Thoughts on HS/college degree completed with accommodations

I do not desire to advance a particular position, but instead seek input in trying to figure out how I perceive something I encounter regularly in my job.

My work involves people who claim they are disabled. Some of those people are attending/have attended college. They generally present evidence of accommodations they are offered for physical and/or mental-emotional limitations. Similarly, HS records will contain IEPs.

I have 2 basic questions.

  1. Does a college degree mean something specific? Does it attest to a certain level of accomplishment that a prospective employer can rely on? Or does/should a degree completed with accommodations essentially bear an asterisk - similar to some HSs which confer certificates of completion instead of diplomas?

  2. Doe the ability to successfully complete college coursework with adequate attendance/grades suggest anything WRT that individual’s ability to perform less demanding work? IMO, college-level work suggests some degree of complexity and requires some degree of perseverance. This impression is further enhanced when the student is able to drive themself to/from school. While a student who graduates with the assistance of accommodations (and drives on pubic roads w/o incident) may not be able to complete full-time “professional” work as might generally be expected of a college grad, could they nevertheless be expected to perform work which is less demanding physically and mentally. Say - you obtain a nursing degree. Maybe you can’t really do all the demands of an RN, but you might be able to perform less demanding/varied jobs in the healthcare field.

Yes, there are countless gradations of severity and various types of impairments. And no, my employer’s policy does not offer clear guidance as how to consider this.

I feel many may perceive me as less compassionate and understanding than I ought to be towards people situated differently than I, and I welcome any input the millions could offer. TIA.

Nope. Aside from the disability angle I know college graduates who are functionally illiterate or at least have a reading comprehension so low they might as well be. There are also many colleges that have no academic rigor and graduating from them only means you have the skills to work at taco bell (show up most days mostly sober).

I don’t think so. In most cases a college degree should qualify for an office job synthesizing data into reports or presentations but there is a big difference between writing a report or paper for a class you only have to attend 3 hours per week vs writing it sitting in an office with other people 40 hours per week.

I think the general office environment is terrible for productivity and health. It wouldn’t surprise me if people who are barely making it in an environment they control would have trouble in an environment controlled by others. To speak a little about disabilities which I know little someone who needs accommodation due to focus issues could have problems when there are people walking by their cube and taking in the next cube over and setting the thermostat too hot or too cold or cooking fish in the microwave. I could see these problems rising to an inability to do office job while being unqualified for other jobs.

A friend of mine once who was in management for most of his career once told me something I largely agree with about college degrees–“A college degree tells me you were able to keep your life together enough to finish a college degree.” Baseline, it means little more than that. Lots of college graduates will never be good employees in their chosen field, and many might even be unemployable in their chosen field.

Requiring a college degree for a job is essentially a “first step filter”, and for some jobs there’s even professional requirements around it, but that’s really all it can be. It should not just be assumed a person has the skills and aptitudes you need simply because they have a degree. If you’re hiring any employee fresh out of college, I don’t care the degree program or the individual, you their first employer are taking on some of the cost and effort of “training them up” to be productive members of the workforce. Some companies / employers are comfortable with that, and structure around it (i.e. they have internship programs, entry level positions that pay less for this reason etc etc.)

Now someone who received a disability accommodation in college, it’ll depend of course on the job and what accommodations they received. If someone completed a geology program, and wants to be a field geologist (a job that requires lots of traveling around outside on uneven terrain), but is paralyzed from the waist down, they are simply not going to be able to do the job. They may academically and intellectually possess the skills, but they just can’t perform the physical part of the work.

If they have a learning disability that makes it so they had to receive accommodations in testing, some such disabilities are less important in terms of tasks commonly encountered in the work force, but some could make the person not a suitable employee. As a company / employer when it comes to prospective employees with disabilities it’s about finding if you can reasonably accommodate their disability, there is no require that you accommodate a disability that you can’t reasonably accommodate, and some accommodations just aren’t feasible or reasonable.

