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AHEAD Members Public Policy Opportunity

By AHEAD posted 22 days ago

  

Your opportunity to help renew the National Center for College Students with Disabilities (NCCSD)

With a couple of easy steps, you can help a greater AHEAD effort to get renewal funding for the NCCSD by asking your Members of Congress to support the funding request being circulated by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC).

As a refresher, the Center, in which AHEAD has played an integral part since its inception, is funded through the U.S. Department of Education and:

  1. Provides technical assistance and information to anyone needing information about disability and higher education, including college students, their families, faculty, college administrators and staff, disability services professionals​​​​​​​, researchers, and policymakers. It accomplishes this through its national online clearinghouse and through supporting student groups, like DREAM.
  2. Collects information and does research about disability services at campuses in the United States, sharing findings with the public. An example of that work is the
  3. CeDaR database, which is a free, publicly available database that can be used by prospective students and their families when making decisions about enrolling in higher education.
  4. Reports to the U.S. Department of Education about the current status of college students with disabilities in the US.

The current operating period for the Center is expiring, and Congress must appropriate new funds for the next operating period. To date, the Center has been chronically underfunded. This year, Sen. Duckworth and Rep. Adams are asking for $2.5 million per year for the next four years for the funding, which would put the Center in line with similar federal education centers.

For your part, you can ask your Senators to show their support for the Center by signing the support letter being circulated by Sen. Duckworth and ask your Representative in the House to show their support by signing the support letter being circulated by Rep. Adams. They can contact our government affairs team at Policy@AHEAD.org if they have any questions or need any assistance, such as getting a copy of the circulating letter.

You can look up your Representative and find their contact page by going to www.House.gov and entering in your zip code in the “Find Your Representative” box in the upper right corner. You can similarly find your Senators through www.Senate.gov and selecting the “contact” option under the “SENATORS” pull-down on the top left.

Sample correspondence:

Dear [Sen./Rep. _______]

As a constituent and a member of a professional higher education field that works with college students with disabilities, I ask you to support funding for the next operation period of the US Department of Education’s National Center for College Students with Disabilities (as authorized by Section 777(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1140q(a))). You can show your support by submitting to the Appropriations Committee a request for $10 million for the Center to cover costs over the next four years ($2.5 million per year) and signing onto a letter calling for such being circulated by [Sen. Tammy Duckworth/Rep. Alma Adams].

The Center plays an important role in helping families, faculty, and staff, as well as the federal government to advance the successful graduation of college students with disabilities. If you have any questions, to learn more about the Center, and/or to get a copy of the circulating support letter, you can contact AHEAD’s government affairs team at Policy@AHEAD.org.

This funding is an important and worthy investment. Approximately 3.9 million undergraduates have disabilities. Of this population, about 24 percent of these students typically ask for accommodations and many of them still face challenges at their college or university. Further, roughly 30 percent of undergraduates report their mental health significantly affects their academic work, but 45 percent of those students do not receive the disability accommodations needed to help them complete their program of study. Providing resources and technical assistance to future and current students with disabilities, their family members, faculty, staff, and others working on transition and higher education is essential to not only the success of the students but also to the economic well-being of the Nation.

It is imperative that we ensure that technical assistance and information about disability and higher education are provided to those who will benefit from it. The NCCSD is the only federally funded national center in the United States that provides comprehensive disability and higher education technical assistance to college and graduate students with all types of disabilities. It is charged with providing technical assistance and information about disability and higher education; collecting information and conducting research about disability services on campuses; setting up online trainings and information for high school transition staff, and postsecondary faculty and disability services staff; and providing reports on that information to the US Department of Education.

Since beginning operations in 2015, the NCCSD has reached 99% of all degree-granting institutions in the United States, serving as a critical resource for students, families, faculty, and staff in higher education and secondary education. Between 2015 and 2022, over 4.5 million people from 50 states, two territories, and 50 countries have used its services, including the free online NCCSD Clearinghouse of resources. In 2021, the NCCSD created the first free online Campus Disability Resource (CeDaR) Database of disability services and resources available at 3,935 degree-granting institutions of higher education and will add non-degree-granting institutions in 2024. The NCCSD supports DREAM, a student-run national group with 65 campus chapters, providing mentoring, educational, and networking programs. The NCCSD also publishes weekly news updates about disability and higher education, research and information briefs, and provides technical assistance. It is developing an online faculty training and a consortium of service providers from Minority Serving Institutions. It has also saved countless lives, as the crisis contact list has been one of the most used web pages at the NCCSD Clearinghouse.

The $10 million funding being requested for FY 2025 is in line with similar national centers and would go toward its new contract that would go into effect in October 2024. The funding would enable NCCSD to further serve students with disabilities by expanding its extensive clearinghouse of information, increasing outreach so more students and families are aware of the NCCSD, providing additional training about disability and higher education, and adding non-degree-granting IHES to the CeDaR Database, helping students make more informed college choice decisions and in turn increasing their likelihood of a positive college experience.

So please ask the Appropriation Committee to include $10 million for the next four years of operating expenses for the Center and sign onto the letter being circulated by [Sen. Tammy Duckworth/Rep. Alma Adams].

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