Increasing sustainable opportunities for inclusive postsecondary education for people with intellectual disability in Minnesota.

Young man smiling. He wears a bow tie and suspenders.

Antonio studied Spanish, Technology, and Communications during his first year of college. 

Young woman smiling with hand on chin. She wears glasses.

Peach graduated in 2021 and is now working in customer service and marketing.

Young woman smiling. She wears glasses and a green t-shrit.

Lainey is the president of the Mentor Club on her college campus and wants to be a teacher or coach after she graduates. 

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What is Inclusive Higher Education?

Inclusive higher education is a viable and legitimate pathway to and through higher education for students with intellectual disability (ID).  Institution-approved access allows for the same rights, privileges, experiences, benefits, and outcomes as a matriculating student by removing barriers. Inclusive higher education opens doors to earning a meaningful credential, pursuing a career of choice, earning a competitive wage, and living a fulfilling and independent life.

The vision of the Minnesota Inclusive Higher Education Consortium (MIHEC) is to build, enhance, and sustain initiatives that offer inclusive higher education for students with intellectual disability across Minnesota, including attending college classes, gaining work experience, earning meaningful credentials, and becoming a genuine member of the campus community.

Inclusive Higher Education Capacity in Minnesota

Every year, approximately 1,000 Minnesotans with ID complete 12th grade; approximately 5,000 students with ID are college-age (18-22 yrs old).  Many of these students want to continue learning and attend college but meet barriers to access and enrollment in Minnesota universities and colleges or may not even know college is an option. 

Barriers include a lack of postsecondary education options, limited capacity in Minnesota's three existing Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary programs (CTPs) , and limited funding. Minnesota has the capacity to enroll approximately 90 students a year because only three Minnesota colleges and universities are designated as (CTPs) out of over 200 institutions of higher education.  This translates to less than 3% of Minnesotans with ID being able to access and attend college, let alone earn a certificate or degree.  We want 100% of students with ID to be aware of Minnesota inclusive higher education opportunities and to have the choice to attend college if desired.

circle with text reading fewer than 3 percent inside.

Fewer than 3% of students with intellectual disability in Minnesota attend college.

Student Success

Positive adult outcomes are the result of institutions of higher education recognizing the potential in students with ID and providing equal access to existing university systems and services. Students with ID who enroll in postsecondary education:

  • Are more than twice as likely to be employed (Sannicandro et al., 2018)
  • Earn $400 more per month than peers who do not attend college (Sannicandro et al., 2019) 
  • Earned approximately 80% more per year compared to those not participating in postsecondary certificate or degree programs (Miller et al., 2019)
  • Achieve higher levels of independent living (Grigal et al., 2019)
  • Have better physical health and healthier relationships (Butler et al., 2016)
  • Rely less on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Vocational Rehabilitation (Sannicandro, 2019)


The higher education pathway to employment for students with ID is underutilized. The potential impact of access to higher education on employment outcomes is striking when compared to the employment rate of youth with ID who do not attend postsecondary education, approximately 60% employed versus 11%:

  • Outcomes from Transition Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) showed one year after exiting from college, 59% of students were employed, and 66% were employed after two years. Three years after exit, 67% reported having a paid job (Grigal et al., 2021).
  • In Minnesota, only 11% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), served by the state human services agency, were in competitive integrated employment.  (Winsor et al., 2021). 

In addition, students are 15 times more likely to be employed if a student works while in postsecondary education (Grigal et al., 2019). These long-term employment outcomes of students completing higher education are encouraging. 

Students with intellectual disability contribute to our communities and thrive with increased choice, independence, and employment.  The goals of MIHEC aim to create viable pathways to employment through inclusive higher education that includes attaining a postsecondary education credential and promotes individuals' capacity for self-determination and community living.