Autism is a relatively recent diagnosis. However, it has been gaining momentum in the world of education as more and more individuals are finding success with these educational services for their children or themselves. This list will help you navigate your search for an appropriate college to attend that caters to students on the autism spectrum
The “best colleges for autism spectrum students” is a list of 30 schools that are designed to help students on the autism spectrum. The list was created by Autism Speaks an organization dedicated to supporting people with autism and their families.
According to estimates, 10–14% of today’s college students suffer from autism spectrum disorder According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 1.8 million to 2.6 million college students who fall under the autism spectrum. And given that the Centers for Disease Control now estimates that 1 in every 59 kids has been diagnosed with autism, those figures are likely to rise in the near future. Because of this, it’s more crucial than ever for schools and universities around the nation to adapt and provide students on the autism spectrum the assistance, resources, and—possibly most importantly—opportunities they need to succeed.
The 30 top institutions for students on the autism spectrum are listed below, however many American colleges and universities are already doing precisely that. We took into account a number of variables to calculate our rating, including:
- Specialized Programs: We carefully searched for universities with programs that provided resources and assistance to autistic students. In each profile, we provided links to these programs for readers.
- Overall Autism Friendly: We also searched for additional manifestations of “autism friendliness” on campus, such as buddy systems, unique gatherings meant to unite the whole student community, housing facilities, and more. On their college campus, a student with autism spectrum disorder should feel comfortable everywhere.
- Scholarships and Financial Aid: A lot of the universities listed below provide students with autism spectrum disorder with specialized scholarships.College of Alabama
- The “It” Factor: Lastly, we took into account any more noteworthy products. Examples might include, among other things, classes on autism as a topic, research initiatives pertaining to autism, schools created particularly for persons with learning problems, etc.
Our list is arranged alphabetically since every student with autism needs something different from their future college and that institution’s support systems.
1. University of Appalachia
North Carolina’s Boone
University of Appalachia is home to a chapter of Autism Speaks Inc., the largest autism advocacy organization in the country. That alone makes this large public school an easy addition to our list of the best colleges for students on the Autism Spectrum. Through Autism Speaks U, Appalachian State students with autism have access to:
- unique occasions
- numerous tries at social networking
- services for academics and careers
- counseling, among other things
The institution offers courses on autism spectrum disorders as a topic, funds different research projects related to autism, and even awards certificates in autism spectrum disorders to qualified students.
2. Beacon University
Beacon University is unique among schools on our list of the best colleges for students on the Autism Spectrum. Founded in 1989, Beacon University is the first accredited college established specifically for students with autism, dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning differences. Beacon offers a limited range of Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Arts degrees in subjects such as:
- information systems for computers
- human resources
Peer tutors and professional learning experts help students with anything from academic counseling to job preparation. More in-depth, one-on-one sessions are available at a counseling facility.
3. Bellevue University
The largest of colleges making up the Washington Community and Technical Colleges system, Bellevue University offers its students a variety of degree and learning options. Students may attend classes on campus or online as they pursue:
- associate degrees for two years
- technical certifications and degrees
- four-year undergraduate degrees
The college’s Autism Spectrum Navigators program offers specialized classes made especially for individuals on the autism spectrum (ASN). These courses, which include anything from skill development to job preparation, are designed to fit comfortably with a student’s normal academic schedule. Students also get help from instructors and peer mentors via the program. Unusually, kids on the autism spectrum may enroll in the ASN program with no extra cost.
4. Boston College
Thanks to programs like Strategic Education Services (SES), elite colleges like Boston College are within grasp of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. SES is designed to assist students with all kinds of psychiatric, attentional, and developmental disabilities. It assists students in highly individualized ways. Boston College students on the Autism Spectrum can expect to receive assistance with everything from self-advocacy, to planning and organization, to study and test taking, and everything in between. Boston College is also one of the nation’s leading institutions for research on autism.
