Best Colleges for Students With Learning Disabilities

One in five children in the US struggle with learning disabilities and attention issues. They have problems with reading, writing, and math. The most common disabilities are dyslexia and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). What’s the reason for this? Various factors can increase the risk of developing learning disorders, including genetics, psychological, and physical trauma. People are often stigmatized and have trouble finishing school or getting a job. We’ll try to break this stigma by talking about the best colleges for students with learning disabilities. What kind of programs they offer, how much they cost, and what can you expect? Keep reading to find out.


13,2% of Americans have some form of disability, and the most common type is ambulatory disabilities. They include physical and permanent disabilities (people needing to use a wheelchair to move), paralysis or loss of the person’s legs, and impaired or unsteady gait.

Furthermore, when it comes to learning disabilities (LD), boys are more often identified with it than girls, so you’d presume it’s a norm, but not necessarily. Boys, in general, draw more attention in schools with their reckless behavior. On top of that, 85% of discipline referrals are associated with boys.

Boys with LD are generally more impulsive and aggressive than girls, so teachers report them more frequently. This is the main reason they make 18% of diagnosed cases, compared to girls that make 10%, according to the survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. 

What Are the Best Colleges for Students With Learning Disabilities? 

Applying for college is always stressful. There are many things to be considered, like campus location, course programs, and tuition. Students with learning or physical disabilities have an even harder job because they have to make sure the college they are after can offer them special programs and supportive services. 

Although every college has a disability office, many students struggle because of the stigma regarding their disabilities. 

Some universities offer more support than others, like extra tutoring, individual meetings, special summer programs, and workshops. That’s why we made this top five list. The first college for students with learning disabilities we’ll talk about is Beacon College.

Beacon College

This private college was founded in 1989 in Leesburg, Florida. It’s considered the first institution that offered support to students with dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning disabilities.

It offers unique programs designed for students with LD, supported by small class sizes, trained teachers, and advanced technology. You can study Anthrozoology, Business Management, Human Services, Psychology, Studio Arts, etc.

The cost of tuition is $21,300 per semester.

College Magazine included Beacon College in its list of best colleges for students with learning disabilities in 2018. 

According to Pew Research Center, New York is the leading state with 19.2% disabled students. Pennsylvania isn’t far behind with 18.6%, followed by Maine (18.4%), and Massachusetts (18%). Furthermore, states with the lowest rates of students with learning disabilities are Texas (9.2%), Hawaii (10.6%), and Idaho (11%).

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us 28.2% of adults from Michigan suffer from some type of disability. 

The best colleges for students with learning disabilities in Michigan include Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

University of Michigan

We’ll focus on the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. It was founded in 1817 in Detroit, under the name of Catholepistemiad, and it moved to Ann Arbor in 1837. This is the oldest university in Michigan, and it has the best research section. 

The college provides free services for LD students that include note-taking services, specialized equipment, material loans, video captioning, interpreters for sign language, etc. The in-state tuition will cost you $15,558, while the out-of-state tuition costs $51,200.

Landmark College

Landmark College is the next college we’ll focus on that stands out from the list of colleges for students with disabilities with its unique programs for LD students. This private college located in Putney, Vermont, was founded in 1985, and it served as the first university to add studies for students with dyslexia.

You can use many services, like pet therapy, health counseling, various summer programs, etc. The college offers bachelor’s degrees in Communication & Entrepreneurial Leadership, Liberal Studies, Psychology, Studio Art, Computer Science, and Life Science.

Students don’t have to pay additional fees for disability services, but the tuition fee is quite expensive. It costs $60,280 per year without room and board.

Adelphi University

Top colleges for students with learning disabilities include Adelphi University, located in Garden City, NY. It offers a unique program called The Bridges to Adelphi Program. This program is created to help autistic students and individuals with non-verbal or neurological-social disorders. The program includes individual services, group services, and training programs. The Bridges to Adelphi Program was started in 2007, and it included only three students (now there are more than 100 students).

To be a student at Adelphi will cost you $39,820 per year. The Bridges to Adelphi Program costs $4,590 per semester on top of the regular tuition.

