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Just The Facts! 10 Disability Stats To Inform Future Enrollment

  1. Of undergraduate students self-reporting a disability, 11% reported having a learning disability. Enrollment statistics found that 20.4 million students were expected to attend an American college or university in the fall of 2017, meaning more than 200,000 students entering college have some type of learning disability. 

  2. In 2014 among high school students with learning disabilities, 54% planned to attend a two-year or four-year college. Another 43% intended to complete a vocational training course. 

  3. 94% of high school students with learning disabilities receive some form of assistance. In contrast, only 17% of college students with learning disabilities take advantage of learning assistance resources at their school. 

  4. The College Board received a 171% increase in accommodation requests for SAT and PSAT examinations between 2010 and 2017.  

  5. Four out of five 12th grade students with disabilities named postsecondary education as a primary post-high school goal. This compares to one in four 12th graders reporting postsecondary education as a goal 15 years earlier.  National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS and NLTS2) Transition Planning for Students with Disabilities.

  6. Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis increased 119.4% from 2000 to 2010. Autism Spectrum Disorder is the fastest growing developmental disability.  

  7. 51% of student Veterans report having a VA Disability Rating; although only 21% receive disability services during college enrollment. 

  8. The number of veteran students with disabilities is expected to increase as nearly 213,000 military personnel have experienced a traumatic brain injury since 2000. 

  9. There was a 30% increase in the number of secondary students served under IDEA who graduated with a regular high school diploma.  The number of IDEA served students increased by nearly 59,000 students. 

  10. 10.2% of individuals ages 15-18 (1 in 10) have a current diagnosis of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder AND nearly 2 of 3 individuals with current ADHD had at least one other disorder.


Data from federal agencies supports what many post-secondary institutions have suspected – the number of students enrolling who can benefit from disability services is increasing.  Institutions who are designing and implementing strategic enrollment plans will want to consider the impact of increases in enrollment from persons with disabilities.  Given information from Veterans Affairs and the Department of Education, institutions have an opportunity to adjust services to meet the needs of students with disabilities while increasing diversity on campus.


Within Disability Rights there is an ongoing “debate” and discussion as to whether to use “person-first” or “disability-first” language.  For example, saying a person who is blind is an example of “person-first” language while a blind person would be considered “disability-first” language.  

In my opinion, It is really best to simply ask the individual how they choose to identify, rather than making assumptions or imposing our beliefs. Each person’s relationship to language and identity are deeply personal and deserve our respect.

  • Have you had the conversation about identity language at your institution?
  • If so, how did it go? What did you learn?
  • If not, how can you start the conversation?


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Author: Geri Anderson
June 12, 2019

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