504 Plans in College

Understanding 504 Plans: What happens when my kid goes off to college?

It is important for parents to be aware that things change a bit at the college level. At the elementary and secondary levels, the school district is responsible for identifying, evaluating, and providing the appropriate services. At the postsecondary level, on the other hand, colleges have no responsibility to identify disabilities. It is the student’s responsibility to make his or her disability known and to request special accommodations. Once the student or parents have done that, the college should be willing to fulfill the requirements of Section 504.

As parents, you may want to inquire about special accommodations while exploring colleges with your teen in order to help guide their decision based on their specific needs. Once your teen is accepted to the college and you begin the enrollment process, housing applications, etc., you can work with a disabilities coordinator to complete the necessary paperwork. If your teen is living on campus, put in writing in your accommodation plan the need for nutritional data from food services.

Regarding confidentiality: Most colleges will request that parents indicate on a special signed form who needs to know about the student’s disability. In most cases, the Dean of Students, the accommodations coordinator, food services, the RA, and professors need to know. That form does not give them consent to discuss your student’s health issues with other parents, students, or outside personnel who have no need to know why certain accommodations are being made.