Bellevue College

Bellevue College ranks highly among colleges for students with disabilities. It’s a public college, founded in 1966 in Bellevue, Washington. Bellevue College has a Disability Resource Center that provides services to disabled students. On top of that, Bellevue College was acknowledged as the best college for students with autism. 

It has a unique program called Occupational Life Skills (OLS) tailored for students with cognitive disabilities. In favor of individualized quality lessons, there are only 15 students per class. This four-year program was created to help students become successful employees.

How much does it cost to attend? In-state price is $22,635, and out-state price is $28,089.

Best Colleges for Students With Physical Disabilities

The difference between physical and mental disabilities is that the first affects the body, while the second affects the brain. Our society still treats disabilities as a stigma, and people with physical and learning disabilities often have problems blending in the community, whether it’s a workplace or student campus. 

When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) legislation was founded in 1975 (IDEA was called the Education for All Handicapped Children Act until 1990), they had one goal—to help children with disabilities go to college. Over the years, we witnessed the rise of disability friendly colleges. Many of them have special programs for students with disabilities.

What do they offer? 

There are various accommodations tailored to students with special needs. This usually includes more time for taking tests, audio recordings of classes, note-taking services, specialized apps for learning, etc. 

Public colleges and universities can help students with disabilities by creating accessible learning environments (ramps, lifts, special buses) that offer more accessible entrance to campus and dorms, support groups, and special sports teams for disabled students.

University of Missouri

One of the best colleges for students with disabilities is the University of Missouri (Mizzou) that was founded in 1839. Its Disability Center provides various accommodations and support for students with disabilities, including adaptive equipment, lab and classroom assistants, exam accommodations, special chairs and tables tailored to fit student’s individual needs, on-campus transportation, etc.

On top of that, students are allowed to bring emotional support animals and service animals (the college needs to approve the request to bring an animal).

Ball State University

There are many special needs colleges, but Ball State University has the best campus, customized to fit its students’ needs. It was founded in 1918 in Muncie, Indiana. The Office of Disability Services provides flexible classrooms with adjustable chairs and tables, including on-campus shuttles. The college is famous for its wheelchair basketball and power soccer competitions. The games are played on courts, with two teams of four players.

19% of Indiana’s population experience some level of disability. That’s why March became the Disability Awareness month that’s celebrated every year throughout Indiana.

Known as a college for learning programs for disabled students that help them integrate into the society, Ball State University wants to increase awareness with this annual event.

We also need to mention The Alliance for Disability Awareness (ADA). This group, created by students, wants to educate people about living with disabilities, and raise awareness about the difficulties the disabled people face. The students often sponsor various college events and host annual events (lab open house, book club, etc.).

University of Florida

One of the colleges for special needs students with a dorm tailored specifically to help students with physical disabilities is the University of Florida, located in Gainesville, Florida. It was established in 1853, as the only member of the Association of American Universities in Florida.

The University of Florida counts many dorms. The east campus has 12 halls, while the west campus counts 13. Cypress Hall is a dorm customized to help students with physical disabilities. There are lifts, special bathrooms and showers for wheelchair users, customized furniture to fit the needs of individuals, etc.

Several schools for students with learning disabilities and physical dysfunctions offer specialized and often free transport, and the University of Florida is no exception. The buses equipped with ramps help students move throughout the campus.

In 2018, the University of Florida established a new society named Delta Alpha Pi. The goal of this honor society is to destigmatize disability and celebrate diversity. They are hoping to promote self-advocacy through community events.

University of California, Berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley numbers among disability friendly colleges as it provides exclusive career services modified to help students with disabilities. Students can have one-on-one appointments with career counselors that will prepare them for finding a job.

When it comes to sports, the college offers various options for students with disabilities. They can play wheelchair basketball, exercise yoga, or try goalball—intended for people with vision impairment; the objective is to put a ball with several noise bells into the opponents’ goal). There is also biking, hiking, skiing, power chair soccer, etc.

Edinboro University

As we’ve seen, most universities that offer special accommodations for physical disabilities, do so for mental ones as well. So we’ll end our list of best universities for students with physical and learning disabilities with Edinboro University, located in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. It offers numerous accommodations for students with learning and physical disabilities, from classroom accommodations like audio lectures, captioning, note-taking assistance, testing accommodations, and services for students.

