It is fair to say that the goals of UMBC students are to graduate with a college degree, and to receive a well-paying job after graduation. Some students achieve this. However, UMBC and the state of Maryland have chosen not to give the resources for these goals to an entire class of students. They exclude those with intellectual disabilities.
UMBC and the state of Maryland have decided to cut “Students United for Campus Community Engagement for Post-Secondary Success.” For those who don’t know, SUCCESS is “Maryland’s first [and only] four-year post-secondary education program for participants with intellectual disabilities.” Participants learn essential life skills from conflict management to how to work a computer, in order to effectively integrate into the workforce.
Employment for individuals with ID is a serious concern. In 2012, with eight percent national unemployment, those with ID had an unemployment rate at 80 percent. According to Elaine Katz of the Kessler Foundation, “Americans with disabilities are encountering – and overcoming − barriers in finding and maintaining employment. The top three barriers to finding work were lack of sufficient education or training, employers’ assumption that they couldn’t do the job and a lack of transportation.”
SUCCESS, and other similar state programs, have countered these barriers fairly successfully. According to ThinkCollege, out of 883 ID students attending post-secondary programs, 39 percent had a paid job. The percentage increased when surveying fourth year students, of whom more than 75 percent had a paid job or internship.
Another study by the Journal of Intellectual Disabilities compared the employment rate between post-secondary and high school graduates. Accordingly, slightly half of the high school graduates were employed in the last two years, whereas almost 90 percent of those with a college degree had worked outside the home or former school.
UMBC SUCCESS has been fairly successful in fostering independent living and maintaining a job in society. Although there have been no graduates of the program, due to the short time it has been in existence, most students have had successful internships and jobs, from the campus police to the Retriever itself.
As Pope Francis said, “work has not only the economic objective of profit, but above all a purpose that regards man and his dignity. And if there is no work, his dignity is wounded! Indeed the unemployed and underemployed risk being relegated to the margins of society, becoming victims of social exclusion.”
The participants of SUCCESS, and students with ID, are being relegated to the margins of society by cutting this program. This is the only program that allows students with ID to receive a four-year college education in Maryland, and the UMBC administration, as well as the state of Maryland, need to weigh this in their decision-making more.