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The fully accessible guide to paying for college for students with disabilities

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Paying for college is a complicated process for any aspiring student. It’s a process that raises a ton of questions, and for students with a disability, those questions are even more complicated.

The good news is that a disability is not an impediment to a college education. There are plenty of resources for those who need help applying and paying for it.

This guide, designed to work with assistive technology, can help you find these resources. Aspiring students with disabilities can use our table of contents to find the best scholarships for them. At the bottom of the page, we also list some tips on how to get federal and private aid.

Table of contents

Scholarships for general disabilities

The following scholarships are offered to aspiring students with nonspecific disabilities.

The American Association on Health and Disability (AAHD) Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability

The AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability is awarded to students with a qualifying disability who are currently pursuing an undergraduate or graduate school degree related to health and disability. Fields of study may include:

  • Public health.
  • Health promotion.
  • Disability studies.
  • Disability research.
  • Rehabilitation engineering.
  • Audiology.
  • Disability policy.
  • Special education.
  • Other majors that affect the quality of life of persons with disabilities.

Applicants must provide a personal statement and two letters of recommendation. Applicants must be at least a sophomore and enrolled full time in an undergraduate program or full- or part time in a graduate program.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Up to $1,000
Deadline: March 1, 2022

Mays Mission for the Handicapped Scholarship Program

Mays Mission for the Handicapped is a nonprofit organization that offers vocational training in a variety of fields for individuals with disabilities. Mays Mission also offers scholarships to students with physical and/or mental disabilities. Applicants must score 20 or higher on the ACT or 970 or higher on the SAT.

Applicants must be enrolled in a four-year undergraduate study program and provide proof of enrollment. Once they have been accepted, recipients must maintain a 3.0 GPA. Recipients must also submit grades each semester and write a monthly “update letter” to the mission.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Varies
Deadline: June 30

The Ability Center Scholarship

The Ability Center of Greater Toledo offers a number of scholarships totaling $20,000 to Toledo-area students with disabilities.

Applicants must currently be enrolled in a postsecondary (undergraduate or graduate) degree program. To apply, applicants must provide a one- to two-page personal statement and three references. Applicants must carry a 3.0 GPA.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Varies
Deadline: March 31, 2022

Michigan Foundation for Exceptional Children (MFEC) Scholarships

The Michigan Council for Exceptional Children provides scholarships for Michigan students with disabilities. Applicants must no longer be eligible for special education and Section 504 programs, whether via graduation or by reaching 26 years of age.

Awards of up to $1,500 can support the following:

  • Transportation.
  • Special equipment.
  • Tutoring (including tuition).

Applicants must reside in a school district in the state of Michigan and submit a written essay on their career goals, leadership skills and other subjects. Applicants must also submit three letters of recommendation.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Up to $1,500
Deadline: May 21, 2022

Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. Disability Scholarship Program

Buckfire Law Firm offers a scholarship for college or university students of any age, with any type of disability. That can include, among others, physical disabilities, mental or psychiatric conditions and learning disabilities.

Applicants must have completed at least one semester of classes at an accredited college or university. Applicants must also have a disability diagnosis from “any person qualified to make a diagnosis.”

Applicants must include documentation of their disability and a transcript of their most recent semester in their application. Applicants must also submit a one-page typed essay describing how they overcame adversity caused by their disability and what they learned from their experience.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000
Deadline: Oct. 1, 2022

California-Hawaii Elks Undergraduate Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities

The California-Hawaii Elks Major Project, Inc. provides a number of scholarships to students who are residents of California or Hawaii and who have one of the following:

  • Physical impairment.
  • Neurological impairment.
  • Visual impairment.
  • Hearing impairment.
  • Speech language disorder.

Funds are used to cover only academic expenses, which includes tuition, books, lab fees and on-campus room and board.

