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Four Tennessee universities receive grants to create inclusive environments for students with disabilities

More than $800,000 was given out across the state to improve higher education.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities awarded four colleges and universities across the state with grants that will go toward creating more inclusive environments for students with disabilities.

“Providing more opportunities in both our rural and urban areas will help ensure that higher education is accessible for any student with [intellectual and developmental disabilities] who has the desire to pursue it,” DIDD Commissioner Brad Turner said.

The Tennessee Believes grant was given to Tennessee State University, Dyersburg State University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee. 

Tennessee State University will be given $284,000 over two years to create the first inclusive higher education program in Middle Tennessee called TigerEDGE, which is targeting enrollment of eight students in Fall 2022. 

Dyersburg State will receive $327,262 over three years to create the first inclusive program at a Tennessee community college called Eagle Access, which proposes enrolling up to 10 students in its 2-year program in the first year.

Vanderbilt will receive $103,650 for one year and possible funding of $207,300 for an additional two years to create a new program on campus called Self-Advocates in Leadership (SAIL). The program is a first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary major for students with intellectual disabilities. It will focus on disability leadership and public policy.

UT will receive $131,322 for one year and possible funding of $246,242 for an additional two years to increase career transition staff and expand outreach to underserved populations. It also plans to build the Tennessee Believes Kitchen on campus, which will give students the opportunity to learn how to cook at home and as a profession.

“We know that inclusive higher education not only benefits the students who participate in the program, the entire student population benefits," Turner said. “Providing more opportunities in both our rural and urban areas will help ensure that higher education is accessible for any student with IDD who has the desire to pursue it.”