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Could a $7,500-per-year investment in high schoolers with disabilities save the nation billions over time?

  • Joanna
  • October 24, 2016

With funding made possible by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Vermont will be among the first states to launch a program specifically targeted at raising graduation rates and career readiness for students with disabilities.

The three-year pilot, called the Linking Learning to Careers program, will provide 400 high school students with access to community college courses, mentorship, transportation and work-based learning opportunities. It will also look for evidence of improved postsecondary enrollment and employment.

If successful, organizers are hoping the program could serve as a replicable model for similar efforts nationwide. And that couldn’t be more important in a nation where students with disabilities graduate at rates nearly 20 percent lower than the national average.

If the program doesn’t work, though, the state’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation is going to have some “splainin” to do. That’s because the program’s funding works out to $7,500 per student per year.

If that seems like a lot of money, though, consider this: Due to low employment outcomes and high reliance on benefits, the lifetime societal costs to support an individual with autism involving intellectual disabilities is $2.4 million, with the collective costs to the United States reaching an estimated $236 billion per year, according to a recently published study in JAMA Pediatrics.