So if someone takes a full load of in person classes, drives to and from classes, has a perfect attendance, and compiles an A-B GPA (in a major more demanding than basket-weaving), that does not suggest that someone could consistently attend and perform relatively undemanding, unstressful, even unskilled work? Maybe in the mailroom of the office? Or cleaning offices at night?

I guess you’re assuming no decline in ability since college. There are tons of people who could once function at a higher level than they can now.

If the person says, “I’ve always been this way” and was able to perform successfully at college as you describe, then yes, I think there is probably some work they could do. However, I’d want to hear more from them about how they think they were able to achieve the degree despite their disability.

Majority of folk I’m dealing with are either currently enrolled or recent grads.

Well, good for them for the effort. One thing to consider, would someone work so hard to get a degree and then lie about their limitations just to collect SSDI benefits? Seems possible but unlikely. More likely is they really want to succeed in the workforce but for some reason they can’t.

Almost as much as the school attendance, I’m often taken aback by the driving. If someone claims they cannot handle the stress/concentration/attention required of a very simple, repetitive work, I find that incongruous with the ability to drive on busy roads, in rush hours, in varying weather conditions, avoiding accidents and making route adjustments (albeit w/ navigation assistance) …

I’d wager those activities use two very different brain functions, but I’m not a neuroscientist. And, more the point, I think - neither are you. Why don’t you leave it up to the professionals who work with students who have disabilities to determine what they can and cannot handle? Or, you know, the students themselves?

I withdrew twice from undergrad due to psychological issues and had to petition the board for a retroactive medical withdrawal - a process that took a full academic year - before I could resume school. I received assistance from Services for Students with Disabilities that enabled me to receive full financial aid while working at a reduced course load. That whole process was a long, drawn-out tangle of red tape and persistence that supersedes the basic skills typically learned in college. You can be reasonably assured that if a student asked for accommodations, they were highly motivated not only to seek evaluation and services and hack through all that red tape, but to complete school despite their setbacks. It requires long-term planning, patience and persistence.

As for me, I finished out with a 3.6 GPA (straight As my final year) and a slew of Ws on my transcript. I went on to complete a Masters degree at a prestigious university with no interruptions or special accommodations. My employment history is a bit scattershot. I have failed in some settings and flourished in others. I’m currently in a highly successful part-time position at a local nonprofit, bringing in around $1,000,000 per year in grant funding. I’m not making much money, but I am for sure doing real, complex work. Today I wrote a $75,000 grant in six hours because I had no choice. I don’t know if I would thrive in a full-time setting these days, but I haven’t had to try. What makes my job work is that, most of the time, I set my own schedule, I go into the office or work from home depending on what feels doable, and I can write grants anytime or anywhere I feel able.

The issue with disability is that it’s often treated as an all-or-nothing prospect, when the reality is far messier. When someone tells you, “I can do X, but not Y” - believe them!

What she said.

Your post suggests that you’re a bit skeptical of what they’re telling you. If these people are providing you with specific evidence, they aren’t claiming anything. They’re presenting facts to you.

Students with IEPs are often provided with transitional services and education towards the end of their high school careers, and that involves how to approach a potential employer. They’re taught how to discuss their accommodations, or given copies that they can give to an employer.

Why? Because they’re different, that’s why.* They don’t operate the same way you do. They don’t operate the same way as other ESE students.

They’re definitely not doing it because they’re excited to share with you why they might be a less desirable hire. They’re doing it to give you an up-front understanding of where their strengths and weaknesses lie. They’re giving you the benefit of 13+ years of analyses, evaluations, meetings, adjustments, conferences, more adjustments, etc.

If Johnny tells you that he’s good at A but bad at B, holy shit dude, take it at face value. Imagine if every resume came with an in-depth evaluation, backed by years and years of observation, of that kind of thing.

*An IEP doesn’t necessarily mean a student is slow, let alone intellectually disabled. It definitely doesn’t mean they’re trying to get one over on you.

