Why Propel Matters

In keeping with the Coordinating Board for Higher Education’s plan to increase the number of Missourians earning a college degree or certificate, UMKC’s Propel program provides intensive, wrap-around academic, mentoring and career services to ensure its students not only graduate from the two-year program but are also prepared to go immediately to work or complete the post-secondary education needed for their career goals.

In addition, we expect these instructional and support techniques – person-centered planning, peer mentoring, intrusive advising, academic-skill building, and career coaching — will make a significant research-to-practice contribution and can be shared with other Missouri institutions as strategies to raise retention and completion rates for all.

The recently released Coordinating Board’s 2016 “Preparing Missourians to Succeed: A Blueprint for Higher Education” stresses access to higher education for a greater share of Missouri residents as well as a reduction of disparities for students at the state’s colleges and universities. The strategy? Raise completion rates by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender and disability by 50 percent by 2025. UMKC’s Propel can certainly help provide a blueprint for achieving this goal, with its emphasis on practical, learner-centered strategies for student success.

Students applying to Propel will go through a rigorous interview as well as provide references from teachers, counselors and others to show they can be successful at UMKC, that there’s a good person-environment fit. Other federal Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) programs have already demonstrated that students with intellectual/developmental disabilities can be successful in college, increasing their ability to find employment after leaving their program.

In just five years, the TPSID program has supported the creation or expansion of programs at 45 colleges and universities serving 1379 students. Over 70 percent of participating students were involved in career development activities and paid internships. Research has shown that these postsecondary programs for students with ID have had a positive impact on student rates of employment and wages, social networks, self-determination skills, and community living.

Missouri has set a goal for 60 percent of its adults age 24–65 to have a two- or four-year degree or career or technical certificate by 2025. This goal corresponds to the expectation that by 2018, 60 percent of jobs in the state will require a college degree or certificate. Given that in the past five years, college enrollment has decreased by 3.6 percent, something has to be done to open up higher education to more Missourians, including those with disabilities, Veteran status, and lower socioeconomic status.

Financially, the Propel program will pay for itself, covering its teaching and staff costs through the five-year grant. The students will be full-time, each taking 12 credit hours per semester and paying full tuition, for a total of $117,558 per year.  Propel is hiring 10 undergraduate and 2 graduate students in paid positions as mentors and academic coaches and will provide service-learning and internship opportunities for other UMKC students interested in careers working with people with disabilities.