East Tennessee State University was recently ranked high among higher education institutions for students with disabilities, according to rankings from College Consensus.
The publication ranked ETSU 24th among the 30 Best Colleges for Students With Learning Disabilities for its Learning Support Program offered through ETSU’s University Advisement Center.
According to the university, the program provides additional guidance for students whose test scores reflect an academic need and students with various disabilities.
Stacy Cummings-Onks, director of the University Advisement Center and the Learning Support Program, said she was happy to hear about ETSU’s ranking. She said her program has constantly updated itself since the 1980s to meet the needs of neurodivergent students and students with disabilities.
“I think we work really hard to support our students,” she said. “Every year, we look at everything and work with faculty, departments, advisers, staff and support staff to upgrade it and update it based on the best practices in serving students.
“That continual process of evaluation and upgrading how we deliver the program contributes to its success,” she continued. “You can’t just have a static program and expect it to work year after year.”
College Consensus said programs such as these offer tools that bring out the best aspects of learning differences and cater to invisible disabilities like ADHD, dyslexia and autism spectrum disorder prevalent on college campuses.
The publication said ETSU ranks among schools that take neurodiversity seriously and celebrate the ways that students learn differently. The rankings combined the results of college ranking publishers like U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, Money and others with student reviews.
Cummings-Onks said the program’s positive feedback is partly due to the way in which faculty and staff coordinate with each other to help students learn the way they can.
“You have the classroom instructor, then you have the academic adviser assigned to the course and then you have supplemental instruction that runs through our Center for Academic Achievement. That all partners to make this a whole system of support,” she said. “I feel like no one way to teach someone is ‘the way,’ so having these kinds of programs offer students multiple ways of learning and pathways to get it down to where they can learn.”
ETSU Neurodiversity Club President and founder Courtney Johnson, a sociology and family studies student, said that while there’s always work to be done to increase accessibility for students with disabilities, the university’s programs have been “great for supporting neurodivergent students.”
“There’s the Student Support Services for students who qualify if they’re low income, a first-generation college student or have a disability — where they can get free tutoring, counseling and other services — which is a good option for students who are neurodivergent and adjusting to life on campus. Disability Services is a given of course, and there’s also the new Access program that ETSU has just started up specifically for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” she said.