The first step in determining funding for postsecondary education would be to calculate what parents and the student can afford and then determine if additional funds are needed. Several cost-share methods can be employed to pay for college courses. Students often use a combination of in-kind support and direct payment for services and supports depending on their individual needs. Sometimes, the state VR agency can provide a tuition waiver to state colleges, and flexible funding from the state developmental services agency can be used to pay for student's fees. Typically, if the student is still receiving special education services, the Local Education Agency (LEA) will pay for transportation (if needed) and educational coaches; vocational rehabilitation might pay for technology or tuition; Disability Support Offices provide tutoring or other academic accommodations; developmental services agencies might pay for fees; and the One-stop Career Centers would provide career preparation services (resume writing, job interviewing, internships, job placement, etc.). Collaboration with all available resources is key.

Students with no diploma

Postsecondary education funding depends on the eligibility of the student. Students with disabilities age 18–22 who have not received a state diploma receive funding from their local education agency (LEA). In this case, the IEP process continues to determine special education supports for the student. While these students are still in special education and accumulating credit, they are not matriculating toward a college credential. Students are, however, enjoying the benefits of being in an adult learning environment, auditing courses, taking other coursework, making friends, and feeling the rhythms of the college experience.

Students with diploma

Students who hold a state diploma and have ended their special education eligibility should check with the local vocational rehabilitation agency or other adult agency to determine their eligibility and funding support options.

Students with Down syndrome

The Joshua O'Neill and Zeshan Tabani Enrichment Fund provides financial assistance to people with Down syndrome who are at least 18 years old and are pursuing postsecondary education to obtain employment and life skills that contribute to their independence. Grants of up to $2,000 are available by completing an extensive application process. Visit the NDSS website to learn more about this funding program and download the 2011 Joshua O’Neill and Zeshan Tabani Enrichment Fund application.

Individual Development Accounts

Indiana's Individual Development Accounts (IDA) program was established in 1997 to help low-income Hoosiers build assets, become self-sufficient, learn personal financial skills, and improve their quality of life. The program is administered by the Community Development division of the Indiana Department of Commerce (IDOC) through a network of nonprofit community organizations and financial institutions. IDA savings can be used to pay for higher or vocational education, purchase a home, or start or expand a small business. Financial institutions participating in the IDA program provide interest-bearing savings accounts with no minimum-balance requirements or monthly fees. IDA participants take financial classes and receive counseling and additional support as they pursue their savings goals.

Here's how it works. For every $1 a participant saves in an IDA account, the State of Indiana contributes an additional $3 for up to $900 a year. Some participants also receive an additional 3-to-1 match from the federal Assets for Independence Act (AFIA) grant, thus creating a $6 match for every $1 saved.

Download the IDA Handbook.

Student Earned Income Exclusion

Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE) helps working students who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), to earn income while attending school and improve their employment outcomes.

How it Helps You:

If you are receiving SSI benefits and you are under age 22, and are regularly attending school, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will not count up to $1,640 of gross earned income (wages) per month while you are attending school and working. The maximum yearly exclusion is $ 6,600. These amounts are for the year 2011; they will be adjusted for future years based on the cost-of-living.

SSA’s definition of “regularly attending school” is:

You take one or more courses of study and attend classes:

  • In a college or university for at least 8 hours a week; or
  • In grades 7 – 12 for at least 12 hours a week; or
  • In a training course to prepare for employment for at least 12 hours a week (15 hours a week if the course involves shop practice) or
  • For less time indicated above for reasons beyond your control, such as illness.

Note: if you are home schooled because of a disability, you may be considered “regularly attending school” by:

  • Studying a course or courses given by a school (grades 7 – 12), college, university or government agency; and having a home visitor or tutor who directs the study.

How it Works:

If you receive SSI and you start working, you must report your new income to Social Security. You can do this by calling or visiting your local Social Security Administration Officeand talking to an SSI Claims Representative at your local Social Security office.

If you meet Social Security’s qualifications as regularly attending school, ask your
SSI Claims Representative if you are eligible for the Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE). If so, you can earn up to $ 1,640 in a month and your SSI benefits will not be reduced. If your earnings for the year reach $6,600; part of your earnings will then begin to affect your SSI benefits.

SSA also uses a countable income formula in calculating SSI checks. SSA will also deduct a $20 General Income Exclusion and a $65 Earned Income Exclusion. Following these exclusions, they will count $1 for every $2 that you earn when they calculate the amount of your new SSI payment.

An Indiana Works Community Work Incentives Coordinator or the Social Security Administration can help you understand the Student Earned Income Exclusion and the Countable Income Formula that SSA uses to calculate your new SSI payment.