Illinois Program Profiles

This section includes "program profiles" for five of the eight known postsecondary education (PSE) programs for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Illinois. These programs are profiled below as either: mixed/hybrid models; substantially separate models; or inclusive individual support models. Please note that these are types of program models according to the national Think College initiative, and there may be other models not listed here. The Illinois programs in this section have self-identified as the program model they perceive themselves to be (i.e. mixed/hybrid model, substantially separate model, or inclusive individual support model), but there is no formal process for determining what model a program is. For additional program profiles nationally, refer to the Think College database of postsecondary education programs for students with intellectual disabilities, or the Think College book.

Elmhurst College

Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy (ELSA)

Address: 190 Prospect Avenue Elmhurst, IL 60126

Phone: 630-617-3752


Program Model: Mixed/hybrid

Type of Program: Post school (adult)

Funding Sources: Private payment of tuition; some limited grants for eligible students.

Program Goals: The goal of ELSA is to enable students to work productively and live as independently as possible. Students receive a Certificate of Completion, with transcripts of all ELSA coursework, development of program and professional portfolios, and participation in the College's annual spring commencement ceremony.

Eligibility: ELSA is designed for young adults, ages 18 to 28, with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, and cognitive disabilities. Students need to have completed high school with a diploma or certificate. Admission consideration requires that the applicant has at least a minimum third grade reading, writing, and mathematics level. Students also need to have sufficient emotional skills, capacity for independence, and strong family support of the program's objectives. Students may attend on either a full or part-time basis.

Average number of students served annually: 7-9 students

Overview of Program: ELSA is four-year, non-degree certificate program, located on the Elmhurst College campus in the western suburbs of Chicago. Students enrolled in the academy have disabilities that interfere with their learning, listening, speaking, writing, reasoning, mathematical abilities and/or prevent them from managing their ability to live independently. ELSA students receive first-rate instruction and support in academics, work experience (both on and off campus), and social and recreational activities. In addition to a focus on independent living, ELSA focus areas include an emphasis on: academics, career development, social and recreational skills (explored in detail below).

Academics: Students work to increase their literacy and capacity for writing, mathematics, purposeful reading, and reading for pleasure. Students receive academic support through twice-weekly Educational Coaching classes. Students have the option to audit Elmhurst College undergraduate courses, beginning in their second year of study, pending necessary approvals. ELSA students have completed these assisted audits in Biology, Composition, Geosciences, History, Early Childhood, Philosophy, Music, and Art.

Career development: Technology and career exploration courses, including job shadowing and paid internships (up to 30 hours per week) during their senior year, along with field experience, are hallmarks of the ELSA program. In addition, personal finance courses are included in the program. Personal responsibility and advocacy, decision-making, time management, and organizational skills are integrated into the curriculum. ELSA students may seek part-time student worker positions at the college.

Social and Recreational Skills: Students have the opportunity to participate in campus-based clubs, organizations, intramural sports, attend sporting or other events on/off campus with mentor support, and use the College's fitness center. Elmhurst College students, serving as peer mentors and education coaches, engage ELSA participants in a range of planned activities and encourage peer interaction and social skills.

Staffing: The ELSA program is made of up the following staff positions: Director, Assistant Director, Career I, Career Instructors, Career and Development Coach, Job Coach, Social Issues Instructor, Counselor, Independent Living Instructor, Independent Coach, Technology Specialist, Science Instructor, Business Instructor, Computer Instructor, Consumer Math Instructor, Literacy Instructor, Kinesiology Instructor.

Examples of Courses Offered:

Career Strand:

  • Intro to College Life (First year)
  • Career Exploration (First year)
  • Internship (Senior year)

Independent Living Strand:

  • Exploration of Self (First year)
  • Individual Focus (First year, January)
  • Skills for Healthy Living I (First year)
  • Human Development/Relationships

Social Issues Strand:

  • Community and Citizenship (First year)
  • Social Issues and Diversity (First year)
  • Self Determination
  • Service (2 semesters)

Math/Science/Technology Strand:

  • Beginning math skills (First year)
  • Financial Smarts I
  • Computer Skills Intro (First year)

English Strand:

  • Reading/Writing Strategies (First year)
  • Differentiated Individual Literacy Needs (First year)

Housing options: ELSA is currently a commuter program and as such, the College does not provide on-campus housing. Students who have the ability to live independently may rent apartments or condominiums - many of which are within walking distance or a short shuttle bus ride from campus. Some students participate in Ray Graham's Monarch Living Program which operates assisted housing facilities for young adults located near downtown Elmhurst.

Transportation options: Students who live near campus can walk or take a campus shuttle to the college. Elmhurst College is located near the Elmhurst downtown commuter rail station so many students take the train from their home to campus. Other students drive themselves or are dropped off and picked up by family members.