Applicants must obtain Elks sponsorship by contacting an elected Elks Lodge officer in the state of California or Hawaii. To qualify, applicants must be a senior in high school or a high school graduate or have passed the GED. Applicants must plan to obtain an undergraduate degree at an accredited community college, vocational school or four-year college.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000 to $3,000 each
Deadline: March 15, 2022

Auger & Auger Disabled Scholar Award

Auger & Auger Attorneys at Law offer two $1,000 awards per year to students with disabilities pursuing an undergraduate degree. To qualify, applicants must be either a current graduating high school senior accepted to an accredited school or an undergraduate student at an accredited institution. Applicants must also have a minimum 2.8 GPA.

Applicants must write a 500- to 1,000-word essay on one of the following topics:

  • Overcoming their disability to do something extraordinary.
  • How lessons learned from living with their disability have helped them prepare for college and postgraduate plans.

Applicants must also provide an unofficial copy of their transcript.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000
Deadline: Fall semester: July 31; spring semester: Nov. 30

Wells Fargo Scholarship Program for People With Disabilities

The Wells Fargo Scholarship Program for People with Disabilities is designed to help people with disabilities obtain the education or training necessary to succeed in the career path of their choice.

To qualify, applicants must have an identified disability and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must be a high school senior or graduate who plans to enroll, or is already enrolled, at an accredited two-year or four-year college or university. Applicants can pursue full-time or half-time study. Scholarships are also renewable.

Wells Fargo will accept online applications through Feb. 18 or until 700 applications have been submitted. If the program is currently closed, you can choose to be notified when it reopens.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $2,500 for full-time study and $1,250 for half-time study
Deadline: Feb. 18, 2022

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Scholarships for physical disabilities

The following scholarships are available to students with physical disabilities. That can include past or present mobility, dexterity or stamina issues. This section does not include blindness or deafness — those are covered under visual and hearing impairment, respectively.

1800wheelchair.com Scholarship

This scholarship funds up to two $500 awards each year. Applicants must be in their final year of high school or enrolled at the graduate or undergraduate level. Applicants must submit an essay and a visual poem (combined total of 500 to 1,000 words) on the theme of overcoming personal challenges. Applicants must also maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Applications are only accepted via postal mail (excluding express mail).

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $500
Deadline: May 31, 2022

Mary Free Bed Guild Disability Scholarship

The Mary Free Bed Guild offers a scholarship to students with a diagnosed physical disability related to a:

  • Brain injury.
  • Spinal cord injury.
  • Stroke.
  • Limb difference.
  • Any other serious acquired or congenital neurological condition treatable through rehabilitation.

Applicants must be currently enrolled in or accepted into an accredited college or university with at least a half-time status and with at least a 2.5 GPA. Applicants must also be a permanent resident of Michigan. The ideal applicant may have spent time in volunteer, community service or other extracurricular activities.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000 to $5,000
Deadline: The deadline for the 2021-22 academic year has passed. Check back for 2022-23 opportunities.

Marianjoy Scholarship Program

The Northwestern Memorial Foundation Marianjoy Scholarship Program awards scholarships to students with permanent physical disabilities or functional impairments. Applicants must be permanent residents of specified Illinois counties or former patients of Marianjoy. Applicants must also be high school seniors (by diploma or GED) or be enrolled half time or part time at an accredited two-year or four-year university, college or vocational school.

To apply, candidates must submit a one- to two-page personal profile stressing:

  • Financial need.
  • Educational goals.
  • Career plans.
  • Extracurricular activities.
  • Any awards or honors.

Applicants must also include a transcript and two letters of recommendation.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Not specified
Deadline: April 29, 2022

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Scholarships for hearing impairments

The following scholarships are available to students with hearing impairments or to students who have family members with hearing impairments. Hearing impairments can include deafness, bilateral hearing loss or mixed forms of hearing loss.

Travelers Protective Association Scholarship Trust for the Hearing Impaired

The Travelers Protective Association (TPA) provides financial aid to people with deafness or hearing impairment. Recipients will benefit from specialized treatment or education and should be unable to provide the funds for themselves.

