Students with learning differences often benefit from extra support as they transition to college, where they are expected to be independent and self-directed. Michelle Meyer, director of the Disability Services Office at Centenary College of New Jersey, discussed how Project ABLE helps them make the transition. ABLE stands for Academic Bridges to Learning Effectiveness.

Q: Please describe the services students receive through Project ABLE.

A: Project ABLE is a comprehensive support service program for students with learning differences who are enrolled at Centenary, to help them transition from the structured high school experience to independence in college and in the work force. Students pay a fee to participate and can remain in the program throughout college.

It includes four components:

  1. Weekly meetings. Staff members help students create a learning plan and work with them each week on time management, study skills, choosing courses, setting appointments with faculty, and whatever else they need.
  2. Bridges. This interpersonal skills group meets once a week for about 10 weeks during the semester. It is facilitated by two learning specialists but is student-run. Students choose topics to discuss and give each other advice.
  3. Professional content-based tutoring. All Centenary students have the option for tutoring, but Project ABLE students have access to academic support during hours set aside just for them.
  4. STEP Ahead summer program. Students live on campus for a month to help with the transition to college life. They take remedial English and learn study skills.

Q: How are students chosen for the program, and how many students a year does it serve?

A: The program has its own application, which students complete in addition to the application for admission to the college. Along with the application, they provide a copy of their Individualized Education Program or other support plans, documentation of medical and psychological testing, high school transcripts, etc. Applicants send those directly to the Disability Services Office to protect their privacy. Applicants are asked if disability services and admissions may share information about them, and about 95 percent say yes. Meyer has access to the admissions portal so that she can learn who was admitted.

To be selected to the program, students must document a specific learning difference that officials know they can remediate with academic support. Some students have autism spectrum disorder and some have specific learning differences.

About 20 to 25 students per year are accepted to Project ABLE, and this year the program serves about 100 students. Officials limit participation in the summer program to 12 to 15 students. For some students, acceptance to the college is based on their summer participation.

Q: What impact has the program had on participants?

A: Overall, students do really well. Their average GPA is 2.8. Those who are motivated and take advantage of the benefits do especially well. Students have completed prestigious internships, and many have gone on to master’s programs.

Email Michelle Meyer at meyerm02@centenarycollege.edu.