Managing Editor Richard Allegra, ahead editorial Associate

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Critical Questions

The efforts of the project investigators and the focus group participants culminated in the identification of six fundamental areas of critical importance in addressing the needs and experiences of students with disabilities in postsecondary education. Concomitantly, a detailed and comprehensive (though not complete) set of questions within each of these areas was developed. It was agreed that, if postsecondary institutions were capable of answering these questions, policymakers and service providers could better meet the needs of all students in postsecondary institutions. The data such questions would provide could go a long way to establish a rich empirical foundation for institutional planning and programming.

Challenges and Barriers

The researchers and informants also began the important process of identifying challenges and barriers to effecting change in the educational system. Many of these had to do with the interplay inherent in institutions of higher education between the uniqueness of each institution, common characteristics across specific institution types, and characteristics shared by all postsecondary institutions.

Focus group participants raised the issue of interplay in a broad sense in their concerns regarding context, diversity of the population, resources and capacity, and institutional will and accountability. The differences and similarities embedded within these areas make up the context within which the needs of students with disabilities’ are to be explored, understood, and addressed. Participants also broached challenges and barriers at the applied level in their discussions of the methods and logistics of data collection. The analysis of these issues presented in the discussion section illustrates the considerable complexity facing researchers as they seek to address the needs of students with disabilities.


As mentioned, the MDPE project was designed to address the paucity of information available about students with disabilities in higher education as revealed in reviews of existing literature. Our findings moved us closer to answering key questions about students with disabilities. Identification of critical questions about the transition phase between high school and postsecondary settings begins the process of addressing gaps in recruitment and retention of students. This area highlights the importance of readiness factors and educational pathways. The other five areas focus our attentions on factors related to how we can most effectively and efficiently serve our students with disabilities as they go through higher education and how we will assess our successes in this area when they complete their formal involvement in this area.

Though we include students with disabilities under the umbrella of “underrepresented” students, institutions have not been pressed to account for their policies and for student outcomes with this unique population. The call for greater accountability in this area is coming, and the specific questions identified in this study are invaluable in our efforts to use our institutional resources strategically and to engage in continuous improvement. These six areas together provide a map for higher education to use in designing data-collection mechanisms.

Having identified and validated these critical areas of information, the next step toward closing the information gap was to conduct an institutional capacity study to determine what resources and mechanisms are already in place and what further mechanisms would be required. Further, the capacity study provides an even richer and more detailed understanding of the specific challenges implementation of a systemic model might entail. Upon completion and analysis of the institutional capacity study, a preliminary model for data collection was designed and pilot tested. These efforts will be reported in a later article.


Chang, K., & Logan, J. (2002). A comparison of accommodations and supports for students with disabilities in two-year versus four-year postsecondary institutions. National Center for the Study of Postsecondary Educational Supports, Honolulu, HI. Retrieved September 15, 2006, from

Frieden, L. (2004). Improving educational outcomes for students with disabilities. National Council on Disability. Retrieved September 21, 2006 from

GW HEATH Resource Center. (2001). Postsecondary students with disabilities: Recent data from the 2000 national postsecondary student aid survey. Retrieved September 15, 2006, from

Harding, T. Two-year follow up survey of the national survey of support services for students with disabilities. National Center for the Study of Postsecondary Educational Supports, Honolulu, HI. Findings Brief #24. Retrieved September 15, 2006, from

Harding, T., & Chang, C. (2001). Research findings brief: Comparison of 2-year institutions versus 4-year institutions in offering supports and accommodations for students with disabilities. National Center for the Study of Postsecondary Educational Supports, Honolulu, HI. Retrieved September 15, 2006, from

Henderson, C . (2001). College freshmen with disabilities: A biennial statistical profile. American Council on Education. Retrieved September 21, 2006, from

Horn, L., & Berktold, J. (1999). Students with disabilities in postsecondary education: A profile of preparation, participation, and outcomes. (NCES 1999-187).

