What are the Best Colleges and Universities for Students with ASD?
Though some of the schools below are large, elite research universities and others are small, private liberal arts school, they all share one significant thing in common: they are the most neuro-inclusive institutions of higher learning in the country.
To identify, evaluate, and narrow such an important list, here at College Choice we started with those schools that are TPSID funded. TPSID—Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities—is a national program that provides grants to colleges and universities that are committed to serving their students with ASD. From there we analyzed which schools offer scholarships or funding assistance to their ASD students, those that provide high school to college transition programs, and those that have ASD specific centers and social groups. Once we aggregated that list we then factored in retention rates—a reflection of student satisfaction—reputation, and tuition cost.
What we concluded with, after such extensive research, are those colleges and universities that offer the best resources and services to their ASD students, ensuring they thrive both academically and socially. Our figures and information come from the university and colleges’ websites, PayScale, nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics, and from the U.S. Department of Education and Autism Speaks.
Quick note: tuition reflects in-state rates. Please check the school’s website for current out-of-state tuition rates.
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 100
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $38,970
Syracuse University is a mid-sized, research university comprised of several colleges and schools that proffer over 200 academic programs. Students earn degrees in everything from sport dynamics to performing arts, and they have the opportunity to participate in an array of internship, leadership, and study abroad programming. Indeed, Syracuse has relationships with universities across the world in over forty countries.
Syracuse University is home to the Lawrence B. Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Learning, an institute that serves students with any intellectual or developmental disability, including ASD. It was recently awarded $2 million in funding from the Department of Education through the renowned TPSID program (Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities). Because of this assistance as well as the university’s commitment to ASD inclusion through scholarships, transition programs, and social groups, Syracuse tops our list for being one of the best schools in the nation for those on the Autism spectrum. Other notable resources and services include:
- Peer-to-peer mentoring for academic and social support
- A bunch of classes in disability studies
- The Disability Cultural Center
- Student-centric academic advising
- Access to the Center on Human Policy, the Burton Blatt Institute (provides employment resources for people with disabilities), and the Taishoff Center
Forbes, ARWU, U.S. News & World Report, and Washington Monthly all rank Syracuse University well, including it among the top 100 best National Universities.
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 95
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $11,580
The flagship university in the multi-school, statewide system, the University of Alabama (UA) is a public research university and is based in Tuscaloosa. It is the state’s largest and oldest public university with over 30k undergraduates enrolled in one of its many degree programs. Though UA has earned a reputation on behalf of several of its departments and programs, its College of Engineering is one of its best, as UA was one of the first in the nation to offer an engineering degree.
One of the most important programs a university can offer to its ASD population is a transition platform that helps students move from the high school environment into the independent nature of college living. The University of Alabama has such a program; UA-ACTS promotes self-advocacy, social development, and academic success, and it provides the necessary resources and services for its students to attain these goals. Among the many individual student services the UA-ACTS program offers are:
- Weekly check-ins for daily living skills (e.g., dorm room life)
- Personalized academic advising
- Guidance with regards to professor relationships and communication
- Job employment assistance
- Extensive mental health care
- And more
The University of Alabama offers hundreds of degree programs, some of which are not offered at any other public school in the state, such as the publicly supported law school, the anthropology, social work, and Romance language departments, and more. UA is also ranked among the top 50 public universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 93.4
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $5,862
The largest public research university in Virginia, George Mason University was originally founded as a branch of the University of Virginia before becoming an independent university in the 1970s. George Mason is known for its research contributions in the areas of economics, law, and computer science, and it has a renowned creative writing program. Around 35k students attend George Mason.
Among the many cornerstones of George Mason’s disability services is the Mason Autism Support Initiative (MASI), a comprehensive (though fee-based) program that gives additional, extensive support to students who are on the autism spectrum. MASI goes way above and beyond the typical resources offered by university student services. Students have access to skill-building classes and groups to develop career-readiness, social techniques, and academic skills. There are annual, monthly, and weekly activities, and peer mentoring. George Mason’s mission for its ASD community is to:
- Promote equal access, in curricular and co-curricular activities
- Foster relationships among faculty, staff, and students
- Build a more accessible, diverse, and inclusive campus
- Empower students to participate fully in the George Mason community
George Mason is a well-ranked university with consistent accolades from Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and ARWU. It was also recently recognized as being one of the nation’s most active research institutions by the Carnegie Classification of Institutes of Higher Education.
UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 92.2
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $12,200
The University of Arizona (UA) is located in Tucson and is a public, research university of nearly 45k combined undergraduate and graduate students. With dozens of research centers, facilities, and initiatives, UA receives more NASA grants than any other university nationwide. Its science, engineering, and technology departments boast equally strong numbers, and UA alumni have gone on to become Fulbright, Truman, Rhodes, and Goldwater scholars.
In addition to scholarships and financial assistance, transition programs, and a high retention rate, the University of Arizona boasts a strong research-based approach to creating an inclusive campus. The UA Autism Collective is made up of researchers, practitioners, staff members, and students who are “seeking a spectrum of solutions.” In addition to being a research center where autism and its related neurodevelopmental disorders are studied, the collective has a number of resources, services, and educational programs in place to promote holistic health among its ASD community. Among these:
- The federally funded Sonoran University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities
- The SALT Center (Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques)
- Project Focus, which provides inclusive educational support
- ArizonaLEND, a program that provides year-long leadership training
- The Adaptive Fitness Center and a broad adaptive athletic program
- And much more
Nationally and globally ranked, the University of Arizona is consistently recognized as having strong programs in education, medicine, law, and counseling, as well as a renowned Honors College.
KENT STATE UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 86.9
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $10,012
Located in Kent, Ohio, Kent State University is a large, public, research institution with multiple, regional campuses pocked throughout Northeast Ohio. With over 30k students attending Kent’s main campus and another 40k collectively enrolled in the other affiliates, KSU is one of the state’s largest universities. Further, KSU offers over 300 degree programs across all academic levels, from associate degrees to doctoral programs.
Housed under Kent State’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Autism Initiatives are a collection of resources and support services that seek to include and better the lives of KSU students with ASD. For those who team up with the initiative they will work closely with a faculty or staff member, who will act as their advocate, throughout the academic year. Other groups and ways for ASD students to get involved include participation in:
- PALS (Partnering for Achievement and Learning Success), in which a student with ASD is partnered with a neurotypical student. Each pair act as mentors and companions to one another.
- College Success for Students with Asperger’s or Autism is a program that provides self-advocacy training, job and career assistance, and more
- KSU’s Autism Diversity Program
- AIREO, a research initiative that cultivates community, agency, and university collaborations
- And more
Among its many rankings from U.S. News & World Report and Times Higher Education,Kent State is recognized by the Carnegie Foundation as being of the top public research universities nationwide and among those most committed to community engagement.
GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 86
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $16,392
Based outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan in a town called Allendale, Grand Valley State University (GVSU) is a large public liberal arts school that enrolls around 25k students. GVSU offers over 200 academic degrees through eight colleges and schools and more than 4,000 study abroad programs, making this large state school one that is steeped in the fundamentals of interdisciplinary and liberal arts education.
Housed in Grand Valley’s Autism Education Center, the START (Statewide Autism Resources and Training) Project encourages and enables students with ASD on and off the GVSU campus. This program equally emphasizes the significant impact of personal training and coaching, collaboration with other networks, and the accessibility of an array of resources and services. START is not only for GVSU students, as it partners with the local community and schools to bring about higher quality of life for students with ASD. Among the features of START are:
- Peer to peer mentoring and companionship programs
- The Effective Practices Leadership Initiative
- The annual START conference
- Regional Collaborative Networks events
Recently GVSU was recognized by The Chronicle of Higher Education as a top producer of Fulbright Scholars. The university also holds regional rankings from Forbes and U.S. News & World Report. Finally, it is considered among “America’s Best Colleges” and is ranked (by GreenMetric World University Ranking) sixteenth in the world for its sustainability efforts.
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 83.4
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $43,500
Known primarily for having one of the biggest co-op education programs in the nation, Drexel University stresses the importance of hands-on learning, work experience, and field familiarity. Drexel is located in Philadelphia, is a private research university, and was founded as an industry and technology school, though they now offer over seventy undergraduate programs in a range of areas and disciplines.
