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Mike Kenny is a rehabilitation program specialist for transition aged youth with the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission. Mike will discuss the rehabilitation services commission support for individuals with disabilities that wish to attend post secondary education program.

Can you describe the college and post-secondary education support available through the Rehabilitation Services Commission?

Our agency still works with people who want to go to college, our program is different then what it’s been, we’re under a new program that’s been in existence now three years. So sometimes you may have heard people say well RSC doesn’t put anyone through college any more, and that is not true. We still work with people going to college but the thing to remember, again like everything else we’ve been saying, college is a means to reaching an employment goal. So our agency does not support people to go to college just for the sake of going to college. If you do not have some sort of an employment goal then college is the means for you to get to that goal, they we probably would not support you. But if college can be shown, or whether it’s like a vocational training program, or just two year program, any kind of proprietary school, any type of thing that we consider post secondary education, if it can be shown that having to do that is the means to get the training to go to that employment goal, then we will work with you to help get you there. So, that’s probably the main thing to think about that in terms of college, is that it has to be a means for you to reach that employment goal.

What types of programs does Rehabilitation Services Commission consider post-secondary education?

We consider post-secondary education any type of thing where by that program is getting what we call Pell eligible. So it receives federal funding, it’s financial aid funding from the federal government. They accept what we call Pell Grants. The reason I want to make that distinction is that a councilor still might work with somebody, to but somebody through a short term secretarial training program that might be after high school that’s somebody might get through Goodwill for example, we would still send people to that, but we would not consider that post-secondary education. So for us, we make some distinction between what we consider post-secondary training and what we might just consider some sort of training that you’re getting after high school. So again for it to be considered post-secondary training from us, the program that you want to go into has to be considered what we call a Pell eligible program, meaning that they accept federal financial aid and make Pell grants. That does not mean necessarily you have to get one, it just means that that program has to be eligible.

How is financial support determined?

When you’re thinking about our program for putting people through college, or any kind of post-secondary training, it is like the one program in our agency that is a need based program. You have to show financial need before we will support you financially to get through that program. So like every other thing that we’ve been talking about here, it is very individualized. We have some people that we support and pay everything for them, and we have other people where we don’t pay anything. So a lot of it depends on your own financial situation, what your parents are able to contribute, what you yourself may be able to contribute towards your own program, what types of grants you might be able to get from the federal government or from the state, and what types of scholarships that you might be able to get. So again it’s very individualized.

What are the most important points to remember about the post-secondary education support program?

I thing there are three major principles that apply, that you want to keep in mind when you’re talking about our program and post-secondary training. One of those is that you have to apply for federal financial aid. We require every student who wants to get any kind of funding from us; to apply for what’s know as the FASFA, it’s the free application for federal student assistance. A student has to fill that out, if you don’t fill that out you’re not eligible for any financial assistance from us. And we have some people who don’t want to fill that out, we have other people whose parents refuse to fill that out, if that’s the case, you’re not eligible for assistance from us. So you have to fill that form out. Then once you fill that form out that makes you eligible for federal and state grants. And so once you fill that form out you will receive what’s known as a student aid report, and so you have to provide that student aid report to the councilors so they can see what types of financial assistance you might have received. We have some people their FASFA shows they are not eligible for any of that, it still doesn’t mean you could be eligible for getting help from us, but we need to know that. That form also shows what your expected family contribution or your EFC is. And so again we want to see that because that let’s us know what you and your family can contribute towards your own plan. So that first principle is you have to fill out the FASFA so that we can know, did you receive any grants, what can you contribute, what can your family contribute. The second thing that I would say that’s a major part of that is where you go to school. Again you have the choice as a consumer of our agency to attend anywhere, we don’t really tell you where you can attend. For example, we’re here in Columbus filming this, and if I’m a freshman that wants to go start school, and I want to go to Miami University to study psychology, I can to that but, there’s always the big however into this, is that we’ll only pay for you to attend what we call the least cost option. So for example the way our program works it that the least cost option for a freshman from Columbus entering this program would be Columbus State Community College. Because our program considers during those first two years that you can probably get all the background courses that you needed at the local community college. And so again, you could go to Miami, you can do that, but we’ll only pay at the rate of what Columbus State Community College is, so that you as the consumer would be expected to make up the difference between that. So again that second principle is that least cost option principle, that sort of says you can go wherever you want to, but what the agency will fund at is what’s the least cost option. And then the last thing, I think the third main principle, is what I call time to degree requirements. That you can’t just stay in school forever with us, then again most of our consumers are really good about moving their program along. But in the past we may have had some issues whereby people were going to school, being in a college and they just weren’t moving towards graduation. So what we have now is what we call the eighteen-month rule. And so what is that means is you have to complete one years worth of schooling within eighteen calendar year months. So for example the way that would work if you were a freshman, the school would have a certain number of credit hours that you would have to move to to say now that you were classified, starting as a freshman to move from freshman status to sophomore status. You would have eighteen months in order to complete those number of credit hours to move from being a freshman to a sophomore. Then when you did that it would start again and you would have eighteen months to move from being a sophomore to being junior status, and from junior status to senior status. And so the idea behind that is not to punish you, the idea is to move your program along. If you think through that a little bit, it really allows some flexibility for you to maybe go part-time, to only take a couple a classes. We have some people for example that during the winter it’s very hard for them to get out and go to school full-time. This allows them to maybe cut back the number of classes they take and to still be able to meet in that eighteen months. The expectation most of the time is for you go full-time, but due to your disability you may not be able to do that. So it allows you some flexibility. It also is the one part of our program where there are some exceptions made. If there are particular reasons that are legitimate disability related reasons as to, or could be financial reasons as to why you were not able to complete that schooling in that eighteen months, then there are some appeals that can be made for that. And we have had that done in that program. But I’d say those are the three main principles, again it’s where you go to school, how long you’re in there, and the initial requirement of filling out those federal forms.

Besides the tuition assistance are there any other supports that BVR would offer to a student with a disability?

Yes there could be. Again the basic types of things that a councilor will pay for usually are tuition, books, and the types of fees that everyone has to pay. Or the supplies that everyone needs in a particular program. So those are the basics. But beyond that, other things could be provided at well, so a councilor might provide adaptive equipment, again it might be on loan to the person while they’re in school. So again those are usually things, like say for a student who has a visual impairment it might be the software. Nowadays our expectations is most people usually have their own computers, so in most cases we’re not providing you with a computer like maybe what we use to do before, but we might provide you with the adaptive technology software that’s needed to help you with your particular disability. So for a person with a visual impairment, that might be screen readers, if might be somebody with a learning disability, it might be something they call read and write, to help them with reading and writing, so adaptive software. But other types of things that our councilors might provide also might be transportation. So if a person needed transportation to get back and forth to school, they might provide that person with a bus pass if it’s in like a metropolitan area, they might provide that. They might provide tutoring if it would be something that you could not get at the school, so again most of the time the expectation is that they would want the consumer to find out what is available at the school themselves in terms of tutoring. So for example if it’s something that’s available to all students, the student with a disability also would be eligible for that type of tutoring as well. But if there was nothing there, then that might be something that we would be providing.