National Center for Education Statistics. (2005). The condition of education: Minority student enrollment. Indicator #31. U.S. Department of Education: Office of Education Research and Improvement. Retrieved September 21, 2006, from

National Center for Education Statistics. (2000, June). Stats in Brief. Postsecondary students with disabilities: Enrollment, service, and persistence (NCES 2000-092): U.S. Department of Education: Office of Education Research and Improvement,. National Center For The Study of Postsecondary Educational Supports.

National Center for the Study of Postsecondary Educational Supports. (2000). National survey of educational support provision to students with disabilities in postsecondary education settings: Technical Report. University of Hawaii. Retrieved September 15, 2006, from

Perna, L. (2000, Fall). Racial and Ethnic Group Differences in College Enrollment Decisions. (2000, Fall). New Directions for Institutional Research, 27 (3), 65-83.

Stodden, R., Conway, M., & Chang, K. (2003, Fall). Findings from the study of transition, technology and postsecondary supports for youth with disabilities: Implications for secondary school educators. Journal of Special Education Technology, 18(4).

Stodden, R., & Dowrick, P. (2001). Postsecondary Education And Employment Of Adults With Disabilities. American Rehabilitation, 25(3), 19-23.

Stodden, R., Jones, M., & Chang, K. (2002, March). Services, supports and accommodations for individuals with disabilities: An analysis across secondary education, postsecondary education, and employment. Paper presented at the Capacity Building Institute, Honolulu, HI. Retrieved September 15, 2006, from

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (1999). Students with disabilities in postsecondary education: A profile of preparation, participation, and outcomes (NCES 1999-187).

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, (2000). 1999-2000 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. (NPSAS: 2000).

Wolanin, T., & Steele, P. (2004). Higher education opportunities for students with disabilities: A primer for policy makers. The Institute for Higher Education Policy.

About the Author
Marya Burke is a Research Scientist with the Program for Research and Evaluation in Public Schools (PREPS) in the College of Education at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. She joins the PREPS team in collaborating with Virginia schools to inform culture and improve practice through collaborative research. Burke’s research experience began with her doctoral studies in Educational Policy at the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana. In her dissertation research she explored on issues of equity in K-12 and postsecondary education. Much of Burke’s work has designed for specific organizational clients such as the Disability Access Committee of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Teachers Academy for Mathematics and Science in Chicago, The WaterCAMPWS and NANOCEMMS engineering research centers at University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and the Department of Education of the Urban League in Champaign, Illinois. A sociologist at heart, Burke explores educational issues with a systems and pattern-oriented lens. She is passionate about equity and collaborative participation of all stakeholders in education. She can be reached by email at:

Book Review
Rebecca Daly Cofer

Texas Tech University

Levine, Mel, M.D. (2005). Ready or Not, Here Life Comes. New York: Simon & Schuster, 286 pp., $26.00.

Mel Levine (2005), author of Ready or Not, Here Life Comes, has a varied professional background, which contributes greatly to the information and the perspective he provides in this insightful and truthful text. Ready or Not, Here Life Comes may appear, at first glance, to have a somewhat cliché title, but the concepts presented are quite unique and related in a very organized way. This very detailed text explains a phenomenon many advisors, counselors, parents, and students confront, what Levine calls “work-life unreadiness”: “A particularly challenging period is the opening stages of a life at work, the school-to-career years” (3).

Levine’s book focuses on work-life unreadiness and its status as an epidemic in our society. The text is divided which are further divided into three parts, into chapters. Placed somewhat in the middle are chapters that describe the four areas of the growth process for the startup years: Inner direction, Interpretation, Instrumentation and Interaction (pp. 12-13). In addition, initial chapters are devoted to the general categories of those who are affected by work-life unreadiness, such as “Ones Who Were Once Revered” and “Victims of Brain Neglect” (p. ix).

Although Levine’s main argument of this social theory in young adults can be lost in his critique of the current state of the educational system, his ideas are fresh and truthful. Levine claims, “our kids are not learning in school some vital lessons they need to prepare for the hidden challenges of the real world” (56). While his intentions of reform are admirable, his analysis of the educational system sometimes hinders his analysis of work-life unreadiness. However, it seems virtually impossible to discuss the latter without the former.

