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Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008


The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) is federal legislation designed to strengthen the educational resources of colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in post-secondary education. The HEOA is a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which has been reauthorized multiple times.

HEOA made significant changes related to student financial aid for individuals with disabilities, compared to past reauthorizations. In particular, students with intellectual disabilities are now eligible to receive federal student aid if they attend a comprehensive transition and post-secondary (CTP) program at a college or other approved school that participates in federal student aid programs, even if they do not have a high school diploma or GED and even if they are not pursuing a degree or certificate, so long as they meet federal student aid eligibility requirements.

As defined by the federal government, a CTP program:

  • is offered by a college or career school and approved by the U.S. Department of Education;
  • may be a degree, certificate, or non-degree program;
  • is designed to support students with intellectual disabilities who want to continue academic, career, and independent living instruction to prepare for gainful employment;
  • offers academic advising and a structured curriculum; and
  • requires students with intellectual disabilities to participate, for at least half of the program, in
    • regular enrollment in credit-bearing courses with nondisabled students,
    • auditing or participating (with nondisabled students) in courses for which the student does not receive regular academic credit,
    • enrollment in noncredit-bearing, non-degree courses with nondisabled students, or
    • internships or work-based training with nondisabled individuals.

As of May 2020, there were over 100 approved CTP programs throughout the United States, including West Chester University, Temple University, Penn State, Widener University, and Arcadia University (and more!) in Pennsylvania and The College of New Jersey.

The HEOA also allowed for the creation, expansion, and evaluation of model programs, called Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID). These programs promote academics, social activities, employment experiences, and independent living for individuals with intellectual disability. See resources below for a list of current TPSID programs.

Additional Resources:

The Center for Autism Research and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia do not endorse or recommend any specific person or organization or form of treatment. The information included within the CAR Autism Roadmap™ and CAR Resource Directory™ should not be considered medical advice and should serve only as a guide to resources publicly and privately available. Choosing a treatment, course of action, and/or a resource is a personal decision, which should take into account each individual's and family's particular circumstances.