Candidates must submit an online application detailing the nature of their hearing deficiency, as well as any prior medical treatment and how they intend to use their funds. Applicants must also attach a copy of their most recent federal income tax return. Applications must be submitted by adults or by the guardian of a minor.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $100 to $1,000
Deadline: March 31, June 30, Sept. 30 and Dec. 31

Millie Brother Scholarship for Hearing Children of Deaf Adults

The Millie Brother Scholarship is a yearly scholarship awarded to the hearing children of deaf adults pursuing undergraduate or graduate study. Students must submit a two-page essay describing how their experience with deaf parents has shaped their life, goals and career aspirations.

Applications must include an official high school or college transcript (if the applicant is currently enrolled), as well as two letters of recommendation from teachers.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Award varies; average of two $3,000 scholarships given annually
Deadline: The deadline for the 2021-22 academic year has passed. Check back for 2022-23 opportunities.

Alexander Graham Bell College Scholarship Program

The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing offers a number of scholarships for certain students with bilateral hearing loss who are pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree full time.

To be eligible, applicants must:

  • Have bilateral hearing loss diagnosed before the age of 4.
  • Use Listening and Spoken Language as their primary communication mode.
  • Be enrolled in or planning to attend a mainstream university and working toward a four-year undergraduate or graduate degree.

Applicants must maintain an unweighted 3.25 GPA and include their transcripts in their application. Those with hearing aids must include a recent unaided audiogram, and those with cochlear implants must include a recent CI report, among other eligibility requirements as outlined on the website.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,500 to $2,500
Deadline: March 4, 2022

Graeme Clark Scholarship

The Cochlear Graeme Clark Scholarship is awarded to Cochlear Nucleus Implant recipients who are undertaking university studies. Applicants must have a Cochlear Nucleus Implant and maintain a 3.0 GPA. Applicants must be enrolled in (or planning to attend) an accredited college, university or technical school.

Winners are selected on the basis of:

  • Academic achievement.
  • Extracurricular activities and community involvement.
  • Commitment to Cochlear ideals of leadership and humanity.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $2,000 annually for up to four years
Deadline: Sept. 30, 2022

Sertoma’s Scholarship for the Hard of Hearing or Deaf

Sertoma’s Scholarship for the Hard of Hearing or Deaf is available to students with clinically significant bilateral hearing loss who are pursuing a four-year bachelor’s degree. The scholarship is open to high school seniors as well as college students. Applicants must maintain a minimum 3.2 GPA.

Students must include two recommendation letters with their application. The application also requires descriptions of any volunteer, interscholastic or extracurricular activities, as well as a personal statement. Applicants must attach a recent audiogram (no older than two years) from a hearing health professional to qualify.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000
Deadline: March 31, 2022

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Scholarships for visual impairments

The following scholarships are available to students with visual impairments. Some scholarships on our list require that applicants be legally blind — defined as a medically diagnosed vision score of 20/200 or less in their better eye.

National Federation of the Blind Scholarships

The National Federation of the Blind annually offers blind college students the opportunity to win one of 30 merit-based, national-level scholarships.

Applicants must be legally blind in both eyes, a U.S. resident and planning to pursue a full-time postsecondary course of study in the U.S. One scholarship may be given to an applicant employed full time while attending school part time. Winners are selected based on the merits of their academic excellence, community service and leadership.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $3,000 to $12,000
Deadline: March 31, 2022

The I C You Foundation Valor Achievement Award

The I C You Foundation Valor Achievement Award is awarded to one male and one female athlete annually. Applicants must be legally blind, a current USABA member and enrolled in a two- or four-year college, university or technical school. Applicants must have a minimum 2.5 GPA.

Applications should include current college or university information, a brief cover letter and a personal biography detailing the applicant’s involvement with the USABA, as well as an essay of no more than 300 words about the importance of sports in their life.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $500 each
Deadline: Previous applications were due on July 31

Lighthouse Guild Scholarship Program

The Lighthouse Guild Scholarship Program aims to help outstanding and deserving legally blind students attend college and/or graduate school.

