WHAT is Postsecondary Education and WHY should students, families and IEP teams consider it?


Postsecondary education or learning refers to any and all experiences in which a student with a disability learns and/or practices skills necessary for achieving their long term employment goals.

Postsecondary education offers many benefits for youth with disabilities!  These benefits make it worthwhile for youth, their families and professionals who support them to consider the options.  When they hear “post-secondary education” many people think of a traditional four year college or university.  The fact is there are many options for education past high school including 2 year colleges, vocational or business schools, online learning, and training programs to name a few.  There is not one better than the other, the most important factor when deciding on a learning experience is if it meets the student’s needs, aligns with his/her interests and will help to accomplish their goals!

What is Postsecondary Education? Read a description from the National Collaborative on Transition & Employment.

Post-secondary learning and supports are DIFFERENT than those in High School


There are some big differences between high school and college in terms of how instruction is provided and how students are expected to demonstrate knowledge.  It is best to prepare for these changes while in high school. 

  • IEPs do NOT follow a student from high school to college! Once a student with a disability graduates, he or she is no longer covered under IDEA.
  • The role of parents changes from advocate to supporter once the youth with a disability enters college. Students with disabilities need to build strong self-determination and self-advocacy skills while in high school. These skills allow the student to set goals for the future, solve problems, identify themselves as a person with a disability however they are comfortable and seek needed supports and accommodations.

Read about how Planning for Success in Postsecondary Education Takes Time and Organization

Choices, Choices, Choices!


There are many types of postsecondary options available to students varying from traditional four-year university programs to specialized training programs like cosmetology. Families are encouraged to help find the option that best fits with their youth’s career goals and academic functioning. Not everyone will do well at a four-year college and not everyone will be happy with a shorter program with a narrow focus. Students and their families should research available options to consider if a traditional setting is the best option, such as; Job Corps, Americorps, YouthBuild, and federally funded youth employment programs.  Workforce centers around the state, high school counselors and Vocational Rehabilitation Service staff are good resources of information about these options.  Below is a list of some types of postsecondary education programs.  By no means is this list a complete list, but rather a way to show the variety of options available. 

  • Community college or Junior College
  • Technical or Engineering College
  • Vocational training program or technical school
  • Trade apprentice program

Click to read more about Post-secondary Education from the National Center on Transition & Employment


Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services


In addition to the resources listed above Iowa Vocation Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) is an important one for students and their families.  IVRS is a state run but federally funded program designed to help qualified persons with disabilitiesnull prepare for, and keep employment but it can also provide supports to people with disabilities who want to enter postsecondary education if goals are linked to a plan for employment.    IVRS provides a counselor at every community college and can offer assistance accessing other training options such as apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Reach out to find a Vocational Rehab counselor in your area!  


null We all understand that each student is impacted differently by their disability.  Students who are impacted by mental health issues face unique challenges and  need specialized support to reach their maximum potential.

 Click here to view a "Preparing for College Guide" from NAMI