5. Defiance University
Defiance University is a private liberal arts school affiliated with the United Church of Christ. It is home to the ASD Affinity Program. This unique program helps students with Autism Spectrum Disorders to focus on their academic success, social and personal growth, and ability to live on their own. Each year, students meet one-on-one with program staff to determine their individual goals and needs for the upcoming academic year. This meeting helps the program tailor its services to each individual student. Additionally, Resident Assistants (RAs) in the various dorms on campus are trained to know when and how to offer support and interventions.
6. Drexel College
Philadelphia’s Drexel College is a private research university offering more than 70 different undergraduate degree programs. Drexel intends for students on the Autism Spectrum to feel right at home on campus, and therefore offers the Drexel Autism Support Program (DASP). Through this unique program, students receive individualized, one-on-one coaching and peer coaching, access to seminars and developmental workshops, and any necessary assistance with self-expression and advocacy.
7. Eastern College of Illinois
Eastern College of Illinois is a public, state university with approximately 8,000 students, the vast majority of whom are undergraduates. University students on the Autism Spectrum have access to the Students with Autism Transitional Education Program (STEP). This is an impressive comprehensive program that aims to empower anyone with autism. The program achieves this through early move in at the beginning of the academic year, single-dorm options, regularly scheduled study tables, and even an individualized physical fitness program, to name but a few things.
8. Eastern College of Michigan
Michigan city Ypsilanti
Eastern College of Michigan (EMU) is a large public research university that offers more than 200 undergraduate majors and minors. Its College Supports Program is nationally recognized as one of the best programs of its kind. Among other things, the program exists to:
- provide support for EMU students with autism spectrum disorders
- enhance awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorders among academics and staff
- to better integrate university services
In order to access services like these, program participants pay an average of $6,250 every semester (plans are customized and priced appropriately).
- academic support
- continuing discussions
- daily sign-in
- help for writing and more.
9. Eastern College
Eastern College is a private Christian university affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA. Its beautiful campus in Saints Davids, Pennsylvania is home to The College Success Program. This aptly named on-campus program aims to help students with autism find success in the transition to college and beyond. To achieve this goal, The College Success Program offers students on the Autism Spectrum:
- group discussions and one-on-one support
- Tutoring and study sessions
- Mentoring among peers provides emotional support.
10. Edinboro College
Edinboro College is one of the schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. About 4,500 students are enrolled in Edinboro, most of whom are undergraduates pursuing a bachelor’s degree. For students on the Autism Spectrum, Edinboro offers comprehensive support through its BASIS Program. Standing for Boro Autism Support Initiative for Success, BASIS provides peer coaching, one-on-one coaching, and help with daily living skills. It also facilitates any special accommodations that are needed in housing, the classroom, or for testing.
11. College of Fairleigh Dickinson
New Jersey cities Madison and Florham Park
High-functioning students on the Autism Spectrum, and who attend the main Florham campus at College of Fairleigh Dickinson, may apply to be a part of the university’s COMPASS program. The program accepts a maximum of six students each incoming class, ensuring an intimate and individualized network of support. For the first two years students will get support in the form of :
- weekly rounds of group therapy
- weekly individual counseling for one hour
- two hours each week of direct academic assistance
The cost of the COMPASS program is $7,072 per academic year as of September 2019.
12. Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University, a public research university that consistently ranks amongst the best schools in the country, is home to the Mason Autism Support Initiative (MASI). As of the 2019-2020 academic year, MASI has an annual fee of $6,600 but provides participating students with myriad resources. Run by a team of trained professional, MASI offers students with autism:
- peer coaching
- lectures and lessons for developing skills
- a range of social occasions
- access to a graduate student or professional who can assist with developing a custom learning plan.
13. University of Grand Valley
Located near the city of Grand Rapids, University of Grand Valley is a public liberal arts university and one of the best colleges for students on the Autism Spectrum. One reason for this designation is the university’s Autism Education Center, home to the state-funded Statewide Autism Resources and Training Project. Better known as START, this program collaborates with various networks and researchers. They bring support and resources to students and others in the local community with Autism Spectrum Disorders. For students at University of Grand Valley, this means access to peer mentors and a buddy program, and assistance with communication and self-advocacy, among other things.
