Saturday, May 19, 2018

Catch 22: Special needs students in transition programs can't take community college classes in Minnesota

We’ve discovered  an interesting “Catch-22. It applies to Minnesota but may be common elsewhere.

In MN a student entering a state funded transition program cannot do courses at a community college — even if they pay for them directly and even if they were doing them while in High School through Minnesota’s PSEO program.

The reason is that Community Colleges require a High School diploma, but transition programs require that a student not have a High School diploma [1]. While in High School students may attend Community Colleges for advanced courses through programs like PSEO (MN), but not after finishing High School. Once a student is in a transition program they may likewise, through the transition program, be eligible to attend selected community college classes.

This catch-22 won’t snag many students. Most students entering transition won’t have been doing PSEO classes or be interested in most community college courses. It may, however, catch autism-spectrum adults with relatively strong academic skills. Our #2 falls into this category.

We’re sorting out our options, but wish we’d known this in advance.

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[1] In practice though either adaptation or modification a MN student with an IEP (includes “special needs”) will typically have the credits to graduate. To maintain eligibility for transition program education for ages 18-21 the student may attend graduation, but the diploma is not placed in their hands. So, they finish High School at age 18, but they don’t actually graduate. This bizarre ritual must have its roots in the slow evolution of law and regulation. It might, for example, be rooted in an era where students “failed grades”; perhaps states chose 21 as a maximum age that anyone could spend in public high school regardless of grade. When post-secondary transition programs were created perhaps they were subsumed into this framework. I’m only speculating, but it would be consistent with how structures of law and regulation evolve.