Special Needs Students: 3 Wisconsin Colleges for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Graduating high school and entering the “real world” is a difficult transition for everyone. Between applying to a four-year university, attending a trade school, or entering the workforce, there are so many options to choose from. For an individual with intellectual or developmental disabilities, another question lingers: What options are available for me after high school? 


Luckily, there are several post-secondary education options available in Wisconsin that provide a supportive environment to those with special needs. When it comes to adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities, the following three colleges are paving the way for students of all abilities to enjoy and thrive in the college experience!

The Cutting Edge Program at Edgewood College was the first program at a four-year college in Wisconsin to offer a fully-inclusive college experience for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Currently supporting 28 students per year, this program offers academics, student housing, social experiences, and internships. After launching in 2007, the Cutting Edge Program has since expanded to include a Pre-College and Alumni Program.

As the nation’s leading post-secondary school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Shepherds College offers three immersive occupational majors: culinary arts, horticulture, and technology. Throughout their three years at Shepherds College, students develop greater independence, social skills, and life knowledge. In the words of their mission, “When you learn in an environment designed specifically for you, you thrive.”

AbleLight College is a unique, two-year certificate program offered by a partnership between AbleLight Lutheran Communities and Concordia University Wisconsin. Set in an inclusive university environment, this program is designed to meet the higher educational and independent living needs of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students are given the opportunity to experience the full range of college learning and life, and provided with a model of instruction centered on intellectual, vocational, social, personal, and spiritual growth. AbleLight College students go on to live purposeful lives while being part of a greater community!


Want to learn more about inclusive higher education options and opportunities? Think College is home to a wealth of resources for students, families, and professionals—including a national database of post-secondary education options for students with disabilities. 


Your Journey Begins at Covey


Covey is a nonprofit organization that provides an ecosystem geared toward fostering personal growth for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Located in Appleton and Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Covey is proud to offer numerous programs and activities for participants to develop daily living skills and grow independence. 


From social outings, to personalized day services, to volunteering in the community, there’s always something going on at Covey! We love to watch our participants grow, which is why we’re happy to support them when making big life decisions—like choosing to go to college. 

At Covey, we’re more than willing to help our participants find opportunities on their journey to greater independence! For more information, visit our website or contact us as info@covey.org.