The 2023 Legislative Session was one of the most consequential sessions in 50 years. More disability-related laws and policies were passed than in any other year. This summer, MCD takes a deep dive into some of the new 2023 policies and explains how they will impact the disability community. Check back each week for a new installment and learn how new policies in education, transportation, human services, state government, and others will shape the Minnesota disability landscape.
The Higher Education Finance and Policy omnibus bill contains $4.2 billion in new spending, including:
- a free college program for students whose family income is under $80,000
- an emergency grant program covering critical needs for students experiencing financial difficulty covering critical needs
- $6 million over the FY24-25 biennium for a spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury research grant program
However, the Inclusive Higher Education Act will likely have the greatest impact for people with disabilities. The Inclusive Higher Education Act establishes both a technical assistance center and a grant program to transform how the state’s higher education institutions serve students with intellectual disabilities.
Historically, students with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) faced significant challenges in pursuing higher education, in part because these institutions were not designed to include them. Limited resources, lack of support services, and outdated policies often hindered these students’ ability to take part fully in the academic and social aspects of college life.
Introduced in the Senate and House as SF 655 and HF 687, both bills drew bipartisan support and numerous co-authors. In February, they were laid over, or set aside, for omnibus consideration in their respective chambers. When the Higher Education omnibus bill (HF 2073/SF 2075) passed, it included $2 million for the Inclusive Higher Education Act over the FY24-25 biennium.
The Inclusive Higher Education Act includes two major developments for supporting students with ID/DD:
- an Inclusive Higher Education Technical Assistance Center
- an Inclusive Higher Education grant program that will provide institutions with the funds they need to overhaul services and support for students with ID/DD
Grants will be up to $200,000 in the first four years and $100,000 annually after that, based on performance.
The Technical Assistance Center will:
- Provide training and professional development for faculty and staff to implement and improve inclusive higher education initiatives.
- Organize community learning events to share best practices, connect community members with national experts, and address issues and concerns around implementing inclusive higher education programs.
- Assist higher education institutions and their employees with finding funding sources for implementing and expanding resources related to inclusive higher education.
- Share information with students with ID/DD and their families about education options, services, and resources at inclusive higher education institutions; as well as mentoring, networking, employment opportunities, training, and technical assistance offered by the center.
The Inclusive Higher Education Grant requires applicants to develop initiatives that include:
- Offering the necessary supports to students with an intellectual disability to access the same rights, privileges, experiences, benefits, and outcomes of their peers.
- Developing a meaningful credential for students with ID/DD when they successfully complete their postsecondary education.
- Adopting admission standards that do not require students with ID/DD to complete a nationwide curriculum-based, achievement college entrance exam.
- Ensuring that students with an intellectual disability:
- Can choose from a wide array of academic courses that align with the student’s interests and that are attended by students without disabilities.
- Have the option to live on or off campus in housing that is available to their peers.
- Have access to and support for genuine membership in campus life, including events, social activities and organizations, facilities, and technology; can access and utilize campus resources available to their peers.
- Providing students with ID/DD the supports and experiences they need to find and maintain competitive integrated employment.
- Developing and promoting the self-determination skills of students with ID/DD.
- Utilizing peer mentors who support students with ID/DD in academic, campus engagement, residence life, employment, and campus clubs and organizations.
- Providing professional development and resources for university professors and instructors, so they can use universal design for learning and differentiated instruction to benefit all students.
- Presenting a ten-year plan including student enrollment projections for a sustainable, financially accessible, and equitable initiative for all interested students with ID/DD.
Impact: Comments and Perspectives
The Inclusive Higher Education Act should have a transformative impact on Minnesota’s educational landscape for students with intellectual disabilities. We reached out to the Act’s chief authors in the House and Senate to get their insights.
Representative Ginny Klevorn (DFL – Plymouth), Chief Author of HF 687
In my first legislative session (2019), I learned Minnesota had precious few opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to attend our higher education institutions. Many students had to leave Minnesota in order to receive the support they needed to obtain degrees or certificates. At that time, I made a promise to help the parents and students find a pathway forward to higher education in Minnesota.
Getting the Inclusive Higher Education Act funded in our state higher education budget will provide more opportunities for current and prospective students with intellectual disabilities living in Minnesota. All Minnesota students deserve the resources they need to succeed and thrive while earning a degree or certificate. This legislation lives up to these values, and I’m proud to have carried the legislation and am thankful to all who worked hard for its passage.
Senator Omar Fateh (DFL – South Minneapolis), Chief Author of SF 655,
The bill aims to address a major gap in higher education by expanding post-secondary options for people with intellectual disabilities.
It does two things: it establishes a technical assistance center that will provide expertise in inclusive higher education. And it provides competitive grant funding for 2- and 4-year colleges and universities to start inclusive higher education initiatives. Students with intellectual disabilities who attend postsecondary education are more than twice as likely to be employed, live in homes of their own, and rely less on government supports like SSI [Supplemental Security Income] and Vocational Rehab. This will strengthen the Minnesota workforce, reduce dependence on more formal, costly supports, and lead to long-term cost savings for the state. More importantly, it will ensure Minnesotans with intellectual disabilities have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, live the life of their choice, and feel a sense of belonging in their communities.
Mary Hauff, Advocate and Co-leader of the Minnesota Inclusive Education Consortium
The Minnesota Inclusive Higher Education Act advances the efforts to expand college options for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD). The legislation lays the foundation for high-quality inclusive higher education initiatives and addresses key barriers. The technical assistance center will be an accessible resource with expertise in intellectual and developmental disabilities and inclusive higher education. In addition, the legislation funds competitive grants for eligible Minnesota colleges and universities that are essential for initial start-up costs.
There are more than 5,000 Minnesotans with ID who are college-age but have limited to no access to college. The technical assistance center will work collaboratively and strive to assure that Minnesota’s inclusive higher education initiatives are accessible to students with ID/DD from diverse ethnic, cultural, linguistic, geographic, and socio-economic backgrounds…Every student deserves the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education, earn meaningful credentials, and earn a competitive wage in a career of their choice. The Inclusive Higher Education Act brings us a step closer to opening access for Minnesotans with ID/DD to pursue their postsecondary education and career aspirations.
The Inclusive Higher Education Act was a Minnesota Council on Disability priority this session. We would like to thank the legislators and advocates for their work, ensuring the 2023 Higher Education omnibus reflected the needs of students with disabilities.