When helping parents figure out how they will pay for college for their older student, I am frequently told that their other younger child might not go to college due to a learning disability. In today’s world, slow learning is not an impediment to attending and graduating from college. The real issue is how to plan accordingly.
Let me be totally clear-I am not an academic, guidance counselor nor child psychologist, but I have had sufficient experience to tell you this – colleges understand the reality that numerous families face today and have either implemented specific programs designed for the slow learner, or they have come up with various policies that provide special considerations for such students. I am referring to high school students who were able to participate in mainstream programming but with some additional support.
On a personal note, I have a grandchild that has had learning issues since the beginning of her schooling. This was due to certain medical issues that she has outgrown, but some learning challenges still remain. She can handle herself socially anywhere, but learning remains slow. When being given certain dispensations, such as more time to finish exams, she has done fine. This child will flourish and benefit from a college education, if given the added support she requires. In past eras many such children did not go to regular four year colleges. Often they just went to a local junior college and that was that. Of course, many such students just never went to college at all and attended trade schools or went directly into the workforce.
Today, attending that junior college could be a good test on whether the student could eventually handle the heavier and often more intensive course load of a four year college. Two things could occur in such a situation. One, the student would find the local community college to be nothing more than a continuation of high school and drop out, or two, the experiment would work and the student would continue to the four year institution. In New Jersey every community college has an alliance with a four year college which the student can automatically move on to and obtain the four year diploma. There is apparently a problem with these scenarios, however. The New York Times recently reported that only 39% of community college students graduate with either a two year or four year diploma. If that is in fact the case, a great deal of improvement is called for in order for these alliances to prosper.
Perhaps the customary four year route is the preferred way to proceed, but that will depend on many circumstances facing each family. If this is the desired road to follow, then it is essential to visit each college which a student is interested in and discuss their concerns directly with the admissions department in EVERY case. Parents must discover whether a particular college offers learning support and what that looks like. Another consideration should be whether attending a small private college might be more beneficial than the large, impersonal environment of a State university where a challenged student could become lost and distressed leading to certain failure.
In summary, for slow learners there is a college for everyone. It’s not going to be at the Ivies or the leading state universities most likely, but a solid education is available, one that is affordable and with the demographics desired.