The Lighthouse Guild offers two scholarships. The College Bound Scholarship is a one-time-only scholarship designed for high school seniors who will be college freshmen in the upcoming school year. The Graduate School Scholarship offers one or more scholarships for students pursuing any postgraduate degree.

For both scholarships, applicants must submit proof of legal blindness and U.S. citizenship, documentation of academic achievement and three letters of recommendation. Applications also require two personal statements of 500 words or less on a candidate’s educational and personal goals and the influence of an outstanding teacher.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Varies
Deadline: March 31

The McGregor Scholarship Program

The McGregor Scholarship Program provides financial assistance for blind and visually impaired students in Iowa seeking postsecondary education.

To be eligible, applicants must be blind or visually impaired prior to reaching the age of 21 and must be an Iowa resident for at least 12 months preceding the application date. Applicants must maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA and have graduated high school or be a GED recipient.

As part of their application, applicants must submit a 300- to 500-word autobiography that explains their goals and how the scholarship award can help achieve them.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Up to $2,500 per year
Deadline: The deadline for the 2021-22 academic year has passed. Check back for 2022-23 opportunities.

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Scholarships for learning disabilities

The following scholarships are available to students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia and processing disorders.

Gemm Learning Dyslexia Scholarship

This biannual scholarship is available to students with dyslexia and/or auditory processing disorder (APD) who will be attending an undergraduate program in the coming semester. Applicants must present proof of enrollment to qualify.

Applicants must also submit their story in the form of a 500- to 650-word essay on the topic “Living with Dyslexia” or “Living with Auditory Processing Disorder.” Essays should be educational and/or inspirational, while giving a unique insight into what life is like with a learning struggle.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000
Deadline: April 30, 2022

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Scholarships for autism

The following scholarships are available to applicants across the autism spectrum. Other available candidates include those with a family member diagnosed with autism or those pursuing an autism-related degree.

Avonte Oquendo Memorial Scholarship for Autism

The Avonte Oquendo Memorial Scholarship is open to high-achieving students who have been diagnosed with autism or have a family member who has been diagnosed with autism. To qualify, applicants must be currently enrolled or accepted into an accredited university or college for the coming semester.

Applicants must include their most recent official or unofficial transcript with their application. Applicants must also write a 500- to 1,000-word essay about one of a number of topics relating to autism.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $5,000
Deadline: July 31, 2022

Autism Delaware Scholarship Network

Autism Delaware offers three different scholarships for Delaware residents:

  • The Daniel and Lois Gray Memorial Scholarship offers financial aid for students at the University of Delaware pursuing a degree related to autism.
  • The Autism Teacher Certification Scholarship offers financial aid for Delaware educators working to get an autism certification.
  • The Adult with Autism Scholarship offers financial aid for Delaware residents with autism who want to pursue postsecondary education.

Requirements for each scholarship vary. However, all three require a cover letter detailing an applicant’s direct or indirect experiences with autism, a letter of recommendation or support and a current resume or college transcript.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for these scholarships.

Amount: Typically $1,000 each
Deadline: April 29, 2022

The Organization for Autism Research Scholarship Program

The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) offers three scholarships to students across the autism spectrum.

The Schwallie Family Scholarship supports students attending two-year universities. The Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship supports students attending two- or four-year universities, life skills programs, postsecondary programs or vocational, technical or trade schools. The Synchrony Scholarship for Autistic Students of Color is offered to students who belong to an underrepresented racial/ethnic minority group and attend any type of postsecondary education.

To qualify, applicants need to be enrolled on a full-time basis or working toward certification or accreditation in a particular field. Applicants must have an established autism diagnosis.

Scholarship applications include basic information, date of diagnosis, proof of enrollment and three short essay questions. In some cases, the Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship application requires two letters of recommendation, one from a nonrelative and the other from a parent or guardian, and the Synchrony Scholarship requires a written letter of recommendation from a nonrelative.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $3,000
Deadline: May 2, 2022

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Scholarships for health conditions

The following scholarships are available to applicants either recovering from or currently fighting a life-threatening accident or illness.

