Propel Program

The Propel Program is a comprehensive college experience for young adults with intellectual developmental disabilities.

  • Enjoy a 2 year, full-time, college experience
  • Complete 16 classes total – 8 per year
  • Attend classes with non-Propel, undergraduate students 75% of the time
  • Supported by academic coaching, undergraduate mentors, and other student support services
  • Earn the Leadership, Employment, and Community Engagement Certificate
  • Live on campus (available but not required)


Students enrolled in Propel attend UMKC for two years, full-time (12 credit hours/semester; fall and spring semesters). Students in Propel participate in college courses with students without intellectual disabilities 60% to 70% of the time. The curriculum includes a focus on the following domains: academic learning; work-based learning and career exploration; social learning; independent living skills; and self-determination. Most students begin in the bridge program while still in high school and then transition to the two-year program.  In addition to full-time coursework, students also have the option of participating in other student activities such as student organizations and service-learning/community engagement.  The program is housed in the UMKC College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology in partnership with UMKC-IHD.

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Students take three different types of courses, depending on their individual interests and the plan of study included in their person-centered plan. All students complete a core group of program courses that focus on college-going, self-determination, and career exploration. Students take part in work-based learning, including internships, as part of the career exploration courses. Students also take or audit elective courses from throughout the university. A third option is program open courses which are taught out of the Propel program but open for other UMKC students to take for credit. Peer mentors and resident assistants are encouraged to take the program open courses to deepen their understanding of disabilities and inclusion. The following table provides an overview of the sequence of credit hours.

Sequence of Credit Hours

Y1 Fall
Y1 Spring
Y2 Fall
Y2 Spring
Program Courses (required)6 credit hours3 credit hours3 credit hours6 credit hours
Program Open Courses (required)6 credit hours3 credit hours3 credit hours
Program Open Courses (elective)6 credit hours6 credit hours6 credit hours
Catalog Courses (elective)6 credit hours6 credit hours6 credit hours
Additional OpportunitiesJob Club
Social Outings
UMKC Student Involvement - Events and Organizations

UMKC Institute for Human Development, College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, and Department of Psychology received grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education to create a high-quality, inclusive, model program for college students with intellectual disabilities.

Going to college can be a transformative experience for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Over 200 colleges – public universities, private colleges/universities, and community colleges – include students with intellectual disabilities on campus. Propel: UMKC’s Program for Self-Determination and Employment will be an academically inclusive postsecondary education program.  The Propel program strategy is to provide a stable, strong foundation for students to live their adult lives in inclusive communities with satisfying employment in a competitive work environment, residential living of their choice, and friends with and without disabilities. This strong foundation will be built through going to college: developing career interests; gaining experience from work-based learning; taking classes with other UMKC students; residential living, and social/recreational opportunities.

Propel provides a two-year credential program that includes student learning outcomes across academic, vocational, social, and independent living domains with a particular emphasis on self-determination and employment. Students completing the Propel program earn the Leadership, Employment, and Community Engagement Certificate which was approved by the Missouri Department of Higher Education in April 2016.  In addition, the project provides a Bridge to College program to prepare high school students with IDD for successful transition to postsecondary education. Through their college experience, Propel students build capacity to set and work toward personal goals; build friendships; live independently; seek competitive employment; use technology; and navigate resources. Their families have increased knowledge of how to support their family member with IDD through college, in finding employment, building self-determination, and supporting their community participation.

The target population is individuals with IDD, especially students of color and students from an economically disadvantaged background in the Kansas City urban core.  The project will serve an estimated 100 students through the Bridge component and 60 students in the two-year program. Participating partners include the UMKC Institute for Human Development (Missouri’s UCEDD), the UMKC College of Arts & Sciences, the UMKC Psychology Department, UMKC Student Affairs, EITAS (the Jackson County DD agency), Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation, three local school districts, and local organizations including the YMCA and EXCEL (a local foundation).

Now accepting applications for the Propel class of 2018.  Visit Admissions!