In addition to that, students are encouraged to try recreational sports, and Edinboro University offers many, like wheelchair basketball and air rifle target shooting, among other sports.

The college environment is adapted to serve students. Furthermore, the crosswalks are marked; there are ramps and elevators, automatic doors, laboratories, etc.

Colleges With Programs for Students With Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorders

When preparing for college, students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities (LD), need to consider their options before finishing high school. Finding colleges with the right programs, support services, and special education services is not easy.

They need to consider various things like:

  • Affordability – Do selected colleges offer scholarships or specific financial aids that will cut the cost of tuition?
  • Location – Students with learning disorders might find it difficult to live far from home. Depending on the disability, some need to consider living in the same city or state.
  • Accommodations – Some schools offer college programs for students with intellectual disabilities, and they vary depending on the college. Be sure to acquire relevant information before applying.
  • Support services and unique programs – Students can benefit from programs that are designed for individuals with learning disorders.

Start preparing in high school

High school students should start preparing for college during the last two years. To confirm LD or ADHD, they will need to go through diagnostic testing. To use college support services, students will need to provide documentation about their disability in the form of test results.

Colleges for LD students provide special classrooms and accommodations. Here are some things one should look in teachers when considering if they’re able to make accommodations for LD students:

  • Talking to their students as soon as they start the semester. Teachers shouldn’t wait for students to take the first step, but be proactive.
  • Discussing courses with students. Teachers need to ask them what they can do, and adjust or modify the class (or the teaching style) to help them.
  • Availability. Teachers should let the students know they can approach them any time they need it.
  • When it comes to exams, teachers need to be flexible with timing and formatting.

Use grants and scholarships

To find the best college with learning disabilities programs, students need to inquire about additional benefits, like federal aid, scholarships, and grants. Today, there are more than 270 private colleges and public universities with special programs for students with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Some scholarships are specific and tied to a particular disability. E.g., there is Michael Yasick ADHD scholarship that amounts to $2,000, Autism Delaware scholarship ($1,000), American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation scholarship ($5,000), etc.

Students most commonly use federal loans. To get financial aid, they need to file an application form and give all the information about their financial status.

Are There Colleges That Accept IEP Students?

There are several requirements to get an IEP. The student needs to have one or more disabilities (LD, autism, ADHD), and it must affect their educational performance (in short, they need special instructions to make progress in classes).

When it comes to colleges, there are no IEP plans. When students graduate from high school, the law that provides them with IEPs no longer applies. Colleges are not required to provide specialized instruction or tutoring, and the disability models differ from those in high schools.

There are no best colleges for IEP students, there are only different college accommodations you can choose. These are some general accommodations many colleges offer:

  • Flexible time for taking exams. When a student takes the test, the time can be extended.
  • When students are taking tests, they are allowed to use laptops and calculators.
  • Students can make audio recordings of classes, and they have full access to audiobooks.
  • Students get access to voice recognition software and text-to-speech programs.

What Are the Best Colleges for Students With 504 Plans? 

A 504 plan helps students with disabilities get support, and it protects them against discrimination. This is a law under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These plans are not the same as IEPs. They don’t belong to special education, although they have the same goal.

To take advantage of this plan, students don’t need to go through a full evaluation. Some schools suggest this plan if the student can’t apply for IEPs or special education support.

Colleges don’t have 504 plans. IDEA was replaced with section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). What does that mean? If students want to get college accommodations, they need to contact the Disability Service and submit appropriate documentation.

To sum it up, colleges can provide, and they often do, accommodations like extended time for exams, permission to use laptops, calculators, and audiobooks, but this is not a guarantee. If the student had an IEP or 504 plan in high school, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be provided the same services in college. IEPs and 504 plans end with high school graduation.

Best Colleges for Students With Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a part of a specific learning disability (SLD) that includes problems with reading, writing, and speaking. It’s estimated that 43.5 million Americans have dyslexia, and as the most common neurocognitive disorder, it affects 20% of the population. 