The first part of Ready or Not, Here Life Comes details the four types of people who struggle with work-life unreadiness. At the opening of every chapter, Levine includes quotations from students he has worked with; these quotations proved to be, for me, some of the most interesting portions of the book, as they offer insight into the challenges a student faces upon graduating from college and entering the real world. Many of Levine’s ideas about who falls victim to this theory seem to be obvious in hindsight, but his discussion of the groups is new and honest. For instance, he argues that a large portion of these unready adults are the idols, such as athletes, who have been praised too much in their early years and have not had enough struggles in life to prepare them (35). Faculty and staff at all levels deal with these students daily, but Levine offers a new look at how too much success can harm a student. Mixed throughout each chapter are anonymous examples from the author’s own patients.

Part two of the text goes in to detail on how one can become work-life ready, including the four stages of the growth process. It is through the bad examples of those who are unready that one can learn how best to prepare for these difficult years. One way, Levine argues, to best prepare a student for this time is to teach him/her to self-launch. Another way to help the student is to find his/her motivation. As Levine states, “numerous teenagers and young adults are sapped of motivation out of a fear of failure” (113). Kids need cheering squads so they feel brave enough to be motivated. This section demonstrates yet another good quality of this text - Levine’s work is applicable for teachers, parents, staff, and for students.

The final part of the book explains the role the parents, educators, adolescents, and current startup adults play in the effort to prevent work-life unreadiness. Ready or Not, Here Life Comes takes a more hands-off approach for the parents. Levine states, “kids need priming and personal experience to handle the dilemmas and the glitches of life … they have to become resilient in the face of setbacks” (202). Each chapter within this section addresses a different readership, parents or educators. Educators, Levine says, need to prepare students to understand expectations. The text even suggests using case studies to put students in a real-life scenario to better prepare them.

The final chapter of the book is fitting, as it is a description of the role of the startup adult. It is, after all, ultimately the student’s responsibility to be ready. Much of this chapter, and the book as a whole, focuses on reasonable expectations and dealing with failure. Levine says that startup adults cannot let themselves feel downtrodden, but need to think of their current work as part of a cycle. They need to understand that “the twenty-something years aren’t supposed to be a consistent high” (256). Levine concludes by offering these adults some practical, sound advice about who to take advice from and how to handle the beginning years of one’s work life.

Ready or Not, Here Life Comes, in my opinion, is best suited for educators and parents. While the material within the book is helpful to students, I doubt students would be likely to pick up Levine’s text and complete it. As a startup adult myself, I found the book incredibly helpful and reassuring. Often, startup adults feel they are the only ones going through the challenges of first finding a job and then working in the new environment. I especially enjoyed the final section that addressed work life as more of a process and less an immediate reward for attending college.

Levine provides many examples from his own work and offers sound and practical advice on how to deal with unreadiness, throughout every stage of the process, from birth to the startup years. Not only does he discuss how to prevent this unreadiness, he also explains to the reader what to do if he/she is dealing with this unreadiness at the time.

While Levine’s ideas apply to all students, I feel that many students with disabilities especially fall within the category of work-life unreadiness because of the lack of real-life preparation they often receive. Students with disabilities, in many cases, are not self-advocates until college, and even then it is a struggle for many. For this reason, they are not always prepared to face the real world without an advocate. Ready or Not, Here Life Comes is especially useful for the parent, educator and advisor working with a student with a disability.
Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability

Author Guidelines

The Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability welcomes manuscript submissions that are of an innovative nature and relevant to the theory and practice of providing postsecondary support services to students with disabilities. Manuscripts must be submitted electronically via e-mail to

Guidelines for authors are as follows:

Manuscripts should demonstrate scholarly excellence in at least one of the following categories:

• Research: Reports original quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method research

• Integration: Integrates research of others in a meaningful way; compares or contrasts theories; critiques results; and/or provides context for future exploration.

