Higher Education

Find information on key laws and resources for Texans with disabilities looking to move into higher education. This page provides information on both resources and contacts that can help when looking for higher education opportunities in the state. Additionally, this page includes a summary of laws by topic that may impact higher education. This section is not intended to be used for legal advice.

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State and Federal Law

Tests and Standards (Texas Education Code 51.336)

  • An institution of higher education can refer a student to developmental coursework, including basic academic skills education, considered necessary to assist in the student's readiness to perform freshman-level academic classes.
  • The institution of higher education requiring a student to enroll in developmental coursework must offer a range of classes, including online options, or instructional support that includes the integration of technology to address the particular needs of the student.
  • Each institution of higher education must develop and implement developmental education using a model under which a student concurrently enrolls in a developmental education course and a freshman-level course in the same subject area.
  • An institution of higher education must base developmental coursework on research-based best practices that include:
    • assessment;
    • differentiated placement and instruction;
    • faculty development;
    • support services;
    • program evaluation;
    • integration of technology with an emphasis on instructional support programs;
    • non-course-based developmental education interventions; and
    • pairing of developmental education courses with credit-bearing courses.
  • To allow a student to complete any necessary developmental coursework in the most efficient and cost-effective way, institutions of higher education must offer various types of developmental coursework that address readiness to perform college coursework for which credit may be earned may include:
    • course-based programs;
    • non-course-based programs, such as advising programs;
    • module format programs;
    • competency-based education programs;
    • basic academic skills education, if applicable to the student; and
    • programs under which the student is pairing or taking concurrently a developmental education course and another course in the same subject area.

Textbooks (Texas Education Code 51.971)

Instructional material for blind, visually impaired students and students with dyslexia:

  • A blind or visually impaired student is any student whose visual acuity is impaired to the extent that they are unable to read the print in the standard instructional material used in a school course.
  • Dyslexia means a condition considered to be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • Special instructional material includes Braille, large print, audio format, digital text, or any other medium or any apparatus that conveys information to or otherwise contributes to the learning process of a blind or visually impaired student or a student with dyslexia. This applies only to instructional material that is:
    • written and published primarily for postsecondary instruction of students; and
    • required or essential for a student's success in a course at an institution of higher education. 
  • To assist the institution in producing special instructional material, a publisher or manufacturer provides a copy in an electronic format of the material to the institution. 
  • A request made by an institution of higher education must:
    • certify that for each blind or visually impaired student or student with dyslexia who will use the specialized instructional material either the institution or the student has purchased a printed copy of the instructional material; and
    • be signed by the person at the institution with primary responsibility for services for students with disabilities.
  • A publisher or manufacturer may require that a request include a signed statement in which the student agrees:
    • to use the requested electronic copy and related special instructional material only for their own educational purposes; and
    • not to copy or otherwise distribute the requested electronic copy or the instructional material. 
  • Each electronic copy of instructional material must:
    • be in a format that:
      • contains all of the information that is in the instructional material, including any text, sidebar, table of contents, chapter headings, chapter subheadings, footnotes, index, glossary, and bibliography, and 
      • is compatible with commonly used Braille translation and speech synthesis software; and
    • include any correction or revision available at the time the electronic copy is provided.
  • If the publisher or manufacturer and the institution of higher education are not able to agree on a format, the publisher or manufacturer, will provide the electronic copy of the instructional material in a format that can be read by a word processing application and that contains as much of the material specified as is practicable.
  • The Texas Higher Education coordinating board (THECB) may impose a reasonable administrative penalty, not to exceed $250 per violation, against a publisher or manufacturer that knowingly violates this. 

The THECB adopted, in consultation with an advocacy organization for persons who are blind or visually impaired, an advocacy organization for persons with dyslexia, representatives from one or more instructional material publishing companies or publishing associations, and institutions of higher education, rules for administering this section (19 Tex. Administrative Code RULE §4.206 (2007)).

American Sign Language (ASL) (Texas Education Code 51.303)

  • Any state college or university offering a fully accredited program for teachers of the deaf may offer a three-hour elective course in ASL.
  • ASL is recognized as a language, and any state institute of higher education may offer an elective course in this subject area. A student is entitled to count credit received for a course in ASL toward satisfaction of a foreign language requirement.

Teaching Obligation (Texas Education Code, Section 56.357)

Teach for Texas alternative certification assistance program:

  • The THECB established a program under which grants are awarded to assist persons seeking educator certification through alternative educator certification programs
  • To be eligible for a grant under the program, a person must:
    • have received a baccalaureate degree from an eligible institution of higher education or an accredited out-of-state institution; and
    • enroll in an alternative educator certification program and satisfy either of the following conditions:
      • be seeking educator certification in a teaching field certified by the commissioner of education as experiencing a critical shortage and agree to teach for five years in a public school; or
      • agree to teach for five years in a public school in a community, which is not required to be specifically designated by the commissioner of education as experiencing a critical shortage of teachers.
  • In selecting applicants to receive grants under the program, the THECB will consider:
    • the financial resources of an applicant;
    • the efficient use of the money available for grants;
    • the opportunity of applicants from all regions of this state to receive grants; and
    • any other factor the THECB considers appropriate to further the purposes of the program.
  • The amount of a grant under the program is equal to two times the current amount of a TEXAS grant for a student enrolled in a general academic teaching institution. The THECB may pay the amount of the grant in installments during the period in which the person is enrolled in the alternative educator certification program.
  • The person must begin fulfilling their teaching obligation not later than the 18th month after they complete the alternative educator certification program, unless the THECB grants them additional time to begin fulfilling the teaching obligation. The person must complete their teaching obligation not later than the sixth year after the starting date.
  • The THECB requires a person who receives a grant to sign a promissory note acknowledging the conditional nature of the grant and promising to repay the amount of the grant plus applicable interest and reasonable collection costs if the person does not satisfy the applicable conditions of the grant.