Harper College

Career Skills Institute

Address 1200 West Algonquin Road Palatine, IL 60067-7398

Phone: 847-925-6000 ext. 2076

Program Model: mixed/hybrid

Type of Program: Post school (adult)

Funding Sources: tuition driven

Program Goals:

  1. Extend the college experience to individuals who have traditionally been excluded from college admissions
  2. Provide students with opportunities to interact with peers in academic and student-life activities
  3. Develop academic, vocational, and social skills
  4. Learn appropriate work behavior
  5. Develop career-related interests to identify career path
  6. " Receive an honest assessment of career potential and the continuing supports that will be required in the workplace

Eligibility: Application process

  • Students with mild intellectual disabilities, age 18 and above
  • Complete Career Skills Institute application
  • Complete Student Self-evaluation Form
  • High school counselor, college counselor, or supervisor submit a letter of recommendation
  • Submit copies of most current psychological evaluation, IEP, or other medical information
  • Intake interview
  • Student is interested in being a participant and understands program requirements
  • Student can independently find way to classes with minimal orientation at the beginning of the semester
  • Student has transportation arrangements

Overview of Program: Career Skills Institute is a new Harper program starting in fall 2012 designed to provide a college opportunity for students with mild intellectual disabilities (ID). Students will gain an educational experience which seeks to assess and strengthen basic academic and employability skills. The Institute is designed to assist students in developing self-advocacy and general entry level skills while developing a realistic career plan. Career Skills Institute follows a cohort model, where students have the unique opportunity to learn as a community with the same group for the entire series. The 2-year program focuses on basic academics and communication in year one and career exploration and a guided vocational experience in year two.

Staffing: Program coordinator, adjunct faculty, job/education coaches, Harper students completing field experience requirements from identified Harper degree programs.

Examples of Courses Offered:

  • Self-advocacy
  • Basic math
  • Fundamentals of reading
  • Basic writing strategies
  • Computer skills
  • Career Exploration
  • Workplace experience

Additional offerings through the Continuing Education strand for students with intellectual abilities includes:

  • Cooking
  • Art
  • Exercise
  • Acting/improv
  • Magic
  • Book club

Housing options: Not applicable

Transportation options: Not applicable

Heartland Community College

Heartland Academy for Learning Opportunities (HALO)

Address: 1500 West Raab Road Normal, Illinois 61761

Phone: 309-268-8255


Program Model: Mixed/Hybrid

Type of Program: Post-school (adult)

Funding Sources: Tuition Driven

Program Goals: Student learning outcomes by completion of the HALO program are as follows:

  1. Seek and secure gainful employment.
  2. Access and utilize a range of community and government resources including but not limited to transportation, housing and recreation.
  3. Read, write and perform basic functional math.
  4. Access and utilize a variety of technological tools.
  5. Solve problems and make appropriate decisions.

Eligibility: Appropriate candidates for HALO have:

  • A diagnosis of cognitive/intellectual disability.
  • A history of receiving special education services.
  • Reading, math and written language skills at a third grade level or above (isolated skill deficiencies may be acceptable depending on overall ability).
  • The ability to participate in most program or class activities.
  • Sufficient emotional stability to adjust to all aspects of the program.

Average number of students served annually: 18-20 students

Overview of Program:

Heartland Academy for Learning Opportunities (HALO) is a program at Heartland Community College which offers a supportive and inclusive college experience for adults with intellectual disabilities (ID), in order to enhance their quality of life and build the work-readiness skills necessary for gainful employment.
Students in HALO work toward a Certificate of Achievement in Life Skills Development. This certificate is designed to prepare students for independent living and competitive employment through a mixed/hybrid approach with students spending half of their time in the academic component of the program in inclusive settings like audited courses, work based training, community education courses, credit and developmental education courses. The other half of the student's time is spent in life skills courses with other students with intellectual disabilities. Students earn their certificate upon completion of 64 semester hours. Although each student progresses through the program at their own pace, it generally takes about 3 years to complete when at least 10 semester hours are earned each semester.
Upon acceptance into the program, a course of study planning session is held for each HALO student. At this session, the student, members of his/her family and the HALO team discuss the student's educational interests and goals and develop a course of study for his/her time in the HALO program. This course of study is individualized for each student and based on their interests and abilities. Once the course of study is developed, students meet with their assigned academic advisor periodically throughout the program to review it and to enroll for the next semester.
Social integration is another significant piece of the program. For the most part, the students independently transition between classrooms, buildings, meals and non-academic activities in an unsupervised manner and participate independently in a variety of extra-curricular programs on campus to enrich their college experience. Students have the same privileges as any other Heartland Community College student with access to the Fitness and Recreation Center, student clubs and organizations, myheartland network and email, and the Academic Support Center, which includes the library, computer lab, and tutoring services. Their student ID also gives them access to free public transportation. Some students also participate as managers for area sports teams and members of collegiate music groups. HALO students are able to utilize the additional peer support opportunities through the Peer Happiness Program where students majoring in education partner with students in social activities.

