RISE Act – The Respond, Innovate, Support, and Empower Act of 2016 (Bill S.2203)
Students living with a broad range of disabilities are enrolling at 4-year institutions more than ever before, but not all are completing their education. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, students with learning disabilities (LD) enrolled at 4-year colleges or universities are completing their degrees at a rate of only 45%. For their non-disabled peers, the rate of completion for a 4-year degree currently stands at 53%. There are multiple factors that could be contributing to this rate. A new bill, The Respond, Innovate, Support, and Empower Act – or RISE Act, was introduced in the Senate on December 7, 2016 by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA). This bill seeks to remove some of the most common barriers faced by students, and their families s, by requiring 4-year colleges and universities to adopt more transparent policies for their disability services – making it easier for students to obtain accommodations, services, and the supports they need throughout their college experience.
The RISE Act would amend the Higher Education Act (HEA) to clarify the types of documentation institutions of higher education must accept from students who are enrolling who have a disability. This would allow students to submit the same form(s)of documentation for proof of disability as they have done throughout their K-12 education. As stated in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, sufficient documentation for showing a student’s disability includes:
- Previous documentation of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), including plans that may be both current and out-of-date;
- Documentation of a 504 Education Plan;
- Private school documentation of services;
- A plan or record of disability from another institution of higher learning
In addition, the RISE Act would authorize $10 million in funds from the National Center for Information and Technical Support for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities (an already existing program under the HEOA). The funds would go towards helping to better equip professors, teachers, and other facility and staff at colleges and universities to meet the growing needs of students with disabilities, including providing training, strategies, and help with providing accommodations. The RISE Act would also require all institutions of higher learning to adopt transparent policies regarding their disability services, and require them to widely share and disseminate that information to parents and families.