Key to Drexel’s commitment to its students with ASD is its Drexel Autism Support Program. This notably student-centric program promotes both academic and social confidence, self-advocacy, and independent living by giving students access to dozens of resources and services (noted below). Drexel is explicit in its honoring of neurodiversity, recognizing the diversity it brings to the greater community: “We value the individual along with individual differences and support personal growth through understanding our strengths and how those strengths can build and support areas of need and personal development.” Elements of the Drexel Autism Support Program include:
- Personalized Assessment for Student Success (PASS) plan
- PASS monitoring with the AJ Drexel Autism Institute
- PASS case management with professional staff
- Psychoeducational, social, and adaptive evaluation opportunities
- Workshops in life skills, social development, academic success, and career planning
- And much more
The research contributions and opportunities at Drexel are manifold and there are over thirty research centers and institutes on campus, including the Autism Public Health Research Institute. Drexel is ranked nationally by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Washington Monthly, and ARWU.
APPALACHIAN STATE UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 79.1
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $3,795
The most affordable school on our ranking, Appalachian State University (ASU) provides accessible, economical education to its nearly 20k students. ASU was originally founded as a teacher’s college but now offers nearly 200 undergraduate majors. It is part of the renowned University of North Carolina system and is located in Boone, NC.
The national organization Autism Speaks, whose mission is to promote options and opportunities for individuals with ASD, has an affiliate chapter on the Appalachian State University campus. Through this program students with ASD can participate in a range of events, social networking, academic resources, career services, high school to college transition programs, counseling, and more. In addition to these practical, day-to-day services, Appalachian State University also demonstrates its commitment to neurodiversity through academic inclusion and research initiatives, such as:
- Offering a number of classes on Autism and ASD
- Offering an Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate
- Research endeavors through the Innovative Approaches Clinic
- And more
Consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as being among the top 10 Southern Master’s Universities, ASU has also been praised by TIME, The Princeton Review, Consumers Digest, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 78.4
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $28,776
The most top-ranked school on our list, the University of Michigan (UM) is a Public Ivy located in Ann Arbor. It is a large school with around 45k combined undergraduate and graduate students, a prolific contributor to research, and a member of the Big Ten Conference. UM is comprised of over a dozen colleges and schools, including those with notable medicine, law, engineering, pharmacy, public health, education, and business programs.
Also home to an Autism Speaks chapter, the University of Michigan is a fantastic choice for students with ASD. World renowned for its medical, social work, and psychology research, UM knows how to create a campus that is at once inclusive, accessible, and chock full of resources and services. In fact, students with ASD at the UM will have access to:
- ASD specific scholarship opportunities
- Housing accommodations
- Exam proctors
- CAPS: The Autism Spectrum Self-Advocacy Group
- Academic counseling
- Among many others
As a whole, UM is nationally and globally ranked by Forbes (38th), U.S. News & World Report (27th), ARWU (17th), and Washington Monthly (21st). Many of its discrete departments are also well ranked: health care management (1st), history (6th), nursing (1st), social work and sociology (both 1st), and much more.
UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 77.6
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $10,524
Located in Storrs, the University of Connecticut (UConn) is a land grant, sea grant, and space grant research institution. Uconn is also a Public Ivy and is home to over 32k combined undergraduate and graduate students. In addition to its main Storrs campus, UConn has locations and research facilities throughout the state and region.
UConn’s SEAD (Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder) program ensures that incoming students with ASD have a smooth transition into college by giving them the skills, self-advocacy, and confidence needed to thrive academically as well socially. Also critical to UConn’s ASD inclusionary efforts is the Center for Students with Disabilities, which provides students with access to all the same opportunities and experiences as the rest of campus. This includes:
- Study abroad assistance (e.g., help choosing a program, making medical and prescription considerations, what to bring with you, etc.)
- Scholarship and funding assistance
- Access to technology that enhances both independence and academic success
- Research opportunities
- Social networking such as AHEADD (Achieving in Higher Education with Autism/Developmental Disabilities).
UConn is a flagship university and is ranked first among all public national schools in New England. Likewise, U.S. News & World Report considers it 60th among all public universities and 20th among public universities. Money Magazine and The Princeton Review also single out UConn, for its value and affordability.
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 77.4
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $5,809
The largest university in New Jersey, Rutgers is a public research university with multiple locations throughout the state (its main campus is in New Brunswick). It is a leading member in several renowned organizations, including the Big Ten Academic Alliance and the Universities Research Association, and it is one of the largest schools on our list with nearly 70k combined undergraduate and graduate students.