Students with dyslexia can have a hard time studying and keeping up with college demands. Even though dyslexia doesn’t affect intelligence, simple tasks like reading and writing can become difficult for individuals suffering from this disorder. Some colleges tailor their programs to help students with dyslexia. Here are some of the best colleges for dyslexics.

West Virginia Wesleyan College

This is a private liberal arts college located in Buckhannon, West Virginia. It provides support programs to students with learning disabilities, attention disorders, and dyslexia. What’s specific about its learning programs? They use the Lindamood-Bell program.

What is the Lindamood-Bell program? This therapeutic method was created for children with language processing disabilities (like dyslexia). It teaches children to perceive the sounds of words before learning how to write them. Lindamood-Bell program is not something you can find in many schools because of its cost (over $10,000 ). 

Beacon College

One of the best colleges for students with learning disabilities in 2019, Beacon, was the first college accredited to offer four-year degrees to people diagnosed with learning disabilities. Students at Beacon can get a bachelor’s and associate degrees. It has a great support center that offers personalized assistance to students with dyslexia. Students can work with tutors and various learning specialists.

Nicholls State University

Nicholls State University is a public university located in Thibodaux, Louisiana. It offers a special dyslexia college program that provides beneficial technology, personal advising, testing accommodations, etc. Students who have dyslexia can request all the classes to be recorded on tape. This also applies to assignments, lectures, textbooks, and homework.

Westminster College

This list of best colleges for learning disabilities wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention Missouri’s Westminster College, located in Fulton. This private college offers a Learning Differences Program (LDP) tailored to fit the needs of students with ADHD, dyscalculia, dyslexia, and other learning disorders.

Students need to pay an additional fee for LDP services, in addition to that, they get extended time while taking the tests, and they can use various audio resources.

The University of Arizona

This public research university, located in Tucson, Arizona, is known for its Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Center, simply called SALT. This support program helps students with LD through a variety of programs and services.

What does this service entail? You can expect personalized learning plans for each LD student, tutoring, learning strategies, workshops, consultations, social programs, etc.

Best Colleges and Universities for Students With ADHD

What is ADHD? ADHD is a short form of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. It manifests with concentration problems, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and restlessness, among other symptoms.

Based on American Psychiatric Society research, it affects 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults in the US. Do colleges have special programs for ADHD students? Yes, and here we’ll talk about the three best universities in the US that students with ADHD can attend.

Mount St. Joseph University

This private college was founded in 1920, and it’s located in Mount Saint Joseph, Ohio. Its project EXCEL is a support system for students with LD. It offers various resources like professional tutoring and academic counseling, speech recognition software, mentoring, and a course called “Study for Success” that every freshman can attend.

This is a fee-for-service program that only admitted students can participate in.

Limestone College

Best colleges for students with ADHD include this private university in Gaffney, South Carolina. Limestone College offers a program called PALS (Program for Alternative Learning Styles). The program helps students with disabilities like ADHD. It includes workshops (on writing or studying), and consultations that help students learn how to organize and how to use time management skills. Students can have individual sessions with tutors.

Davis & Elkins College

This private college located in Elkins, West Virginia, offers a Supported Learning Program for students with ADHD. It includes group meetings that occur every weekend, supervised study hall, and freshmen can participate in the“Study Skills for Success” class, using specialized technology and assistance.

Davis & Elkins College is the first college in West Virginia that hosted the Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society.

Dean College

The last college for students with learning disabilities we’ll mention here is Dean College, located in Franklin, Massachusetts. It has one unique program for students called the Arch Learning Community. Students can benefit from the program by using personalized coaching, seminars, specialized advising, etc. If accepted, students can choose to apply for one or two years of the Arch program.

What Have We Learned So Far?

Students face many challenges, some include mental problems, and some include various disabilities. We talked about the best colleges for students with learning disabilities that offer special programs by explaining their work with various examples. Furthermore, we learned the difference between physical disabilities and mental disabilities and how often they affect US citizens. 

That said, our society needs to stop treating disabilities as a stigma by offering more supportive programs, creating events for awakening awareness, and providing information, following the example of these colleges that paved the path of so much-needed change.

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