Thursday, December 18th, 2014

The Obameter

Commission a study on students with disabilities and their transition to jobs or higher education


"There has not been a comprehensive study of evaluating access to higher education or transition to the workforce by students with disabilities. As president, Barack Obama will initiate such a study and task his Secretary of Education with researching: the barriers that keep students with disabilities from seeking and completing higher education; the barriers that prevent students from making a direct transition to work; the extent to which students with disabilities are able to access loans and grants; reasons college students with disabilities drop out at a higher rate; and best practices from schools that have effectively recruited and graduated students with disabilities that can be implemented more widely."


Updates

U.S. Education Department launches disability study

Four years ago, Barack Obama courted people with disabilities as a voting bloc. PolitiFact counted 14 campaign promises about disabilities, from hiring more federal workers with disabilities to streamlining the application process for Social Security benefits.

Here we'll assess a pledge to launch an education study on students with disabilities.

Specifically, Obama wanted a comprehensive evaluation of these students' transition to higher education and the workforce. He sought to answer the following questions: 

  • What prevents students with disabilities from attending and finishing college?
  • What stops them from getting jobs directly after college?
  • Do they have adequate access to student loans and grants?
  • Why do they drop out of college at a higher rate?
  • Which programs have a proven record for recruiting and graduating students with disabilities?

In his first annual budget, Obama asked Congress to pay for such a study, and it was funded. Earlier this year Mathematica Policy Research, a private firm hired for $14 billion by the U.S. Education Department, launched a five-year evaluation. Its design combines survey data with government records, comparing students receiving individualized special education to students who are not.  

Since the study isn't complete, we can't know its findings. Its basic design suggests it will shed light on the questions candidate Obama outlined.

Obama said he would commission a study on post-graduation opportunities for high school students with disabilities. A contractor employed by the Education Department is doing just that. We rate this a Promise Kept.

Sources:

U.S. Senate Committee on Education and the Workforce, New government report finds more needs to be done to help students with disabilities transition to college, careers, Aug 7, 2012

Government Accountability Office, Better federal coordination could lessen challenges in the transition from high school, July 2012

National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Study of transition outcomes for youth with disabilities, phase I (accessed Nov. 5, 2012)

The Library of Congress, Thomas, Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, Dec. 3, 2004

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request (accessed Nov. 5, 2012)

Administration allocates money for study

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised a study to evaluate "access to higher education or transition to the workforce by students with disabilities," specifically "the barriers that keep students with disabilities from seeking and completing higher education; the barriers that prevent students from making a direct transition to work; the extent to which students with disabilities are able to access loans and grants; reasons college students with disabilities drop out at a higher rate; and best practices from schools that have effectively recruited and graduated students with disabilities that can be implemented more widely."

In the president's budget request for fiscal year 2010 is an extra $2 million designated for "Special Education Studies and Evaluations." The Education Department says that the new money would "fund a new study of transition and learning outcomes for students with disabilities as well as the required national assessment of activities supported with federal special education funds and other ongoing studies and evaluations of special education."
 
That budgetary increase made it into the final appropriations bill for the Education Department. The study isn't finished yet, but the funding for it qualifies this promise as In the Works.

Sources:

Education Department, " Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Summary — May 7, 2009 ," accessed Dec. 20, 2009
 
Education Department, " Department of Education Fiscal Year 2010 Congressional Action ," accessed Dec. 20, 2009