Rutgers’ College Support Program (CSP) specifically works with students who fall somewhere on the Autism Spectrum to provide them with the means to have a rewarding, successful college experience. From scholarship and funding opportunities to personalized assistance through all things college (daily dorm living, academic planning, socializing, etc.), the CSP works hard to ensure that Rutgers campus is neuro-inclusive. Other resources and services offered through the CSP include:
- Weekly meetings with a personal coordinator
- Help defining academic and life goals
- Identifying and utilizing social skills appropriate for university and adult life
- Work with trained peer mentors
- Referrals for future employment or education opportunities
- And more
Rutgers is one of the oldest universities in the country, first founded as Queen’s College in 1766, and one of only nine colonial colleges created before the American Revolution. Ranked among the top 100 best universities in the country by ARWU, U.S. News & World Report, and Washington Monthly, Rutgers is known for its research in psychology, linguistics, computer science, engineering, philosophy, and anthropology, among others.
UNIVERSITY OF WEST FLORIDA
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 77
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $6,360
The University of West Florida (UWF) is based in Pensacola and is a member of the State University System of Florida. It is a major site for research and a designated space-grant university. With around 15k students, a majority of whom are undergraduates, and dozens of majors and academic programs, UWF is a mid-sized school that is both affordable and highly reputable.
Promoted by the Student Disability Resource Center on UWF’s campus, the Argos for Autism Program (AAP) is a service that specifically provides academic support, social and community involvement, life skills, and career planning to its students with ASD. Students who apply and join the AAP team will work weekly with a coach to address any and all needs in the areas of academia, social life, daily living, and career prep. As a student with ASD at the University of West Florida these are just some of the areas you can expect to strengthen while in college:
- Academic planning and prioritizing
- How to advantage of academic opportunities
- Time management and organizational skills
- Working in groups but also working independently
- Negotiating the social nuance of professor-student relationships
- Self-advocacy and self-care skills
- And more
UWF sports a number of impressive merit badges. Forbes has consistently listed them as among “America’s Top Colleges”; the Military Order of the Purple Heart recognizes UWF as a “Purple Heart University” (G.I. Jobs magazine also names it a top military friendly school); and it is ranked regionally by The Princeton Review.
UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 76.5
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $7,174
Located in Logan, Utah State University (USU) is a space and land-grant, research institution that was originally founded as an agricultural college that trained its students in domestic arts, mechanic education, and, of course, agriculture. While still maintaining those roots, USU now offers the full spread of typical liberal arts programming, with well-regarded programs in engineering, business, economics, education, and more.
With federal funding supporting its transitional and intellectual disability assistance programs, Utah State University makes our list for most ASD friendly colleges and universities. Further, USU is home to the well-respected ASSERT (the Autism Support Services in Education, Research, and Training) program. While largely an academic resource for those in special education, social work, and rehabilitation programs, ASSERT’s mission is to work with students with ASD to provide research-based support. Supplementally, USU’s Disability Resource Center makes dozens of resources available to its students, such as:
- Assistance with organization and task management
- Facilitating course substitution and providing alternative options
- Transition services
- Housing accommodations
- And more
The Carnegie Foundation has designated USU as a university with high research activities and notable research contributions. Graduates from USU have gone on to become Rhodes Scholars, Nobel Prize winners, MacArthur Fellows, Truman Scholars, and more.
ST. JOSEPH'S UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 76.4
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $43,700
St. Joseph’s University (SJU) is a private, Roman Catholic Jesuit university located in Philadelphia. It is one of the oldest Jesuit schools in the country and a member institution of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. SJU offers approximately 60 undergraduate majors to its 5k students, and campus is comprised of several colleges, schools, and research centers, including the prestigious Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support.
Perhaps one of the most known ASD transition programs in the country, the Kinney Center ASPIRE Program provides exhaustive services to students with ASD. The program’s staff work closely both with the student and with the larger campus community—professors, administration, interdepartmental staff, residence life—to provide holistic academic and social support to its ASD population. An important thing to note is that this program costs $6,000 an academic year and is provided on a first-come, first-serve basis after review of an application. However, despite the cost, there is hardly any other program like the Kinney ASPIRE program. Facets of ASPIRE include:
- Crisis intervention and prevention
- Time management strategies
- Independent living and social skills training
- Student mentoring
- Athletic involvement opportunities
- The College Bound Retreat, a summer seminar that prepares students for college life
St. Joseph’s is regionally ranked by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review, and it is nationally ranked by Forbes. SJU also has a reputation for being inclusive, diverse, and community driven. There are over 100 student organizations on campus, many of which seek to promote campus diversity.
PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 75
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $23,010
Located in downtown Portland, Oregon, Portland State University is a public research university comprised of seven colleges and schools. Its 23k undergraduate students are enrolled in one of PSU’s 120 degree programs in business, liberal arts and sciences, education, engineering and computer science, fine arts, social work, or urban and public affairs.
The Disability Resource Center at Portland State University has worked hard to identify, evaluate, and remove those barriers that keep students with ASD from thriving at college. Markedly relational in their approach to campus betterment, PSU emphasizes networking, partnership, and collaboration to create an inclusive learning environment. Funded by TPSID (Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities), PSU has put forward a range of resources, activities, and opportunities for its students:
- Scholarship funding specifically allocated to students with disabilities
- Education abroad accommodations and assistance
- Academic accommodations, such as note-taking and testing assistance
- The Invisible No More Project, which recognizes, celebrates, and supports students with invisible disabilities
- Disability career week and year-long vocational guidance
- And much more
With seven LEED-certified schools, PSU receives consistent accolades for its commitment to sustainability and green education. It holds a Gold Star rating for sustainability (from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) and The Princeton Review ranks is among the Nation’s Top Green Schools.
WESTERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 74.9
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $9,912
Located in Bowling Green, Western Kentucky University (WKU) is a public university with over 20k attending students. It offers eighty areas of study through its six colleges: the College of Education and Behavioral Science, the College of Health and Human Services, the College of Business, the University College, the College of Science and Engineering, and the College of Arts and Letters.
Recently profiled in the New York Times for its impressive variety of resources, programming, and networks for its students with ASD, Western Kentucky University is a known star in neurodiversity. It houses the Kelly Autism Program, which offers educational support through personalized academic plan assistance, tutoring, community involvement, job coaching, social activities, and more. Among their statements of commitment and values, WKU promises to protect the following for its ASD population:
- The right to educational support
- The right to social and recreational opportunities
- The right to explore any/all career options
- The right to seek out and maintain independent living
WKU is regionally ranked by U.S. News & World Report as being the among the top thirty best colleges and universities in the South. It has also garnered attention from Forbes and Washington Monthly for being among the nation’s best public colleges.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 69.2
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $10,716
Located in Columbia and founded as the first public university west of the Mississippi, the University of Missouri (Mizzou) is a large research school that proffers degrees in over 300 discrete areas of study. Over 30k undergraduate and graduate students attend Mizzou and are enrolled in one of the nearly twenty colleges and schools that comprise the university. Mizzou is one of the country’s top-tier research institutions.
Mizzou’s Thompson Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders is world-renowned and a leader in research on ASD. On top of its research initiatives the Thompson Center also provides training and service programs, to its students as well as the larger community. These services span the diagnostic, medical, and treatment needs for those with ASD. Mizzou also has a multi-functional Disability Center that works with students on:
- Creating and implementing accommodation plans
- How to best transition into college life
- How to find relevant funding through scholarship opportunities
- And more
Mizzou is one of only a handful of public universities in the country that has a medical, law, veterinary medical, engineering, and agriculture school all one one campus. It is nationally ranked by ARWU, Forbes, and U.S. News & World Report, and it is globally ranked by QS World University Rankings, Times Higher Education, and more.
TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 64
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $10,772
Texas Tech University (TTU) is the flagship institution in the larger Texas Tech University System. It is located in Lubbock and is known for its academic programs in the health sciences, technology, energy, and computer science, though it offers over 150 programs of study. More than 35k students attend Texas Tech.
Texas Tech has a number of programs in place for its students with ASD. Its CASE (Connections for Academic Success and Employment) program, for example, helps students navigate the ins and outs of college life so they can reach their academic goals and find employment after graduation. The Transition Academy, housed in the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research, helps students develop job and social skills that can subsequently lead to gainful employment. On top of these already fantastic programs, Texas Tech makes our list for best colleges for ASD students because:
- It offers scholarship funding specifically for students with cognitive disabilities
- Its TECHniques Center is a unique tutoring program that provides holistic coaching and tutoring to students with ASD
- TTU allows students to request course substitutions
- And more
Texas Tech University is notable for its beautiful campus, themed after the Spanish Renaissance and described as one of the most gorgeous universities west of the Mississippi. TTU is designated as having a notably high amount of research activity, with its over 70 research centers and institutes on campus.
UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 63.3
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $19,748
The oldest public university in Idaho, as well as the state’s land-grant, flagship, and premier research university, the University of Idaho (UI) is organized into ten colleges and schools. UI is relatively small, with around 10k students, but it offers nearly 150 degree programs in a variety of subjects and disciplines and across all degree levels.
Like several of the other college and universities on our list, the University of Idaho has identified the need for multiple services, programs, and resources for its ASD community. For this reason, the Disability Support Services offers many places for those with Autism/ASD to connect with staff and peers, develop academic and social strategies, and participate in curricular and extra-curricular events. The Autism Spectrum Alliance is just such a group, housed under the Raven Scholars Program. Raven Scholars is an award-winning transition program that provides tailored services to its students with Autism/ASD, including:
- Peer mentoring and academic advising
- Daily or weekly planning meetings with program staff
- Study group opportunities
- Life and social skills classes
- Service learning opportunities
- And more
The University of Idaho holds many accolades from many sources. The Princeton Reviewrecognizes it as one of the nation’s top environmentally responsible colleges. Forbes ranks it as a top research institution, as does Washington Monthly. And Kiplinger includes it among the best values in public education.
UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE CHATTANOOGA
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 61.9
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $8,544
The University of Tennessee in Chattanooga (UTC) is one of three affiliates in the highly regarded University of Tennessee system. It is a public, research university with around 12k undergraduates enrolled in one of their many areas of study, the most popular being business administration, education, biology, and health and wellness. Students also enjoy a small student-to-faculty ratio (of, on average, 20:1).
UTC’s Disability Resource Center has developed a multifaceted and exhaustive program that serves the holistic needs of students with ASD. It’s called Mosaic and it has been around for nearly a decade. Considered one of the most comprehensive programs in the nation, Mosaic is steeped in ASD research, best practice analysis, and student collaboration. Unique to Mosaic is its model; it is organized into four primary components, each split into an academic year:
- Year One: Students focus on, and are coached through, issues of independence, social and academic strategies, and self-advocacy
- Year Two: Students learn about developing identity, reframing their understanding of self in positive ways, and how to navigate unwritten social rules
- Year Three: Students build on what they learned in the first two years to begin thinking about their careers. They work on job shadowing, mock interviews, resume building, and more
- Year Four: The final year builds on the third in that students gain internship experience, volunteer experience, attend career fairs, etc. This year is seen as the culminating year, when all the pieces come together
Strong in many areas and across many departments, the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga has earned a reputation for its high pedigree in its engineering, accounting, education, music, nursing, English, chemistry, and business programs. UTC is also a high producer of innovative research, particularly in the area of computational engineering, energy, and simulation.
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 61.9
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $30,640
For those looking for a Christian education, Eastern University is affiliated with the American Baptist Church USA. It is a small liberal arts school located near Philadelphia, and its student population of 4k is markedly interdenominational. Eastern is organized into five colleges that offer degrees in dozens of areas, from business to theology to cultural studies.
The cornerstone of Eastern’s disability services, the College Success Program (CSP) was solely designed with the needs of students with ASD in mind. Partnered closely with the Cushing Center for Counseling and Academic Support, the CSP ensures its programs address the academic well being of its students, but also their social, mental, and physical health as well. Eastern CSP staffers also work closely with faculty, staff, and administration to provide ASD-specific training, consultation, and understanding. Other services provided by the CSP include:
- Pre-fall semester orientation for first-year students
- Individual counseling
- Weekly skills groups that focus on academic, daily life, cultural support, and social issues
- Weekly support groups that focus on perceptions and being a college student
- Facilitation and liaison support with faculty, staff, and university departments
- Community events and outings
Because of its small size, Eastern is known for its low student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1. Eastern is also known for integrating theology, social service, student development, spiritual formation, and community involvement into the curriculum across departments.
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 61.9
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $35,430
Located in Garden City, New York, Adelphi University is a private school with campuses in Manhattan, Hudson Valley, and Suffolk County. Around 5k undergraduates attend Adelphi and are enrolled in one of the eight colleges. In addition to its academic programming, Adelphi has a broad international education program, with study abroad opportunities in 120 different countries, and a Global Scholars program that provides interdisciplinary, global education to its students.
