The Arc of Texas Provides Input on College Transition Study

The Arc of Texas Director of Public Policy & Advocacy Ashley Ford provided testimony in support of House Bill 1604 to the House Higher Education Committee on March 27, 2023.

Dear Chairman Kuempel and members:

Thank you for your leadership in the 88th Texas Legislature. Before you today is House Bill 1604, which seeks to close the gaps on the information we have about students with disabilities and their experiences on campus. As a statewide membership organization, The Arc of Texas promotes, protects, and advocates for the human rights and self-determination of more than a half-million Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). With their input and rights in mind, The Arc of Texas is FOR this proposed legislation.

The Arc of Texas welcomes the introduction of this important legislation and looks forward to working with the Texas Legislature and members of the House Higher Education Committee on ways to fully include students with disabilities preparing for, participating in and successfully completing their higher education in anticipation of a more independent and self-sufficient life than previous generations of people with disabilities.

HB1604 directs the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to collect enrollment, barriers, and success data regarding students with disabilities and requests a report that provides a picture of how many students with disabilities are in college.

This bill has the potential to close the gap for students with disabilities who are entering college at rates similar to their non-disabled peers but are not graduating at commensurate rates. This is especially significant because while currently only 32 percent of working-age people with disabilities are employed, those with a college education are more likely to be employed and are earning a higher average wage than those without a college education. Put simply, higher education provides the clearest path to equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.

Students with disabilities face a number of impediments to getting into college and, once there, they may encounter further barriers to success. Students with disabilities are often not considered good candidates for college and may not receive the support they need to set their sights on a college education, and many may be discouraged from pursuing a standard high school diploma that is often a prerequisite to attending college.

This report will help Texas build the campus of the future that incorporates the concept of universal design where campuses and classes are seamlessly accessible to students with and without disabilities and students who need additional accommodations are provided with the tools they need to succeed.