Hello. I’m a human being with many years of experience in a very demanding field. I am a careful, responsible driver. And yet without certain accommodations, I have difficulty handling the attention required of simple, repetitive work.

Final thought, building on some of what I wrote above. Job hunting can be a demoralizing, dehumanizing process. Forced to put yourself on display over and over again in the hopes that someone will give you a shot. Imagine how difficult it must be to take that shit sandwich and add the potential humiliation of presenting an IEP. It would be so much easier, so much safer, to not bring it up at all. To let the diplomas stand on their own. A standard diploma is a standard diploma and there is no way whatsoever to see if the student was provided with accommodations.

It’s brave, is what it is. Brave and forthright. Rather than skepticism, I would gently suggest that you give those applicants a few extra points. I guarantee that you’re getting plenty of other applications from people who were also ESE students but choose not to share it, and figure they’ll just muddle through and be fine.

I believe Mr. Dinsdale works for social security in some fashion reviewing disability applications. He’s not considering hiring these malingers, but has some role in their request for disability benefits.

Bit hard to type from up on my high horse, but I’ll give it a go.

I stand by everything I said, but I suppose it goes in the other direction now. An IEP is not, in and of itself, evidence that a person can’t work. It’s documentation about what that person needs so that they can work.

Yes, it certainly does. If someone graduates with a degree in, say, nursing, it means that they have the knowledge and skills to be a nurse, as determined by (almost always) an industry-wide acceptance of minimum qualifications. The same can be said for a plethora of concentrations, especially in the STEM fields.

College, or at least completing it successfully, also requires a lot of soft skills: organization, time management, outcome-based goal setting and planning, and similar skills that a lot of people don’t learn well in high school. Simply completing a college degree means that a person has the ability to make a plan with a specific goal in mind, determine the needed steps to execute that plan, build a system of support (which almost always includes applying for financial aid, making regular appointments with a advisor, registering for classes during the very brief window that registration is open and classes are available, learning and utilizing prof’s office hours, and building a network of professional contacts), and finally follow through with the steps needed to bring their plan to a successful conclusion.

I’m not sure if you went to college, OP, but if you did surely you know it’s not some Animal House - style idyll of parties, booze, and sex with no obligations. Completing college takes work and lots of it, doubly so if the student is an adult working and / or taking care of a family (especially kids). You don’t earn a degree by partying all noth and sleeping all day. I suppose we could argue the value of a college degree in our modern, increasingly automated economy that still has a vast shortage of blue-collar skilled tradespeople, but that’s a different thread. Successfully completing college is still an incredibly valuable endeavor.

Now, I suppose there are some fly-by-night diploma mills that will print you a diploma and a set of transcripts in exchange for a hefty fee, but any regionally accredited college or university has a strict curriculum that must be adhered to – that’s the foundation of reciprocal credit acceptance.

As I’m sure you can guess, I strongly disagree. There are, perhaps, some two-year applied science degrees that do not have significant writing or math requirements, but to make a blanket claim like this is… wrong. Those degrees would still require a well-defined level of academic rigor. I don’t doubt there are some college grads who are functionally illiterate – I could point out one nationally known example right now – but those are the outliers. Certainly anyone who has a B.A or B.S had to do a significant amount of reading and writing in college. This doesn’t mean that every single person with a bachelors can read well, but it still implies what I said above: they have (or had, anyway) the ability to make a long-term plan involving many disparate elements required for success and successfully executed that plan.

This I agree with, but like @Spice_Weasel said above it’s not a binary issue: having a “disability” doesn’t mean that person can’t do all of this or none of that or is completely incapable of being a valuable member of a team. College disability accommodations do not eliminate the formative and summative assessment requirements but rather provide… well, accommodations for that student to successfully complete those (required) elements of their chosen program. Accommodations such as extended time on exams, private testing rooms, and the use of assistance devices like screen readers are common. Different coursework or a reduced in-class workload is not what “accommodations” means. Someone who has disability accomidations still has to do the work.

