Comparison of Learning Disabilities in High School and College

IDEA – 504 – ADA Laws
Individuals with Disability Education Improvement Act (IDEA)
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Secondary School

Postsecondary Education

Education is a right under IDEA and must be provided in an appropriate environment to all individuals.

Education is not a right. ADA/504 are Civil Rights laws. Students must meet admission criteria defined under ADA/504 as “otherwise

School district is responsible to identify a student’s disability.

Students must self-identify in college if they wish services.

School district provides free testing, evaluation, and transportation to program.

Student must provide current and appropriate documentation as defined by the college. If documentation from high school is not adequate, student pays for additional evaluation/testing.

Transition planning and timelines exist to clarify students’ vision, identify programming choices and coordinate appropriate coursework

Students make course selections with some assistance from advisors or instructors.

School district develops IEP to define educational supports and services under special education.

No lEP/special education in college. Only academic accommodations based upon individual need and equal access.

IEP Team (including student) determines IEP supports and services that will be provided.

Disability Services Office determines accommodations with student and the student may be responsible to contact faculty for services.*

Access to general curriculum, necessary modifications, and a variety of appropriate accommodations are available.

No fundamental alterations to the curriculum are made. Academic accommodations and modifications are available based on student’s documented disability. Any change to a course which would fundamentally alter the essential elements of the course is not required.

Assignments may be reduced and extra time allowed to complete work.

Everyone is required to turn in complete assignments on time and do the same amount of work.

Personal services for medical or physical disability are required.

No personal services are required.**


* Although responsibility lies with the student, Disability Support Services works closely to develop Accommodation Requests and will advocate for student if difficulty arises.
**Disability Support Services may assist students in efforts to advocate for such services.


Dependence vs. Independence

Secondary School

Postsecondary Education

Class is usually a semester or 90 days.

Colleges have Semester or Quarter system. Quarter systems meet approximately 11 weeks or 53-55 days. Semester systems meet approximately 16 week or 90 days.

Student may take same subject all year.

Student will have new classes every quarter/semester and new text books.

The main office exists as the center of activity for school.

Students are responsible to know where to locate information, assistance, study support.

Rigid schedule with constant supervision.

Greater flexibility of scheduling.

Classes meet daily.

Classes may meet 1 to 5 times a week.

Attendance is taken.

Attendance policies are at discretion of instructor.

Missing classes for various reasons is permissible and you may still complete the course.

Missing classes may result in lowered grades or failing the class depending on course requirements.

Guidance counselors or other staff schedule support services for students.

Students connect with Disability Services staff and arrange all support services.

Someone is available to help plan study time (teachers, Spec Ed, parents).

Student responsible for setting and following through on all scheduling and study time.

Classes generally held in one building.

Classes are held at many different sites on campus.

Average class is 35-45 minutes.

Class times vary from 50 minutes to 4 hours.

Daily contact w/teachers and support staff.

Classes meet less frequently, impacting access to instructors and assistance. Instructors are not always available to assist the student.

Teachers closely monitor a students’ progress.

Instructors may not monitor a student’s progress but will grade based upon the. Student’s work or may not make any effort to discuss a
student’s performance in spite of failing scores.

Parent permission required (until 18 years of age).

Student is an adult with all decision making authority. Parent permission not required. Generally a college cannot discuss with parents any student’s information without permission from the student.