Patient Advocate Foundation’s Scholarship for Survivors

The Patient Advocate Foundation provides scholarships to individuals under the age of 25 who have been diagnosed or treated for cancer or a chronic illness within the past five years.

To qualify, applicants must be pursuing an associate degree or higher and complete an essay of no more than 1,500 words on how their diagnosis has impacted their lives and future goals.

Applications must also include two letters of recommendation from nonrelated persons, written documentation from a treating physician and a copy of the first two pages of the tax return for the individual claiming the student as a dependent.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $3,000 annually for up to four consecutive years
Deadline: March 9, 2022

Baer Reintegration Scholarship Program

The Baer Foundation and the Center for Reintegration partner to offer a scholarship covering all or part of an education, ranging from GED to Ph.D., for persons currently receiving medical treatment for schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder.

Applicants must complete an application package that include a form, an essay and recommendations.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Varies
Deadline: Feb. 5, 2022

The Hydrocephalus Association’s Scholarship Program

The Hydrocephalus Association’s Scholarship Program provides financial assistance to capable and promising young adults living with hydrocephalus.

The Hydrocephalus Association offers 11 scholarships to young adults. Though each scholarship varies in requirements, they all share the same basic criteria and funding amount.

Applicants must have hydrocephalus and be 17 years of age or older, and scholarship funds must be used for educational purposes. Applicants must submit a complete scholarship application and one letter of recommendation from a nonrelative.

Scholarships are nonrenewable, but applicants can reapply if they were not selected in a previous year.

Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000
Deadline: April 1, 2022

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Different types of financial aid

There are four different types of federal student aid: grants, scholarships, loans and work-study programs.

  • Grants: Grants are funds for education that do not have to be repaid. They are often offered by the state or federal government.
  • Scholarships: Scholarships are like grants in that they do not have to be repaid. But scholarships are usually offered by private institutions or schools. As a result, requirements are based on a wider variety of factors.
  • Loans: Student loans are money students borrow to attend college, which can be offered by both the government and private lenders. Unlike scholarships and grants, loans must be repaid with interest.
  • Work-study: Work-study programs allow students to earn money for tuition or academic-related expenses. Jobs can vary, but they are often located on campus and can be federally funded.

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Getting federal aid – Types of federal aid

Federal aid often includes grants, loans and work-study programs. Specific types of federal student aid include the following.

Federal grants

Federal grants come from the U.S. Department of Education and are offered to qualifying students based on occupation or financial need. The most common grants are:

  • Pell Grants: The maximum amount for these grants varies from year to year. For 2021-22, the maximum award is $6,495. Students can receive Pell Grants for up to 12 semesters — roughly six years of college. Pell Grants are usually awarded to undergraduates who have not yet earned a bachelor’s or a professional degree.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG): While the federal government is responsible for distributing Pell Grants, participating schools administer FSEOG. These grants are awarded to students who have an exceptional financial need. Those who are already eligible for the Pell Grant have higher priority. FSEOG are usually awarded to undergraduates who have not yet earned a bachelor’s or a professional degree. You may receive between $100 ad $4,000 a year.
  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant: Students interested in teaching can earn up to $3,772 per year with a TEACH grant. Recipients must sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve, promising to become teachers and to serve in a low-income school following graduation. In addition, recipients must pursue specific kinds of courses to maintain the grant.
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant: Students who had a parent or guardian die in Iraq or Afghanistan as a result of military service after the 9/11 attacks are eligible for this grant. Recipients must have been 24 or younger or enrolled in college at least part time at the time of the parent’s or guardian’s death. In addition, recipients must not be eligible for Pell Grants on the basis of their expected family contribution but must meet all other Pell Grant requirements. For 2021-22, the maximum award is $6,124.79.

