There are many options available to current and future students with disabilities and their families. Here’s a list to help you make sure you’re taking full advantage of them.
Before applying for financial aid:
- As you get ready to fill out the FAFSA (fafsa.org) remember to calculate any disability-related expenses(e.g. personal care attendants, medications, equipment, software) that you might have so that the Financial Aid Office can consider that in your award package. You might able to receive a larger financial aid package.
- Social Securityor Supplemental Security Income disability programs can help with disability-related expenses, including assistive technology. Visit ssa.gov/disability. If you or your parents are getting SSI or SSDI,be sure to check with Social Security to find out whether there are considerations for the way you fill out the FAFSA, how you complete the financial aid forms for your school, or how much you may earn through jobs or work study financial aid programs and grants.
- ABLE Accountsare tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families. It allows you to save money for any future expenses (including college, housing, and technology) that isn’t counted as income by Social Security or other federal groups. Find out more at ablenrc.org/about/what-are-able-accounts.
- Also, check to see if you are eligible for services through Vocational Rehabilitation. If so, you might get support for equipment or technology, and training or education that leads to employment. Every state has an office near you that you can find by doing a search for “[your state] Vocational Rehabilitation.”
Once you’re on campus:
- Check with your college’s Disability Resource Officeto see if it has any scholarships. Many former students or families set up campus-based scholarships to help future disabled students.
- Some campuses (not all) offer disabled students the ability to take courses part-time while still counting as “full-time” students, so they don’t lose their financial aid. Financial aid offices may also be able to advise you if you have Incompletes due to a disability, need to take a reduced courseload, or have to take a medical leave. Check with the Disability Resource Office.
- If you’re already receiving some financial aid and need more, check with your campus Financial Aid Office two or three weeks into the semester to see if they have any “un-awarded” financial aid. Sometimes students leave mid-term or end up going to another school and don’t use the financial aid awarded to them. Financial Aid can often reassign that unused aid to other students.
You can find additional tips and resources available for you at the NCCSD Clearinghouse “Paying for College” page nccsdclearinghouse.org
Richard Allegra, Associate Director, National Center for College Students with Disabilities (NCCSD), a U.S. Department of Education grant-funded program, [email protected]