Figuring out which colleges you’re interested in is arguably the most difficult part of the college application process. There’s so much information to sift through—how could brief campus visits and informational brochures really tell you where you’ll be most successful?
This process is even harder for students with learning disabilities. You want to make sure there are programs in place to help you be the best you can be no matter where you go to school.
If you want to apply to colleges for students with learning disabilities, this article is a great place to start your college search. I'll start off by talking about what these specialty programs have to offer before getting to the rankings. Afterward, I'll discuss the next steps to take if you decide a learning disability program is right for you.
What Makes a College Good for Students With Learning Disabilities?
All colleges in the US are required to have a disabilities office, which helps accommodate students with different needs. While disability offices can be helpful for logistical concerns, some students need more of a supportive structure in place in order for them to feel comfortable.
All the schools listed below go above and beyond what's required of them when it comes to supporting students with learning disabilities. They offer an array of supportive programs, often operated by learning specialists who are trained in working with students with different needs.
Examples of supportive services, programs, and procedures include the following:
- Weekly meetings with a counselor
- Reduced course load
- Extra tutoring support
- Special curricula
- On-campus learning specialists
- Individual meetings with educators
- Transitional summer programs
- Specialty workshops
The schools below offer different combinations of these support services and in different levels of structure.
Not all the schools listed will be appropriate for all students with learning disabilities—some offer very high levels of structure and support, whereas others only offer more basic check-ins to make sure you're on track. It might be helpful to think about how much support is ideal for you before you begin your college search.
Learning Disability Programs: What These College Rankings Mean
Because many of the schools on this list are very different from one another (even though they all offer specialized programs), there aren’t reliable rankings lists available. Each student will have to consider her own unique needs when thinking about which specialized programs would be best for her.
To compile this list of schools, I researched the best learning disability programs according to aggregated lists and opinions from the learning disability community. Instead of assigning an arbitrary rank to each school, I organized the colleges by type, which should be more useful.
Here, you can learn about programs at schools solely for students for learning disabilities. Or if you want to be part of a learning disability program that’s embedded within a school, you can compare programs at smaller communities with some larger, more well-known ones.
Note that most of these learning disability programs come with an additional fee on top of tuition if they're embedded within a college or university. If information about the program cost was available, I included it in the program description.
Read on to see the best programs for students with learning disabilities at large and small colleges. Later, I'll go over some schools notable for catering only to students with learning disabilities.
Like Goldilocks, you should focus on the right fit for you. Unlike Goldilocks, you won't end up chased from a house by angry bears.
Larger Colleges for Students With Learning Disabilities
The following learning disability programs are generally found at medium to large colleges. If you want more of a typical college experience but still want the additional support and attention that comes with a specialized program, these might be good options for you. Keep in mind that you'll likely to have to apply to both the college and the learning disability program.
Based in the Academic Support and Access Center (ASAC), the Learning Services Program (LSP) offers several quality support systems for qualifying students. Enrollees have weekly individual meetings with a program coordinator or counselor and consult with a program coordinator during the summer to discuss registration and course selection.
Other benefits include the following:
- Enrollment in a reserved section of the freshman writing class
- Weekly meetings with a writing tutor for the freshman writing class
- Individualized course advising
- Upperclass student mentor
The LSP is a one-year program and has a one-time fee of $4,700.
DePaul University is home to the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD), a department that specializes in specifically meeting the needs of students with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders. More than a dozen accommodations are offered depending on the student's particular needs. CSD students also have access to a Learning Specialist Clinician for additional academic guidance.
Northeastern is a relatively large university that offers many on-campus resources to its students. Those who are part of the Learning Disabilities Program (LDP) meet twice every week with an LDP specialist to work on their academic and general life skills. This specialist also directs students to other resources that are available on campus, such as subject-specific tutoring.
The fee for the LDP is $2,900 per semester.
RIT's Academic Support Center (ASC) offers a variety of services to students with learning disabilities, such as academic coaching, math/physics support, reading support, and supplemental instruction. The EMPOWER program is a fee-based service that provides students with an extra level of support: students have regular meetings with a mentor to discuss their progress and come up with a detailed academic plan.
The EMPOWER program fee is $660 per semester for one meeting a week, or $1,320 per semester for two meetings a week.
The University of Arizona's Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques (SALT) Center offers fairly comprehensive support to students and is ideal for those who want the atmosphere of a large school. SALT enrollees have weekly meetings with a strategic learning specialist and access to many other services, including the following:
- Content-specific tutoring
- Educational tech support
- Life skills and academic strategies workshops
- Psychological services
- Life and ADHD coaching (this is separate from the SALT fee)
Lower-division students pay $2,800 per semester, which includes tutoring. Upper-division students pay $1,200 per semester, with tutoring costing an additional $21 an hour.
The University of Connecticut offers a few different options for students with learning disabilities. The major support program is the Beyond Access Program (BAP), in which students meet weekly with a trained Strategy Instructor (SI) to develop important skills. The SI focuses on several skill sets, including the following:
- Time management and organization
- Study skills
- Stress management
- Memory and concentration
- Social skills
- Career prep
- Health and wellness
- Reading and writing strategies
There are two different program levels: the BAP fee is $1,800 per semester for one SI meeting a week, or $3,600 per semester for three SI meetings a week.
The University of Denver's Learning Effectiveness Program (LCP) offers students with learning disabilities academic counseling, subject-specific tutoring, time and organizational management assistance, and special student events.
The program fee is $1,350 per quarter.
