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Financial Aid for Postsecondary Options

< Children with Special Needs

Financial Aid for Postsecondary Options

Find sources of financial aid for the post-high school education of your child with special needs.

What is Financial Aid?

Financial aid refers to programs that help students and their families pay for education and training after high school. Financial aid comes from a variety of sources including:
  • the student;
  • the student's family;
  • the college;
  • state government;
  • federal government; and
  • private resources.
For additional information, see: Financial Aid Resources for Post-High School Education, in the Beyond High School topic area of the ACRN Parent section.

What Considerations are There for Students with Special Needs?

It is important for you to help your child understand all of the financial aid options available to him or her when making decisions about post-high school education and career plans, and to research the options for students with special needs.

You, your child, or the two of you together can:
  • Research all the financial aid opportunities and resources available, including those for students with special needs;
  • Talk with the school guidance counselor to get more information about merit-based scholarships, grants and private scholarships;
  • Check with the colleges that your child is applying to for more information about the financial assistance they offer, and the required applications and forms, especially forms and applications for students with special needs;
  • Contact your state's higher education office, vocational rehabilitation center, 504 coordinators, and the Office of Disability Support Services at the colleges to which your child is applying; and
  • Go to the reference section of your public library for additional information about financial assistance.
You and your child should also consider any disability related expenses your child may encounter at college, so you can make sure they are covered by any financial aid package. These include:
  • Special equipment (related to the disability) and maintenance;
  • Services such as readers, interpreters, personal care attendants and note-takers;
  • Transportation (where applicable); and
  • Medical expenses not covered by insurance that relate directly to your child's disability.

Students with special needs may receive additional financial aid from your state's Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, Social Security Administration or other public and private sources.

How Can Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies Help?

If your child is eligible for counseling and evaluation services at your local Vocational Rehabilitation agency (he or she must have an impairment that results in a substantial impediment to employment), the agency will usually prepare an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) for him or her. IPEs differ by state. Check with your state or local vocational rehabilitation agency for more information on what is included in these plans.

The Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation has contact information for state rehabilitation agencies on its website:
Contact information for state directors

Your state and local vocational rehabilitation agencies might also help you and your child with:

  • Tuition expenses;
  • Room and board;
  • Transportation;
  • Books and supplies;
  • Services such as interpreters, etc.; and
  • Technological aids and devices that help with learning disabilities.

Be sure to consult with your local vocational rehabilitation agency counselor to find out the benefits for which your child may be eligible.

For more information:

U.S. Department of Education:
Office of Federal Student Aid

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services
Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

State Offices:

State Departments of Rehabilitation

State Departments of Education

State Departments of Labor and Youth Services

Social Security Administration Regional and Field Offices

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities--State Resources (NICHCY)

National Organizations:

National Clearinghouse On Postsecondary Education For Individuals With Disabilities

  • Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities

Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind


College Funding Strategies for Students with Disabilities (University of Washington, 2003)

Financial Aid Search Engines:

College Toolkit

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