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A Majority of College Students with Disabilities Do Not Inform School, New NCES Data Show

April 26, 2022

About one-third of students who did have a disability while attending college informed their college.

WASHINGTON (April 26, 2022)—A majority of college students with disabilities at both 2- and 4-year institutions do not inform their college of their disability, according to Use of Supports among Students with Disabilities and Special Needs in College, a Data Point released today by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

“Academic supports, such as tutoring, visiting writing centers, as well as study groups or office hours can help college students with disabilities succeed,” said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr. “Of students who inform the college of their disability, the majority do receive some form of accommodations, services, or academic support. However, the majority of college students with disabilities do not inform their college, thereby limiting their access to these supports.”

This new analysis by NCES investigates whether students inform colleges of their disabilities or special needs and who receives accommodations or services for them. There is a ‘support gap’ between 2- and 4-year institutions, as students at 4-year colleges reported receiving accommodations at a higher rate than students at 2-year colleges if they did inform their college of a disability.

Use of Supports among Students with Disabilities and Special Needs in College uses data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, a national study of more than 23,000 students who were in ninth grade in 2009. Students answered surveys between 2009 and 2016, and the sample was limited to students who ever reported a disability in grades K-12 and enrolled in college in February 2016. This Data Point also examines whether students use academic support services, seek help, or enroll in remedial courses during college.

Key Findings


  • The majority of students with disabilities who enrolled in college went to a 4-year institution. Sixty-nine percent of students with disabilities went to 4-year colleges and 28 percent went to 2-year colleges.

Informing Colleges of Disability

  • Sixty-five percent of students who ever had a reported disability in earlier years responded that the disability was not present in college.
  • Among students who responded that they did have a disability while attending college, about one-third of students (37 percent) informed their college.
  • At both 4-year and 2-year colleges, between 12 and 13 percent of students informed their college of current disabilities.

Accommodations in College

  • Students at 4-year colleges reported receiving accommodations or services at a higher rate (85 percent) than students at 2-year colleges (57 percent).

Use of College Academic Support

  • Students at 2-year colleges were more likely to take remedial courses compared to students at 4-year colleges. Forty-four percent of students who reported disabilities at 2-year colleges took remedial courses, compared to 21 percent of peers who reported disabilities at 4-year colleges. A difference in remedial coursetaking by college level is also present for students who did not report a disability (43 and 14 percent, respectively, for 2- and 4-year colleges).
  • Students who reported a disability were more likely to use academic services, compared to their peers. Sixty-one percent of students who reported disability received help from a school office or department versus 51 percent of students who did not report a disability.
  • Students who attended 4-year colleges used academic services and requested help at higher rates than students at 2-year colleges. This was true for students with disabilities and students who did not report a disability in college. 


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To learn more about the data used in this report, visit


The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System, is the statistical center of the U.S. Department of Education and the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations. NCES, located within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report complete statistics on the condition of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally.

The High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) is a nationally representative, longitudinal study of approximately 21,000 9th-grade students in 944 schools who will be followed through their secondary and postsecondary years. The study focuses on understanding students’ trajectories from the beginning of high school into postsecondary education, the workforce, and beyond. The HSLS:09 questionnaire is focused on, but not limited to, information on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers. It is designed to provide data on mathematics and science education, the changing high school environment, and postsecondary education. This study features a new student assessment in algebra skills, reasoning, and problem solving and includes surveys of students, their parents, math and science teachers, and school administrators, as well as a new survey of school counselors.

Contact: Josh Delarosa, National Center for Education Statistics,, OR James Elias, Hager Sharp