBCC has more than 20,000 students, many of whom are disabled. With a focus on diversity, disabled community college students shouldn't worry about standing out from the crowd. SBCC has a dedicated Disabled Student Programs and Services department (DSPS) to help students with verified disabilities. Once your register your disability with the university, DSPS counselors will be able to provide you with on-going educational support, including finding you suitable accommodation. The campus does not provide accommodation but can help students contact suitable housing providers in the area if you don't want to, or can't, continue living at home. There is extra support available for reading and math, as well as additional classroom support to help students take notes or record lectures. Proof-reading for essays and assignments can also be helpful for students and can be arranged through the DSPS.

State and charitable funding for students

Community colleges are more affordable than traditional colleges making them a good option for those from low-income families. The average tuition at community colleges is about $3,000 per year, less than half the average cost of four-year degrees at public colleges and 10% of fees for private colleges and universities. Whichever option you chose, student financing is an essential part of the decision to go to college. However, there is financial help available for all students as well as funding specifically for students with disabilities. If you have an intellectual disability, you can apply for state funding from various grants if you are accepted for a comprehensive transition and postsecondary (CTP) program for students with intellectual disabilities at a selected institution of higher education, including the University of California. You will also have to show that you are maintaining ‘satisfactory academic progress' in order to apply for funding. You may be entitled to apply for other scholarships, either offered by the college or from various non-profit organizations. For example the Foundation for Science and Disability's Student Award Program aims to increase opportunities for disabled students in science, engineering, mathematics, technology, and pre-medical/dental degrees.

Government support for students

Education, like other areas of government funding, has been threatened with spending cuts recently. This can have an added impact on disabled students who rely on special education or federally-funded programs. Typically in the US, additional support for disabled students is provided by educational institutions rather than the government. In other countries there are various government grants available to disabled students to help them arrange their own help. Money.co.uk explains that the Disabled Student Allowance can help UK students with small purchases, such as extra photocopying or braille paper, or personal help such as a reader, note taker or sign language interpreter. This government-funded support has started to become the trend in the US too where there are a few state grants available. However, these are paid directly to the education institution. The government's Student Support Services (SSS) helps disabled students in higher education. Eligible students can receive personal and academic career counseling, career guidance, instruction, mentoring, and tutoring. The aim of these government schemes is to increase graduation rates of disabled students and help smooth the process of transferring between levels of higher education.

Consider your options carefully

Just like Glee's Becky Jackson, high school students considering higher education will need to think about their options carefully. There is a wealth of support - financial and practical - for students with disabilities, whether these are physical or mental. Do your research thoroughly before you decide, and find out exactly what funding is available, whether through federal, state or college grants and scholarships, or awards from non-profit organizations. With dedicated support from colleges, there are fewer obstacles than ever before for students wanting to continue their education in Santa Barbara.


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