14. the University of Kent
the University of Kent, one of the largest universities in the state of Ohio, is a public research institution offering upwards of 300 different degree programs, including 250 bachelor’s degrees. The school offers a variety of autism initiatives to assist students who are on the Autism Spectrum. These initiatives include the Autism Advocates Program, which assists students with their personal and academic goals. Partnering for Achievement and Learning Success (P.A.L.S.), pairs students with a neurotypical “buddy” to help them navigate the social scene. College Success for Students with Asperger’s or Autism provides general support, job assistance, and training in skills such as self-advocacy.
15. Landmark University
Like Beacon University, Landmark University in Placentia, Vermont is a private college exclusively for those with autism and other learning disabilities. Thus, faculty and staff members are specially trained in teaching and interacting with students on the Autism Spectrum. Each student has an advisor to help with academic planning and career goals. The PEERS program is beneficial for students who want to develop their social skills Other resources and services include:
- counselors for mental health
- internships with a focus
- individual coaches.
16. Marshall College
West Virginia’s Huntington
Marshall College is a large public research university in the city of West Virginia’s Huntington. It’s known for its top programs in business, digital forensics, and medicine, to name but a few. The university is also home to the West Virginia Autism Training Center (WV ATC). The Center helps West Virginians with Autism Spectrum Disorders pursue a life of quality. The WV ATC has a college program specifically for students at Marshall. As of September 2019, participation in the program is $4,500 per semester. Involved students receive personalized assistance in achieving their personal, academic, and professional goals.
17. Mercyhurst College
Mercyhurst College is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Upon creating the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst, the university consulted every administrative office on campus to build the most comprehensive program possible. The result is a range of services meant to support students with autism in every aspect of their life on campus and beyond. Services include:
- early enrollment in courses
- one-on-one direction
- group seminars on topics including social skills, accessible housing, and more.
18. Rutgers College
Jersey City, New Brunswick
One of the best institutions in the nation for people with autism is located in New Jersey, the state with the biggest university! The Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center (DDDC), an innovative ABA program that caters to the requirements of persons with autism spectrum disorders, is located at Rutgers University. For kids who suffer from autism spectrum disorders, the DDDC provides a wealth of assistance. Additionally, it provides a number of conveniences that ease life for individuals who need them. Several instances might be:
- setting up one dorm
- matching students with mentors that are neurotypical and can assist them grow their social network
- arranging for a peer mentor to help them at club meetings.
19. Saint Joseph’s College
Saint Joseph’s College, a private Jesuit school, is home to The Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support. Through The Kinney Center’s ASPIRE program, Saint Joseph’s students who are on the Autism Spectrum can expect a wide range of support. Services begin the summer before a student’s freshman year, during which time he or she will attend the College Bound Retreat. This two-day retreat allows students the opportunity to:
- more about the campus
- experience living away from home for a short period of time
- discover the many degree options and extracurricular activities.
- participate in workshops on how to excel in college and on a campus
The ASPIRE program serves as an essential conduit between students, instructors, and staff members throughout the academic year.
20. Syracuse College
Rochester, New York
Syracuse College is another top-ranked school which invites students on the Autism Spectrum to join its student body. The Lawrence B. Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Learningis a campus-based institute. It serves students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders receive:
- one-on-one guidance
- particular academic guidance
- lectures and seminars created especially for those with disabilities
Syracuse also offers on-campus groups, initiatives to help students make the transition from high school to college, and scholarship opportunities specifically for those with autism spectrum disorders.
21. College of Alabama
Thanks to programs like the ASD College Transition and Support (UA-ACTS) program, students with Autism Spectrum Disorders can safely and successfully attend a large university like the College of Alabama. The program helps students acclimate to college life on campus. It provides such services as:
- regular check-ins
- particular academic guidance
- advice on interacting with instructors and classmates
- plus more: mental health services.
