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  • Writer's pictureMichael Astor

Disabled College Grads Less Likely to Find Employment Than Abled Peers

Disabled students with college degrees are less likely to find employment and more likely to earn less than abled graduates, but serious gaps in the data make it impossible to say by how much, according to a new report.

According to the government-funded National Center for College Students with Disability, 29.4 percent of disabled students with a bachelor’s degree or higher were able to get jobs after college, compared with 77.3 percent of their abled peers.

“While it is clear that college students with disabilities may face distinct challenges as they enter the work world, institutions of higher education must make greater efforts to ensure students receive the support they need to make thoughtful, well-informed decisions as they begin their careers,” the report entitled Students with Disabilities and Post-College Employment: How Much Do We Know?” states.

The problem only gets more complicated because the term “disability” encompasses a wide range of conditions _ physical and mental _ and because few studies break out the disabled as a distinct population, it is all but impossible for researchers to accurately track post-college employment. Another issue is that most studies involving disabled graduation rates and employment are outdated and may no longer be relevant due to technological advances in the work place and other changes.

“While institutions are required to report completion rates for students by gender and race/ethnicity, there is no such requirement for students with disabilities,” according to the report.

What is clear is that disabled graduates are likely to earn less than their abled peers. Only 22 percent disabled people with bachelor’s degrees or higher reported earning $75,000 dollar a year or more, compared with 33 percent of abled individuals with the same level of education.

Meanwhile, 42 percent of disabled graduates were likely to earn less than $25,000 a year compared with 22 percent of abled graduates. By contrast, 79 percent of disabled students with only a high school degree earned $25,000 or less with just 3 percent of them earning $75,000 or more.

One reason for the gap may be that just over a quarter of two-year and four-year colleges report providing career or placement services tailored to students with disabilities, according to the report.

Evidence also suggests that a majority of college graduates with disabilities lack understanding of the accommodations they are entitled to under the American’s With Disabilities Act of 1990, which protects the civil rights of individuals with disabilities in both college and employment settings.

One reason for this is that disabled students issues are often considered to be the sole concern of the school’s disabilities services office, while their special needs are often ignored by career development offices.

The report explains that while academics may be the main focus for the general student population, independent living and employment were identified as the main goals for two thirds of those in programs serving students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This is why bridging the gap between disability services and career development is crucial if disabled people are going to be able to succeed in today’s work force.

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