Examples of Courses Offered:
  • Functional Academic Areas (math, reading, writing)
  • Computer Technology
  • Career Exploration and Development
  • Independent Living

Housing options: There are no residential services for any students at this school.

Transportation options: Access to public transportation with a student identification.

Lewis and Clark Community College

Supported College Transition Program (for credit)

College for Life Program (non-credit, continuing education)

Address: Student Development office 5800 Godfrey Road Godfrey, Illinois 62035

Phone: 618-468-4217

TTY: 618-468-2270


Program Model: Mixed/hybrid

Type of Program: Post-school (adult); dual-enrollment

Funding Sources: Tuition and fees driven, some scholarship opportunities available, Department of Human Services funding available for some returning students, but not new students.

Program Goals:

  1. Extend the college experience to individuals with disabilities who have not traditionally been served at community colleges.
  2. Transition students from high school special education settings to inclusive regular college programs.
  3. Provide students with skills to succeed as lifelong learners.
  4. Provide students with opportunities to interact with non-disabled peers in academic and student-life activities.
  5. Provide linkage to agencies that provide employment opportunities and other services provided for adults with disabilities.


Students in the Supported College Transition (SCT) program have a variety of disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities and autism. In high school most of their academic courses were in a special education setting and a reading level in the 5th-6th grade level range is necessary for success in SCT courses. All of these students have a career and life goals that require postsecondary education.

Students in the College for Life (CFL) Program have intellectual disabilities and a desire to continue their education in a program in their own community. An ability to communicate needs and concerns is required.

Average number of students served annually: 40 students in Supported College Transition and 60 in College for Life.

Overview of Program:

For over 20 years, Lewis and Clark Community College has been serving students with intellectual disabilities (ID). Students choose courses in an advising appointment with the Program Coordinator and complete the registration process like all students at Lewis and Clark. Most classes are held in the College's Main Complex, a National Historic Registry building that dates to the late 1800's characterized by its stained glass windows and turrets and where most of the College's Liberal Arts classes are also held. The two programs have four dedicated classrooms, including a computer lab with a variety of assistive technology.

About half of Supported College Transition (SCT) students take program courses and inclusive college courses their first semester; by the third semester, all SCT students are enrolled in classes with non-disabled peers except for one optional support class. College for Life (CFL) students take courses reserved for students with intellectual disabilities, but have many opportunities outside of class to participate in student activities with non-disabled peers.

Supported College Transition (SCT) has a core course taken during semester one and two, SCT 111 and SCT 112. In the fall semester, students usually take a reading and writing course, a study skills course and a new student experience course. During the spring semester, SCT students continue to work on reading and writing skills while adding a Math course and a Career Development course. This sequence of courses positions them to be ready for a course in their program (major field) by the third semester. Since more than half of the students in SCT receive a Pell Grant and audited courses are not eligible for financial aid, SCT students usually take program and inclusive college courses for credit.

College for Life (CFL) students choose from a variety of courses that are student interest driven with the core course, Self-Advocacy, covering a variety of topics from finding the resources -both college and community- needed, and describing their disability and what they need (accommodations) in order to be successful in both school and life. A number of students who started their college experience in CFL have completed the SCT program and inclusive college courses.

Staffing: The Program Coordinator, nine adjunct faculty, and three educational aides provide the program instruction and support for Supported College Transition (SCT) and College for Life (CFL) students. Additionally, the Director of Student Development, the Special Learning Needs Counselor, the Personal Counselor and the Vice President for Academic Affairs provide help where needed. Lewis and Clark nursing students and occupational therapy assistant students complete clinical hours assisting students in CFL. For the last two semesters, we have had a community volunteer providing assistance for five hours per week. Educational aides are paid employees and are usually former Lewis and Clark students who have matriculated to the Greenville College undergraduate education program that is offered on the Lewis and Clark Godfrey campus.

Examples of Courses Offered:
  • Self Advocacy (REQUIRED)
  • Art
  • Basic Exercise
  • Basic Sign Language
  • Computers
  • Digital Photography
  • Drama
  • English
  • Geography
  • Healthy Living
  • Jobs
  • Literature
  • Math
  • Music
  • Popular Culture
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Video Making

Housing options: Not applicable

Transportation options: Not applicable

National-Louis University

Professional Assistant Center for Education (PACE)

Address: The PACE Program at National Louis University : 122 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 3013, Chicago, IL 60603

Phone: 312-261-3770


Program Model: Substantially Separate

Type of Program: Post-school (adult)

Funding Sources: The PACE Program is funded primarily through private tuition. The program solicits and maintains scholarship funds from individuals, foundations, and corporations. These funds are assigned to students in need at the beginning of each academic year, as indicated on the FAFSA form. Some of the donors to PACE have a long record of support for the scholarship fund. Scholarships are never enough to pay full or substantial tuition; the scholarships are helpful in offsetting the financial burden of tuition. The need for supplemental financial aid availability is great. To that end, the program is seeking Title IV Approval of a Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Program (CTPP).