Iowa City, IA
The University of Iowa's Realizing Educational and Career Hopes (REACH) program is a solid option for students who need extra support or who aren’t ready to jump into the college experience just yet. REACH is an educational program in its own right, specialized specifically for students with intellectual, cognitive, and/or learning disabilities. This two-year transition certificate program provides students with a "big 10" university experience and ensures they're supported throughout the educational process.
Services offered by the REACH program include the following:
- Small group instruction
- Real world opportunities for hands-on learning
- Special events and support staff
- Opportunities to participate in UI courses with the assistance of REACH staff
Tuition, fees, and expenses for the REACH program come to $28,859 for Iowa residents and $46,069 for non-residents.
Smaller Colleges for Students With Learning Disabilities
Not everyone gets excited at the prospect of joining a big college campus. If you prefer a more intimate academic environment, these schools might be good fits for you.
Classes at small colleges can be really stimulating, intimate experiences (as long as you don't forget to do the reading).
CLASS stands for the Center of Learning and Accessible Student Services. Located at Augsburg College, this center is staffed with disability specialists who are trained to provide the following services to students who might need them:
- Individual support
- Instruction of learning strategies and compensatory techniques
- Help with time management and organizational skills
- Academic advising
- Housing assistance
There doesn't seem to be a fee for these services.
Curry College's Program for Advancement of Learning (PAL) offers a specialized curriculum for students with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders. This curriculum mainly focuses on learning strategies and the learning process in general. Students in the program also receive referrals to specialized advisers and technical support.
To apply, you have to submit a separate application in addition to Curry's regular college app. The cost is $1,825 a semester for PAL1220, $3,390 a semester for PAL1210, and $3,470 a semester for PAL1190 and PAL1200.
At Fairleigh Dickinson's Regional Center for Learning Disabilities, students can schedule weekly meetings with learning specialists, participate in counseling sessions, get technological support, and receive priority registration.
Best of all, these services are offered at no extra cost to students.
Similar to REACH at the University of Iowa, Lesley University's Threshold is a specialty certificate program meant for those who would struggle in a traditional college environment, even with some structured support. Students can choose to study Business Services and/or Early Childhood Development. After completing the program, students have the opportunity to participate in post-grad programs through Lesley University.
Tuition fees amount to $21,475 per semester; room and board expenses are an additional $5,430 a semester.
Boca Raton, FL
Students who are part of the Institute for Achievement and Learning (IAL) have access to a variety of specialty services, including the following:
- Academic coaching
- Assistive technology
- Diagnostic assessments
- Alternative testing environments
All Lynn University students have access to the IAL.
Students enrolled in the Learning Support Program work one-on-one with a learning specialist. In meeting with these specialists, students focus on honing the following skills:
- Writing skills
- Note-taking skills
- Organization skills
- Test-taking strategies
- Time management
There are fees for meeting with learning specialists, but that information isn't publicized on the program's official website.
There are two parts to the Learning Differences Program (LDP): the Summer PASS Program, which helps students ease into college life, and the more intensive Academic Advantage Program (AAP), which is designed to provide structured academic support to students throughout the year. The AAP includes the following features:
- Weekly meetings with an academic counselor
- Academic advising
- Subject-specific tutoring
- Assigned note-takers
- Priority class registration
The AAP costs $2,590 for one academic year, while the Summer PASS Program costs $995.
New London, CT
Through the Bentsen Learning Center (BLC), students get access to an academic support program meant specifically for students with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders. There are three tiers of support, allowing the program to be tailored to each student's individual needs. The center offers the following services:
- Learning strategy instruction
- Career readiness skill building
- Content strategy workshops
- Designated student study areas
- Referrals to additional campus resources
Program fees vary by level of support, ranging from $820 to $3,700 per semester.
Schools Dedicated to Students With Learning Disabilities
There are a few schools out there that only accept students with learning disabilities. These tend to be smaller colleges and typically offer customizable levels of support and structure.
If you're interested in schools that cater exclusively to students with language-based learning disabilities, check out the following colleges.
These schools are experienced in helping students with learning disabilities balance their academic, professional, and personal lives.
Beacon College offers associate and bachelor's degrees exclusively to students with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders. Its on-time graduation rate is 70%, which surpasses the national average graduation rate for students with learning disabilities. The college's support services include a Center for Student Success (with trained learning specialists and tutors), a math lab, and a writing center.
All of Landmark College is dedicated to helping students who learn differently (i.e., students with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, and/or dyslexia). Support services offered here include the following:
- Academic advising and coaching
- Centers for academic support
- Specialty summer programs, to ease the transition into college
What to Do If You're Interested in a Program for Students With Learning Disabilities
Think you'd benefit from a supportive program meant for students with learning disabilities? The following tips will help you successfully navigate admissions and beyond.
#1: Get More Information
Just like any college applicant, you should get as much information about these programs as possible to get a better idea of fit and compatibility. Visit campuses, talk to current students, and consider if program offerings would give you the appropriate level of support.
#2: Make Note of Additional Applications
Many of these schools require students to submit an application to the learning disabilities program in addition to the regular college application. You might also have to submit further documentation, such as diagnostic tests, psychological evaluations, or letters from educators. As a result, it's best to give yourself extra time to complete these applications.
#3: Account for Extra Expenses in Your College Budget
You can still apply and be eligible for financial aid and scholarships, but be aware that enrolling in one of these programs for students with learning disabilities has the potential to add thousands of dollars to your overall college costs each year.
If you're still thinking through your college budget (and the extra costs that come with learning disability programs), get informed with our guide to college expenses.
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Francesca graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and scored in the 99th percentile on the SATs. She's worked with many students on SAT prep and college counseling, and loves helping students capitalize on their strengths.