Transition from Two-Year to Four-Year Institutions for Students with Disabilities


  • Sheryl Burgstahler
  • Lyla Crawford
  • Joie Acosta



Acquiring a bachelor's degree is prerequisite to many career opportunities. Yet, students with disabilities in two-year colleges are often unsuccessful in making the transition to four-year schools. This study was undertaken to document the concerns of students with disabilities in two-year institutions of higher education as they transfer to four-year schools, the perceptions of faculty and staff members regarding the challenges these students face, and recommended steps that can be taken to improve the postsecondary outcomes of these transfer students. A survey was completed by, and focus groups were conducted with, postsecondary staff members. In addition, college students with disabilities were asked to complete a survey. Students with disabilities reported their concerns to include differences in disabled student services, the cost of programs, skills in self-advocacy, differences in social life, availability of educational accommodations, access to technology, and the transfer process. Postsecondary staff reported some of the challenges faced by transfer students to be adjusting to the differences in academic requirements and support services, having poor study and self-advocacy skills, securing financial support, working through the transfer process, and adjusting to a larger, less personal environment. This study also reports suggestions from postsecondary staff about how two-year and four-year colleges can work separately and together to improve the postsecondary outcomes of transfer students with disabilities.