Adelphi University has long been known for its commitment to its students with ASD. Every year they recognize National Autism Awareness Month and their Bridges to Adelphi program is considered one of the best university ASD programs in the nation. Its breadth of services and resources speak for themselves:
- Twice weekly meetings with an academic coach and learning strategist
- One-on-one counseling to reduce anxiety, stress, and to improve time management, organizational, and social skills
- Collaboration with a vocational coach to identify areas of interest and strengths
- Assistance with resume writing and mock job interviews
- Peer mentorship
- And more
In addition to the Fiske Guide to Colleges consistently naming Adelphi a “Best Buy,” The Princeton Review called it one of the best colleges in the Northeast, and it is also well-ranked by U.S. News & World Report and Washington Monthly.
FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 60.6
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $41,811
The largest private university in the state of New Jersey, Fairleigh Dickinson is home to over 12k students. With its main campus based in Teaneck, it also has affiliate campuses in Florham, Madison, Hackensack, Vancouver, and Banbury.
Fairleigh Dickinson’s COMPASS program works closely with students in the first two years of their college experience to guarantee a smooth transition into the independent, highly social, and rigorously academic world of college life. It was designed specifically for students with ASD to improve the rates of graduation and gainful employment. It’s important to note that this program costs approximately $6,520 an academic year; however, COMPASS has seen a lot of success through its individually tailored program with services such as:
- Peer mentorship with upperclassman
- Monthly social events
- Two hours of individualized, hands-on academic advising on a weekly basis
- One hour of individual counseling and one group therapy session on a weekly basis
- A summer transition orientation
- And more
Fairleigh Dickinson is formally designated as a NGO by the UN Department of Public Information and maintains close connections with the UN. Students have therefore had the unique experience to intern with the UN and its affiliate agencies. Additionally, U.S. News & World Report has ranked Fairleigh Dickinson among some of the best colleges for its region.
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 60.2
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $7,798
Marshall University is located in Huntington, West Virginia and is a public research university. Organized into nine undergraduate colleges across a variety of disciplines, Marshall is known for its departments in medicine, forensic science, and business administration. Around 14k students attend Marshall.
Now fifteen years old, the College Program for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder at Marshall University has supported its ASD community for many years, providing skills assistance in the areas of social development, communication, academic success, recreation access, and more. Marshall’s program is student-centric, pairing staff with students to develop personal and academic plans that are uniquely their own, and it is organized into three focused areas of development:
- Academic Support, which provides self-advocacy help, tutoring, advisement, course recommendations, and teacher liaison assistance
- Social Skills Support, which provides skill-building group meetings, promotes access to campus activities, and more
- Independent Living Skills Supports, which provides assistance to students as they balance the daily demands of college life
Marshall is known for its history and historic campus and was named after the country’s 4th Chief of Justice. It also has a reputation for a highly involved student population with over 230 recognized student organizations and a study abroad program consisting of 250 sites in 50 countries.
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 51.9
ANNUAL TUITION COST: $9,234
Located just outside of Seattle in a town of the same name, Bellevue College is part of the enormous Washington Community and Technical Colleges system. Approximately 40k students attend Bellevue, enrolled in either the transfer associate degree programs or in one of the many professional-technical degrees and certificates. Bellevue also partners with Eastern Washington University, the University of Washington, and Washington State University to offer its students access to cross-campus majors and programs.
Bellevue College’s Autism Spectrum Navigator (ASN) program works closely with its members in the areas of social interaction, study habits, self-advocacy, and self-regulation. Like many schools on our list, Bellevue offers peer mentoring, career prep, campus awareness programs, and skillbuilding, but Bellevue’s Autism Spectrum Navigator program is also distinct in a few ways:
- Members attend cohort classes in conjunction with their other classes. These cohort classes cover career preparation skill-building, stress management, occupational wellness, interpersonal communication, and more.
- ASN staffers are happy to work with students’ parents and faculty to improve communication and inspire better insight into the lives of students with ASD
Perhaps obvious, as Bellevue is included on this ranking, but the university has earned a reputation for offering an array of services, resources, and assistance to promote diversity and holistic health on its campus.