Program Goals: The P.A.C.E. curriculum has three objectives:

  1. Education and professional training necessary to work as an aide/professional assistant
  2. Development of independent living skills
  3. Development of age-appropriate social skills

Eligibility: Applications are accepted throughout the year, although interviews and decisions for P.A.C.E. for the following fall are generally made during the winter and spring quarters.

To be considered for admission to the P.A.C.E. program, the student:

  • Is between the ages of 18 and 30 years old.
  • Has identified learning problems that have interfered with school performance throughout his or her academic career.
  • Generally has a measured I.Q. between 70 and 90*.
  • Has a high probability of difficulty if enrolled in a regular college curriculum, even with the provision of various support services.
  • Has sufficient emotional stability to adjust to all aspects of the program.
  • Has the ability to participate in most activities.
  • Has parents who support the goals and philosophy of the P.A.C.E. program

*Note - Exceptions are considered in the new "college-able" and "commuter" strands of P.A.C.E. In recent years, P.A.C.E. has included a group of college-able students who is felt will benefit from the P.A.C.E. curriculum in addition to dual admission into general education classes in the university.

Average number of students served annually: The traditional PACE Program accepts a new class of approximately 25 students to begin each fall. 2/3 of students are from the Chicago area, Illinois, and adjoining Midwest states; the other 1/3 from the greater U.S. and some international students. The PACE Transition program serves an additional 25 students. The PACE Commuter Program is piloting 10 students this year.

Overview of Program: The Professional Assistant Center for Education (PACE) program is a university-based postsecondary certificate program with four focus areas of instruction: academics, career/vocational training, social/community, and independent living skills. Founded in 1986, the PACE program is celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2011. PACE is an approved 2 year certificate program in the National College of Education at National Louis University. The program includes 12-15 transferrable college credits. Students celebrate their achievements at Commencement along with over 2,000 annual graduates of the university. The program includes an optional apartment living component for qualified students after graduation in its Transition program, along with other "extended programming" options to "commuter" and "college able" students. PACE is located on an urban campus within view of the City of Chicago skyline. The PACE Program is substantially integrated in the workplace and other parts of community life, both within the university, and in the Evanston/Chicago area. However, the bulk of coursework is not at the current time integrated.

    1,200 hours of on-the-job training in three internship settings in Chicago and suburbs prepare students for careers in fields of their competence and choosing. P.A.C.E. internships coincide with intense weekly classroom work in career preparation. Our career partners include over 70 businesses and organizations throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. These sites serve as internship sites and may also become employers of PACE graduates.
    Life Skills instruction provides the real life strategies and hands-on practices necessary for money management, organization, time management, and roommate relations. Life skills instructors partner with students and work on a range of skills from basic to advanced through weekly individual and small group instruction that is reinforced by the student life staff.
    At P.A.C.E. encouraging and teaching the skills of socialization and community building are built into the curriculum. A wealth of activities are available for practicing "play" and "fun" each day, including volunteer and service learning projects that "give back" to the community, as well as experiencing many of the cultural, sports, nature, dining, and other opportunities offered in the greater Chicago area, or just "hanging out" with friends.

Staffing: The program employs 8-10 full time faculty instructors, and a similar number of adjunct or part time instructors. Part time instructors at PACE are often graduate students in special education, social work, or related fields at the university.

Examples of Courses Offered:

The rigorous curriculum of 6-7 classes each week includes Core Academic classes as well as Humanities Electives and Laboratory classes. The focus of academic instruction is to build the conceptual knowledge and complex thinking skills necessary for independent adult life.

First Year Academic Classes:

  • Freshman Studies
  • Social Skills
  • Consumer Mathematics
  • Humanities Elective
  • Internship Seminar I

First Year Laboratory Classes:

  • Computer Technology
  • Life Skills
  • Language Lab
  • Assertiveness Training
  • Health and Wellness

Second year classes build upon basic theories and practices, discussing concepts in some depth in the context of current real-life experiences and future life plans.

Second Year Academic Classes:

  • Independent Living Seminar
  • Human Development
  • Money Management
  • Humanities Elective
  • Internship Seminar II
  • Senior Studies

Second Year Laboratory Classes:

  • Advanced Life Skills
  • Health and Wellness
  • Employment Specialty Electives

Transportation options: Not applicable

Young African American man with intellectual disability on college campus.

School work is different in college. Like they give you different homework. The class I'm taking now about men and women and psychology is not something I would have taken in high school." -Stephan