The Grassroots Advocacy Partnership is all about the Utah County disability community. The GAP blog will be a focal point for Utah disability news and legislative action. In a time where Utah disability agency budgets are being cut and services being slashed, it's critical that all families living with disabilities share their voices!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Degree or the Experience?

Which is more valuable?

I read with real interest this article about the intellectually disabled attending college.  It seems that more and more colleges are opening their doors and their classes to students with challenges.  For a student in a wheelchair, the process seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?  A vet who can’t walk, for example, still can have an active mind, and make a real contribution to society.

But what if it’s the mind that’s disabled?  What about those with intellectual disabilities?  What about those with Down Syndrome, or Autism?  Can they attend college as well? The federal government is ponying up some more aid money to see that they can.  And colleges are going after that money by providing programs for the disabled students.

I found it really interesting to read that some people are upset by this.  “It dilutes the value of a college degree!” say some, or “It’s a waste of taxpayer money!”  

My first immediate thought is that the degree is not the issue.  I often think that the real benefit of my own college experience was just that:  The experience.  I learned a lot about the world around me.  I was exposed to many new ideas.  I was forced to work with other students.  All of which better prepared me to enter the workforce as an effective participant.  Regardless of the degree earned in the end, this is a valuable process.  

So, if a disabled student doesn’t get a degree, was their time in college wasted?  Or what if their degree is a lesser one?  That student still comes out the end better prepared for work and life than they would have without it.  They could well get a better job, be more self-sufficient, and a better contributor to the society that funded that education.

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