Loans

There are three types of federal loans you can apply for: Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans.

  • Direct Subsidized Loans: Students with financial need qualify for these loans. The U.S. Department of Education will pay the interest on your loan while you are enrolled in school at least half time, in your grace period (the first six months after you leave school) or in deferment (postponing loan payments). Loan amounts vary depending on grade level. Interest rates also vary; for the 2021-22 school year, they are set at 3.73 percent.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Students don’t need to have a designated financial need to qualify for these loans.  With a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, interest accrues for the entirety of the loan and can be capitalized and added to the principal of the loan while recipients are still in school or during periods of deferment. Loan amounts vary by grade level. For the 2021-22 school year, interest rates are set at 3.73 percent for undergraduates and 5.28 percent for graduates.
  • Direct PLUS Loans: Graduate/professional students and parents borrowing on behalf of a dependent undergraduate student can apply for Direct PLUS Loans. Grad PLUS and parent PLUS loans can cover the total cost of attendance, excluding any other forms of financial aid. For the 2021-22 school year, interest rates are set at 6.28 percent.

Work-study

Students who qualify for federal work-study can earn money by working eligible part-time jobs on or off campus. The program often encourages community service work or employment related to the student’s course of study. This aid is often granted on a first-come, first-served basis. Students in the program are paid at least minimum wage and may use their wages for academic-related expenses.

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Getting federal aid — Filling out the FAFSA

The first step in anyone’s financial aid search is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The government uses the form to determine whether applicants qualify for grants, loans and work-study programs, and many colleges also require it for their need-based or merit-based financial aid.

Since some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s important to complete the application as soon as you’re able. However, you can fill it out up to the deadline, which falls on June 30 of the school year for which you need funds. Click here to learn more about the FAFSA at the U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid website.

Qualifying for assistance hinges on many factors, including need. To reach the basic level of aid eligibility, you must:

  • Have graduated high school or have your GED.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen and have a Social Security number.

While not every student will qualify for need- or merit-based aid, most students will qualify for some sort of aid, which is why the U.S. Department of Education encourages everyone to submit a FAFSA.

Based on the results of the FAFSA and other factors (such as grades and extracurricular activities), the colleges a student applies for will send information detailing awards for the applicant, including grants, scholarships, work-study and more.

How is that decision made? The FAFSA asks for your name, Social Security number, date of birth and address. You’ll also be asked about your financial history and situation (or that of your parents if you’re filing as a dependent).

Once your application has been reviewed and aid has been assigned, you’ll receive a financial aid award letter from your school. The letter outlines the types of aid you qualify for and how much the school is willing to grant you. When you receive the letter depend on the schools you apply to.

How much aid you are offered depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The cost of attendance for each school.
  • The amount your family is expected to contribute to your education.
  • Your year in school.
  • Your enrollment status – whether you’re a full-, half- or part-time student.

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Getting federal aid — CTP programs and ABLE accounts

Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary (CTP) programs are higher-education programs designed for students with intellectual disabilities who want to pursue a degree or certificate in order to prepare for gainful employment.

Students with intellectual disabilities who enroll in CTP programs may be eligible for certain types of student aid, including Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and federal work-study programs. However, not every school offers a CTP program, nor is there a CTP program in every state. For a complete list of CTP schools approved by the U.S. Department of Education, click here.

ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Accounts are tax-advantaged accounts designed to help the families of students with disabilities save for education. Individuals with an onset of blindness or disability before the age of 26 can qualify for an ABLE account, and contributions can max out at $15,000 a year.

Although contributions are not tax deductible, investment earnings are untaxed as long as funds taken from the account are used for qualified disability expenses. Qualified expenses include education costs, room and board and transportation, as well as assistive technology and medical treatment.

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Getting private aid

Federal aid isn’t all that’s out there to help you fund your education. You can win private scholarships — money you don’t have to repay — by putting forth a bit of effort. You can also apply for a private student loan with a bank, credit union or private lender.