• Innovation: Proposes innovation of theory, approach, or process of service delivery based on reviews of the literature and research

• Policy Analysis: Provides analysis, critique and implications of public policy, statutes, regulation, and litigation.


All manuscripts must be prepared according to APA format as described in The Publication Manual (5th ed.), American Psychological Association, 2001. For information on changes in the fifth edition, see For responses to frequently asked questions about APA style, consult the APA web site at

• Manuscripts should not exceed 20-25 pages.

• Authors should use terminology that emphasizes the individual first and the disability second (see pages 63-65 of APA Manual). Authors should also avoid the use of sexist language and the generic masculine pronoun.

• Manuscripts should have a title page that provides the names and affiliations of all authors and the address of the principal author. (Authors should refrain from entering their names on pages of the manuscript.)

• An abstract of 100-150 words should accompany all manuscripts. Abstracts must be double-spaced on a separate page.

• A cover letter should indicate whether or not the manuscript has been published or submitted elsewhere for consideration of publication.

Please note:

• Do not send original artwork during the manuscript review process; it will be requested upon article acceptance.

Manuscripts must be submitted as email attachments in either Microsoft Word or .RTF format to
Upon acceptance for publication

For manuscripts that are accepted for publication, the following items must be provided to the Executive Editor:

• An electronic copy of the final manuscript as an email attachment.

• A 40-50 word bibliographic description for each author.

• A signed and completed Copyright Transfer form.
Manuscript submissions by AHEAD members are especially welcome. The JPED reserves the right to edit all material for space and style. Authors will be notified of changes.
Practice Brief Manuscripts
JPED will devote a few pages of future general issues to a new Practice Brief Section to expand the usefulness of JPED papers to a larger audience. Practice Briefs will consist of good practical strategies and programs used to support postsecondary students with disabilities. The body of the Practice Brief papers will be no more than four typed pages (excluding title page, abstract, reference page, Tables, and Figures). The Practice Briefs will not replace the regular research-based JPED papers. They will provide an opportunity for Postsecondary Disability Service staff to share their best practices. To write a Practice Brief for publication consideration, use the following to develop the paper:
• Title page

• Abstract (no more than 60 words)

• Literature Review (no more than two paragraphs, cite references using APA 5th edition style)

• Problem (one paragraph)

• Students and Location Information

• Strategy

• Observed Outcomes

• Implications

• References

• Tables and Figures (if needed)

If any questions, contact the JPED Editor James Martin at 405-325-8951 or e-mail to:
Send your finished papers via e-mail to: for publication consideration. Each Practice Brief will be sent to three postsecondary disability direct service staff for review.

1 We have chosen to use the term “baccalaureate” to refer to what have traditionally been termed four-year institutions. This term reflects a more accurate emphasis on the nature of the institution rather than on the (increasingly inaccurate) time to degree reference.

2 Community colleges tend to serve more minority students and more low-income students. The differences in student populations have significant impact on the culture of these institutions and on the capacity of institution to provide for the needs of the students (Perna, L., 2000; National Center for Educatio n Statistics, 2005).

The NCSPES sample consisted of 650 institutions (246 two-year/less than two-year, and 369 four-year).

3 This study refers to specific editions of these surveys and may not reflect the most current forms: IDEA Section 602 (3)(A)(i), Census 2000, Education Dept./Office of Special, Education Programs 2001, NLTS-2, 2000, NELS 1988, NPSAS 1999-2000, Baccalaureate &, Beyond and the Beginning Postsecondary Student Longitudinal Studies 2000, Harris Poll/National Organization on Disability 2000, and the CIRP 2000. However, the lack of ADA compatibility in these editions highlights a is indicative of an existing challenge for researchers to address the diversity of definitions in use.

This is an issue across the educational system. The Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Illinois State Board of Education, and the Illinois Community College Board themselves employ varied terminologies. Furthermore, new terms emerge with advances/changes in the medical and mental health fields.

4 Although these challenges are not unique to the population of students with disabilities, they may be exacerbated.

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