Tuition and Fee Exemptions for Public Institutions of Higher Education (Texas Education Code 54.364, 51.351)

For students who are blind or deaf:

  • "Tuition fees" includes all dues, fees, and enrollment charges for which exemptions may be lawfully made, including fees for correspondence courses, general deposit fees, and student services fees, but does not include fees or charges for lodging, board, or clothing.
  • A Texas resident who is deaf or blind is entitled to exemption from the payment of tuition fees at any institution of higher education utilizing public funds if the person presents:
    • a certification that they are blind or deaf in a written statement;
    • a written statement of purpose indicating the certificate or degree program to be pursued or the professional enhancement from the course of study for that certificate or degree program;
    • a high school diploma or its equivalent;
    • a letter of recommendation from the principal of the high school attended by the individual who is deaf or blind, a public official, or some other responsible person who knows the deaf or blind individual and is willing to serve as a reference; and
    • proof that the person meets all other entrance requirements of the institution.
  • The governing board of an institution can establish special entrance requirements to fit the circumstances of deaf and blind persons.
  • A person is required to present the certification at the time they initially enroll at an institution of higher education in the course of study designated by the person. The certification is valid for each semester that the person enrolls at that institution in the designated course of study.
  • A person who qualifies for an exemption is entitled to it for each course in which they enrolled at an institution of higher education.

For children of disabled firefighters and law enforcement officers:

  • "Eligible firefighter or law enforcement officer" means:
    • a full-paid or volunteer firefighter;
    • a full-paid or volunteer municipal, county, or state peace officer, including a game warden; or
    • a custodial officer of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
  • "Disability" means inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or to be of long-continued and indefinite duration. A person is not considered to be under a disability unless they provide any proof of the existence of the disability.
  • The governing board of each institution of higher education will exempt from the payment of all dues, fees, and charges any person whose parent is an eligible firefighter or law enforcement officer who has suffered an injury, resulting in death or disability, sustained in the line of duty. The exemption does not apply to general deposits or to fees or charges for lodging, board, or clothing.
  • A person is not entitled to the exemption if they:
    • do not apply initially for the exemption before the date:
      • they become 21 years of age, or
      • they become 22 years of age, if they are eligible to participate in a school district's special education program;
    • does not meet all entrance requirements of the institution; or
    • does not maintain a scholastic average sufficient to remain in good standing.
  • A person will receive an exemption only for the first 120 undergraduate semester credit hours for which they register
  • A person is not entitled to an exemption for any term or semester they begin after the date they turn 26 years of age.
  • The head of the department in which the eligible firefighter or law enforcement officer volunteered or was employed at the time they sustained the injury must file a certificate with the THECB.

Inventory of post-secondary education programs and services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) (Texas Education Code 61.0663)

  • The THECB will maintain an inventory of all postsecondary educational programs and services provided for individuals with IDD by institutions of higher education.
  • The THECB will:
    • post the inventory on their website in an easily identifiable and accessible location;
    • submit the inventory to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for inclusion in the transition and employment guide; and
    • update the inventory at least annually.

Collection and study of data on participation of individuals with IDD in higher education (Texas Education Code 61.0664)

  • The THECB collects and maintains data relating to:
    • undergraduate and graduate level participation of individuals with IDD at institutions of higher education, including data regarding applications for admission, admissions, retention, graduation, and professional licensing; and
    • participation of individuals with IDD enrolled in a workforce education program, including a workforce continuing education program,, including data regarding retention, graduation, and professional licensing.

Access to higher education for individuals with IDD advisory council (Texas Education Code 61.06641)

  • The THECB, with the assistance of the advisory council,:
    • periodically reviews the policies and practices that increase access to higher education opportunities for persons with IDD; and
    • distributes educational outreach materials developed by the advisory council to increase awareness regarding postsecondary opportunities for persons with IDD.
  • The advisory council on postsecondary education for persons with IDD was establish by the THECB to advise them on policies and practices to improve postsecondary education opportunities.
  • The advisory council:
    • studies the accessibility of higher education for persons with IDD;
    • provides advice regarding resolving barriers to accessing higher education for persons with IDD; and
    • identifies, evaluates, and develops recommendations to address barriers to accessing higher education for persons with IDD who are or have been in the foster care system and any data collection issues in relation to those persons.

The Rehabilitation Act, Section 504

The law prohibits discrimination in any program or activity receiving federal funds of $2,500 or more per year. Financial assistance may be in the form of grants, contracts, or general assistance. Such organizations are required to make reasonable modifications in settings and facilities to increase accessibility to persons with disabilities. These organizations are required to follow nondiscrimination policies for workers and participants with disabilities.

Most universities (both public and private) receive federal funds through grants and other contracts. Universities have been required to follow the legislative mandates for over 25 years. Section 504 focuses on providing equal opportunity to qualified persons with disabilities. Subpart E of the Act requires an institution to be prepared to make reasonable academic adjustments and accommodations to allow students with disabilities full participation in the same programs and activities available to students without disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA further reinforces The Rehabilitation Act statutes. Under Title II, postsecondary institutions may not discriminate against students with disabilities and they are obligated to offer educational programs in accessible buildings and offer related accessible services (e.g., classroom instruction, residence life, food service, and parking).

Title III provides that individuals with disabilities shall benefit from full and equal enjoyment of all goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation include: museums, hotels, professional offices, restaurants, schools (including classrooms and residence halls), sport complexes, and theaters.