Counseling Center

Supported Education

Definition of Supported Education
The definition of supported education is based on the definition of supported employment as defined by The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1986.Using this definition as a model, supported education is defined as:

Education in integrated settings for people with severe psychiatric disabilities for whom post secondary education has not traditionally occurred or for people for whom postsecondary education has been interrupted or intermittent as a result of severe psychiatric disability, and who, because of their handicap, need ongoing support services to be successful in the educational environment.

Supported Education is a concept grounded in rehabilitation theory, which states that although people with a mental illness may have a psychiatric disability, every individual, regardless of his or her symptoms, can improve. Although medical intervention may be critical to treating mental illness, rehabilitation is also critical to improving the functioning of individuals with this diagnosis. With unconditional and positive regard and the understanding of the importance of learning new behaviors in the environment, many people with a mental illness have found new meaning and productivity by returning to college.

The Purpose of Supported Education

The purpose of supported education is to improve access to college and to increase retention of people who have a history of mental illness. The primary goal is to assist them, as members of the community, to fully utilize this valuable resource.

Individuals diagnosed with severe mental illness have been denied rightful roles in society for many years. They have been denied because of stigma, fear and prejudice. They have been denied because treatment and rehabilitation technologies were not advanced enough to assist them in gaining critical skills and supports to enter and succeed in such a fundamental role as a student.

The mission of Supported Education is similar to that of most colleges and universities: to provide educational services to the community.

Purchase College Offers Supported Education

Purchase College recognized and valued the importance of providing opportunity and access to the college for all members of the community. In an effort to include and expand services to students with special needs, Purchase College developed collaboration with The Guidance Center, a mental health agency in Westchester, to offer assistance to students on campus with a psychiatric disability.

Accommodations and Services

By law, students with a verifiable disability must be given accommodations. An accommodation is a "modification to academic requirements as necessary to ensure that such requirements do not discriminate against students with disabilities, or have the effect of excluding students solely on the basis of the disability".

At Purchase College, the student is offered an opportunity to meet with the Coordinator of Supported Education (SE) to assess together what individual accommodations may be helpful or essential for their academic success. Often, this may not be clear until the student has started classes. Determinations of accommodations can be made during the semester with the help of the Coordinator of SE.

Some of the most common accommodations needed by students can include but are not limited to the following:

• Note taker in the classroom
• Use of tape recorder
• Books on tape
• Test-taking facilitation
• Changes in timelines for assignments
• Changes in format or method of completing assignments
• Incomplete rather than failing grades if the student needs a medical leave of  withdrawal
• Arrangements to leave and return to class during a class period

Although support services are not required by law, they are often instrumental in helping a student remain in school. The Coordinator of SE meets regularly with student and assists the student in accessing support services on campus, or in the community when appropriate, and off campus.

The following are support services that are often helpful to students with a psychiatric disability:

• Registration assistance
• Assistance in applying for financial aid
• Academic counseling that includes choosing classes that meet the individual academic goals with the students  functional limitations in mind
• Assistance in managing time and deadlines
• Assistance in developing strategies for problem solving
• Assistance in applying for forgiveness of previous loans because of disability status
• Having someone with whom to check in Liaison with campus and community agencies, including referral and  follow-up services
• Peer support group
• Assistance with managing disclosure issues
• Assistance in identifying learning disabilities
• Advocacy with faculty for accommodations
• Emotional support


Students with a psychiatric disability can succeed in college.

Supported Education – Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Track
The ASD program offers Supported Education Services to students who are on the Autism Spectrum.  This program is funded by a private grant from the FarFund Foundation.  Services are free and confidential and there is no application required.  The goal of the program is to help students navigate through college successfully as well as to prepare them for life after graduation.  There is a strong emphasis on the development of academic, socialization, time management, stress reduction, and independent living skills.  A variety of services are offered.  Students can utilize some or all of the resources available.  These include:

*Individual Meetings - Students meet individually on a regular basis (typically weekly) with the program psychologist.  The purpose of these meetings is to create individualized goals and help the student attain these goals.  The primary focus is on academics; however, other areas such as socialization and stress management are also addressed.

*Support Group - There is a weekly support group for students in the program.  The purpose of the group is to encourage socialization and assist students to become more comfortable in their interactions with others.

*Peer mentor Program – Peer mentors (upperclassmen) attend the group and are available to meet with students outside of group.  The peer mentor program is based on a big sister/big brother model.  Some of the things peer mentors do in the program include getting together with students for coffee or lunch, answering questions about Purchase and college life, and attending club meetings.

*Career Planning - A social worker who specializes in career development is available to consult with students around jobs, internships, and career planning.  Students discuss issues such as interviewing, searching and planning for jobs and internships, and negotiating the work world with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Students work in conjunction with the social worker, Career Development Services, and the program psychologist.

*Referral – Based on their needs, students are frequently referred to a number of other departments including the Learning Center, Advising Center, and Career Development.

*Accommodations - Students who are entitled to accommodations such as extended test time and testing in a private location must present documentation (see Special Services for requirements) to the program psychologist when they first begin at Purchase.  Students then meet with the program psychologist every semester to complete professor notification forms. 

*Advocacy/Liaison – The program psychologist can assist students in communicating with professors.  Students are taught the necessary skills and are encouraged to advocate for themselves.

For more information, please contact:
Lauren Greiner, Ph.D.
Program Psychologist, Supported Education
Autism Spectrum Disorders Program
Student Services Building – Office #214C
(914) 251-7983 (phone)
(914) 251-5929 (fax)

Patricia Murphy, LMHC
Counselor, Supported Education
Psychiatric Disabilities Track
Student Services Building – Office #222
(914) 251-6394 (phone)
(914) 251-5929 (fax)

Access and Accommodations Office