Skip Navigation
small NCES header image
An Institutional Perspective on Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education
NCES 1999046
August 1999

Records about Students with Disabilities

This section provides information about institutional recordkeeping concerning students with disabilities. OSERS will use this information to help them assess the feasibility of collecting information from institutions about students with disabilities as part of existing ED data collections. Institutions that enrolled any students with disabilities in 1996-97 or 1997-98 were asked how the records about students with disabilities were maintained, what information was currently contained in the records, and the ease with which information not currently in the records could be added or merged to the records. While some institutions may have multiple recordkeeping systems about students with disabilities, such as paper files in the disability support services office and data elements about student disabilities on the general student record system, institutions were asked to respond about the record system that they used to prepare the counts of students with disabilities given in the questionnaire.

How Records about Students with Disabilities Are Maintained

Discussions with institutions during survey development indicated that there were a number of different ways in which institutions might maintain their records about students with disabilities.14 Records could be maintained in a computerized database as part of the general student record system and be accessible to various institutional offices, such as the registrar or the Dean of Students. Records could also be part of the general student record system but only be accessible to the office or person responsible for providing support services to students with disabilities. This might be handled through having data elements on the file that refer to students with disabilities appear in a code that is not known by other offices at the institution, or by protecting access to the records on students with disabilities with a password. Records could also be maintained in a separate computerized database by the office or person responsible for providing support services to students with disabilities. Such databases might use commercially available software, such as AbleAid, or may be developed by the institution, and may or may not be able to be linked with other databases maintained by the institution, such as the general student record system. Records could also be maintained only in paper files by the office or person responsible for providing support services to students with disabilities. Some institutions, particularly if they have a very small number of students with disabilities, may maintain no formal records about students with disabilities.

Half of the institutions reported that their records about students with disabilities are maintained only in paper files by the office or person responsible for providing support services to students with disabilities, and 20 percent indicated that the records are maintained in a separate computerized database by the disability support services office or coordinator (table 16). Thus, the majority of records about students with disabilities are maintained by the office or person responsible for providing support services to these students. Records are maintained in a computerized database as part of the general student record system and are accessible to various institutional offices at 13 percent of the institutions, and are part of the general student record system but accessible only to the disability support services office or coordinator at 8 percent of the institutions. Nine percent of the institutions reported that they maintained no formal records about students with disabilities. Since only about a fifth of institutions maintain their records as part of the general student record system, it is unlikely that reporting about students with disabilities could be easily integrated into existing U.S. Department of Education data collections, such as the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, which rely on the general student record system for information.

How records about students with disabilities are maintained varied by institutional type (table 16). For example, more public 4-year than other types of institutions indicated that records are maintained in a separate computerized database by the disability support services office or coordinator, and more private 4-year than other types of institutions reported that records are maintained only in paper files. About a third of private 2-year institutions, compared with 10 percent or fewer of the other types of institutions, indicated that they maintained no formal records about students with disabilities. There was also some variation in recordkeeping by institutional size. For example, about half of small and medium institutions reported that records are maintained only in paper files, compared with 22 percent of large institutions. Large institutions were more likely than medium institutions, which were more likely than small institutions, to indicate that records are maintained in a separate computerized database by the disability support services office or coordinator.

Variables Contained on the Records about Students with Disabilities

Institutions were asked to indicate whether the records about students with disabilities that they used to provide the counts in the questionnaire currently contained certain variables. For any variable not currently on the records, institutions were asked to indicate whether the variable (1) could be obtained from intake questionnaires or other institutional records or databases and easily added/merged to the records for students with disabilities, (2) could be obtained and added/merged to the records, but it would be a difficult and/or time-consuming process, or (3) could not be added/merged to the records. It is important to keep in mind that the records being referred to by half of the institutions are paper files maintained by the disability support services office or coordinator (see table 16).

About three-quarters of the institutions that maintain formal records about students with disabilities indicated that their records currently contained information about level (undergraduate/ graduate), and about two-thirds indicated that the records contained information about sex, age or date of birth, and major field of study/program (table 17). Attendance status (full or part time) was included by 59 percent of the institutions, race/ethnicity by 49 percent, and certificates or degrees awarded by 45 percent of the institutions. About a third of the institutions included information about whether a student receives financial aid. There was some variation by institutional type in which variables were included on the records. For example, public 2- year institutions were more likely than public or private 4-year institutions to include information about race/ethnicity, financial aid, and certificates or degrees awarded by the institution. This may be because public 2-year institutions were more likely than public or private 4-year institutions to maintain their records about students with disabilities as part of the general student record system (see table 16), and the general student record system often contains this type of information about students. Information not currently contained in the records about students with disabilities could be added or merged to the records by almost all the institutions without the information on their records, and most indicated that the information could be added easily ( table 17). Again, it is important to keep in mind that half the institutions maintain records only in paper files kept by the disability support services office or coordinator. Adding information to paper files is generally not a difficult task for institutions.


14 The way in which an institution maintains these records must be consistent with confidentiality requirements.

Top

 


Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey

or

No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.