IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are very different, leading to miscommunication between college and high school staff who have studied only the statues applying to their institution. For example, in high school, a student classified as learning disabled in a specific area (i.e., reading comprehension), may also receive special services in another area (i.e., math).  In college, a student is only eligible to receive accommodations that are directly associated with the specific identified disability.  In other words, accommodations listed in individual education plans (IEPs) developed at a high school are not binding on a college or university.

Differences Between High School and College

High School College
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Civil Rights Restoration Act

  • Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Civil Rights Restoration Act
Responsibilities of High Schools Responsibilities of Colleges
  • Identify students with disabilities
  • Provide assessment of learning disabilities
  • Classify disabilities according to specified diagnostic categories
  • Involve parents or guardians in placement decisions
  • Provide certain nonacademic services
  • Place students in programs where they can benefit (in any way) by placement committee with parent participation and approval
  • Structure a large part of the student's weekly schedule
  • Modify educational programs
  • Prepare Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs)
  • Provide a free and appropriate education
  • Provide appropriate services by school nurse or health service
  • Protect a student's right to privacy and confidentiality
  • Provide access to programs and services
  • Inform students of office location and procedures for requesting accommodations
  • Accept and evaluate verifying documentation
  • Determine (via documentation) that an impairment causes a substantial limitation on a major life activity
  • Determine for students who are otherwise qualified for participation in the program or service whether a reasonable accommodation is possible
  • Make reasonable accommodations for students who meet the above criteria
  • Provide reasonable access to program and service choices equal to those available to general public
  • Suggest reasonable adjustments in teaching methods that do not alter the essential content of a course or program
  • Assure that off-campus and contracted program facilities also comply with Section 504 (Subpart E) and ADA
  • Inform students of their rights and responsibilities
Colleges are not required to:
  • Reduce or waive any of the essential requirements of a course or program
  • Conduct testing and assessment of learning, psychological, or medical disabilities
  • Provide personal attendants
  • Provide personal or private tutors (but tutoring services normally available to persons without disabilities must be accessible to persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified for those services)
  • Prepare "Individual Education Plans" (IEPs)