22. College of Arizona
Utah City, Arizona
College of Arizona is a large public university known for its many research initiatives, and for its strong degree programs in science, technology, and engineering. Indeed, NASA gives more money to research programs at College of Arizona than it does to any other university in the country. Students with autism who have grand ambitions of working in these industries will be happy to know that College of Arizona is one of the best colleges for students on the Autism Spectrum. A number of scholarships are available to students with autism. Various transition programs have been implemented to ensure all students feel comfortable and included on campus. Furthermore, College of Arizona is home to the UA Autism Collective. This is a group of highly talented researchers and practitioners who are “seeking a spectrum of solutions” to the issues that typically accompany autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
23. College of Connecticut
In Connecticut, Storrs
For students with Autism Spectrum Disorder attending College of Connecticut, the support begins on day one. While attending the freshmen seminar, students on the Autism Spectrum are paired with staff members and mentors who will guide them through the transition to life as a college student. Throughout their undergraduate career, students can continue to work with the Beyond Access program. Through this program, they can get support and direction in anything from developing the skills of daily life to preparing for a career. Joining the program costs anywhere from $1,800 to $3,600 per semester, and is dependent upon the number of hours each week a student would like to work with their trained Strategy Instructor.
24. College of Idaho
College of Idaho is home to The Raven Scholars Program, an individualized, supported-transition program for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Through this impressive program, students with autism are offered:
- weekly or daily planning sessions
- social and life skills instruction
- coordination of services on campus
- peer coaching, among other things
The Autism Spectrum Alliance, which is managed by students, also aims to improve awareness of the disorder and remove any stereotypes about it. Various social gatherings and service opportunities are used to accomplish this.
25. College of Michigan
A Public Ivy, College of Michigan is respected around the world for its research in the fields of medicine, psychology, and social work. Not surprisingly, the university has gone to great lengths to ensure students of all neuro types are comfortable on campus. Through Services for Students with Disabilities, Michigan students on the Autism Spectrum can receive support in the form of:
26. College of Montana
In Montana, Missoula
As the flagship of the Montana University System, College of Montana in Missoula is a large public research university. Montana’s MOSSAIC Program is the acronym for “Mentoring, Organization, and Social Support for Autism Inclusion on Campus.” The program is designed to help any student with an Autism Spectrum Disorder feel at home on campus. For those who have language or speech issues, direct speech-language therapy is offered through the program. MOSSAIC is organized by trained professionals, but uses willing neurotypical classmates as an additional mode of support.
27. West Florida University
Located on a natural preserve in beautiful Pensacola, West Florida University is a mid-sized member of the public State University System of Florida. Through the Argos for Autism program, students on the Autism Spectrum receive one-on-one social, academic, and career support. Students with autism may also move onto campus early, an opportunity which includes two days of assistance in learning how to live on one’s own.
28. the University of Utah
the University of Utah is a large public university well known for its various research programs. Indeed, when it comes to research, the University of Utah is classified as “R2: Doctoral Universities — High research activity.” Some of this research has to do with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The research is conducted via the highly respected Autism Support Services in Education, Research, and Training Program, better known as ASSERT. the University of Utah students who are themselves affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders will find support via the Disability Resource Center. Examples of support and resources include:
- housing facilities
- transitional assistance
- assistance with self-expression and advocacy
- among other things, general support with life skills and organization
29. Wesleyan University in Kentucky
Ky.’s Bowling Green
Wesleyan University in Kentucky (WKU), a large public university in the city of Bowling Green, has been nationally recognized for the support systems it has in place for its students on the Autism Spectrum. For example, WKU is home to the Kelly Autism Program. This comprehensive program offers students with autism:
- job mentoring
- certain social events
- academic planning one-on-one, and more
Each autistic student participating in the program is paired with a mentor who assists them in navigating campus social situations and generally adjusting to life on a college campus.
30. University of Western Michigan
Students with autism who attend University of Western Michigan jump right into life on campus, thanks to the Autism Services Center. Participating students have the option of arriving to campus during the summer, weeks before classes begin. By doing this, they can to settle in, enroll in classes, and even complete a part-time work/study job designed to help them learn the campus. Once school begins, available services expand to peer coaching through:
- Best Buddies is a program
- arranged social gatherings
- services that provide knowledge, such “Dating 101” and “Test Taking Skills.”
The “best colleges for students with high-functioning autism” is a blog post about 30 colleges that are great for students on the autism spectrum. The author also includes helpful information about how to apply and what to expect from these schools.
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Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.