Additionally, the need for quiet while doing work, especially under time constraints, is not something that is limited to those who seek accommodations in college. Have we not all worked with someone who gets tense and frustrated under pressure or needs quiet when working on a project of significance? (“Look. I need you to stop talking to me and close the door and leave me alone until I’m done compiling these reports. I do not care to hear about Brenda’s boyfriend cheating on her and I don’t want a donut from the box that Mike brought in and no, I will not be ordering lunch today I brought my own and I don’t want a coffee refill thank you now go. Away. Now. and let me finish these TSP reports before Lumbergh gets back.”)

Very true. If I was on a hiring committee for a teacher and I had two applicants in front of me: one with a BA in education with a freshly minted teaching credential and Praxis test certs but no in-class experience other than their teaching practicum, and someone older with an MAT with a SPED cert (which is uncommon and valuable to a school district) who hasn’t worked outside the home in a decade, I would likely take the freshly minted teacher even though their credentials aren’t as strong. The MAT/SPED teacher can’t prove to me that they recently had their shit together, while the BA candidate can. And that is very, very important.

The second part is true also because employers recognize that completing a college degree not only means you have to have your shit together but that you have many of the soft skills that I noted earlier to make a good team player. Requiring an applicant to have a college degree – irrelevant of concentration – is a good quick and easy way of beginning to separate the grain from the chaff. Because employers generally are aware that the answer to this question:

Is yes.

I can only speak anecdotally.

Lat year I hired an electrical engineer. A week after he was hired he told me I needed to make accommodations for him because he’s autistic. I didn’t mind, and I felt some empathy for him because we have a daughter who is also autistic.

It didn’t work out. Despite having a 3.6 GPA, he appeared completely clueless on anything related to electrical engineering. As just one example of many, after giving him lots and lots of reading material on how a circuit breaker is used in a circuit, he insisted a circuit breaker should be placed in parallel with the load for DC and in series with the load for AC. This was after giving him a couple weeks to review very basic literature (e.g. Wiki articles) on what a circuit breaker is and how it is used.

And there were other things… he put on gloves and touched a new heat gun to see if it’s hot (yes, it was hot, and the melted plastic is still on it), and he was absolutely obsessed with accessing classified material. Which is not a good obsession when working as an onsite contractor for the Air Force.

I had to let him go after a few months. It was a nightmare trying to get rid of him since he claimed he was being discriminated because of his disability.

I still have no idea how he was able to achieve a 3.6 GPA in electrical engineering.

Did you verify that GPA, or did you just take his word for it?

It bears mentioning to OP that you don’t get an IEP or similar accommodations without evaluation by at least one professional. It’s not like these kids can just claim to have a certain limitation and the school takes their word for it. In my case I had to provide extensive documentation and apply to the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities with the support of the relevant experts, in this case, my psychologist and psychiatrist, who provided an extensive and frankly very personal evaluation. I then had to take that information and petition the Financial Aid department to retain my scholarship, and petition the academic board with more documentation explaining why I left school and how I was going to succeed upon return.

This is not easy stuff, man. It’s probably more work than what you think they are trying to get out of.

A month or so after I hired him, I asked HR to verify that he graduated from X University with a 3.6 GPA in EE. HR said it was true.

I remember he said he needed 8 inches of wire. I looked at the spec for the test, and it said to use 8 AWG wire. He insisted 8 AWG meant the wire needed to be 8 inches long. I then gave him reading material on how wire is sized. He couldn’t comprehend the reading material.

As mentioned, I had no choice but to get rid of him. I should also add HR was NOT helpful in the process. During a Zoom meaning the woman from HR recommended to him that he get a lawyer. Gee, thanks. :roll_eyes:

This man sounds like somebody who had the intellect to do schoolwork, but could not process that knowledge into real life.