Your high school or college is a good place to begin your scholarship search. Contact your financial aid office or ask your counselor for guidance on finding and applying for scholarships specifically for students with disabilities.

Scholarship search engines allow you to take matters into your own hands, since you can search for awards based on your qualifications. You can search based on interests, extracurricular activities and more.

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Know your rights as a student with a disability

Be sure to keep up to date about your rights as a student with a disability. The following represent key government legislation related to the education of students with disabilities, specifically relating to colleges:

Note: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Individual Education Program do not apply beyond secondary education.

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FAQ for students with disabilities

What do the laws mentioned earlier mean for college students with disabilities?

Put generally, the ADA and Section 504 protect students by ensuring that institutions cannot discriminate on the basis of disability. The specifics cover admissions, programming (including extracurricular activities), housing and other services. Overall, institutions must provide necessary adjustments or accommodations for students with disabilities who need them.

Which institutions do these laws apply to?

The ADA applies to all public and private institutions, with the exception of those affiliated with religious organizations. Specifically, Title II of the ADA relates to state-funded schools (universities, community colleges, vocational schools, etc.), while Title III covers private colleges and vocational schools.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to any institution that receives federal dollars for any program or service — whether that institution is private or public.

Which students qualify for accommodations under these laws?

In order to receive academic or other accommodations from an institution, students must identify themselves to the institution as having a disability and may need to provide documentation.

The laws protect those with physical, sensory and health-related disabilities, psychological disorders or attention disorders and some learning disabilities — anything that might prevent the student from participating fully in the life of the campus community.

Students are not required to inform colleges of their disability if they would prefer not to do so, but this means that they will not be eligible for accommodations.

How do these laws affect college admission?

Postsecondary institutions covered under these laws may not deny admission to any qualified candidates on the basis of disability.

What are some of the accommodations postsecondary institutions must make?

Accommodations fall into a number of categories. A few of these categories include:

  • Architectural: Construction of new buildings must be accessibility compliant; classes or programs must be relocated to an accessible building if necessary.
  • Academic: Schools must offer substitution of certain courses in programs, extended time for testing and early enrollment options.
  • Communication-related: Interpreters, assistive listening systems, captioning, audio recordings, Braille and large-print materials must be available.
  • Housing: Comparable accessibility housing for students with disabilities must be provided at the same cost, quality and variety as to other students.

What if I acquire a disability after graduation? Do I still have to repay my loans?

If you become totally and permanently disabled or impaired after graduation and you’re repaying federal tuition assistance, you might be eligible for a total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge. A TPD discharge applies to the following federal loans:

  • Direct Loans.
    • Includes Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans.
  • Perkins Loans.
  • TEACH Grant Program.
  • Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL).

To apply for a TPD discharge, you must provide the U.S. Department of Education with information that documents your total and permanent disability. For specific information, check out StudentAid.gov’s page on TPD discharges.

Forgiveness of private student loans may be more difficult to resolve. Private loan forgiveness varies by lender and by loan. The first step is to speak with your lender — many organizations are willing to work with you if you come to them in good faith. Even if you can’t get your loans completely forgiven, lenders may be willing to forgive part of the loan, or at least offer a lower rate.

If all else fails, look for other lenders that may be more flexible. It’s possible that you could consolidate or refinance your existing loan with a new lender that offers lower rates or better terms.

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About this guide

The Fully Accessible Guide to Paying for College for Students with Disabilities was created by the college and career experts at Bankrate.com. The purpose of this guide is to provide students with disabilities with comprehensive information about how to pay for college, as well as scholarships and other information that is specifically helpful for students with disabilities.

Our assistive guide was developed to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities. The content was created for complete interpretation by all readers, including those with visual, hearing and other physical disabilities. It was built to work with voice assist and other assistive technologies.

This guide was published in conformance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, which can be found at http://www.w3.org/TR/2008/REC-WCAG20-20081211/, and meets Level A conformance guidelines. Currently, we claim conformance only for the content specifically found on this webpage.

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