With its mission of educating and supporting pre-professionals and professionals in acquiring evidence-based knowledge and skills to provide state-of-the-art practices in postsecondary services for students with disabilities, the Collaborative on Postsecondary Education and Disability (CPED) has evolved since 1984 when disability support services for students with learning disabilities were initiated in the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education. The Center is now internationally recognized as a major center for research, training, and professional development activities regarding postsecondary education and transition for students with disabilities.

Direct Services, Research, and Professional Development

Since its genesis, the Center has espoused the premise that the synergy among direct services for students with disabilities, research, and professional development should guide our work. Research should inform both practice and training within the dynamic context of higher education. The impetus for the Center emanated from legislation passed by the State of Connecticut in 1984 establishing two model programs for students with learning disabilities, one at a 2-year college and one at a 4-year college. The University Program for College Students with Learning Disabilities (UPLD) was created in the Neag School of Education under the co-directorship of Drs. Stan Shaw and Kay Norlander-Case, faculty in the Special Education Program of the Department of Educational Psychology. The affiliation of a direct services disability support program with an academic discipline offered unique opportunities to draw upon research in the field of learning disabilities (LD) and emphasized learning strategies, self-determination, and self-advocacy. Two years of external funding ($29,000 per year) from the State of Connecticut served as seed money for broader initiatives including graduate training, research, and professional development initiatives. The Postsecondary Education Disability Unit was created within the Department of Educational Psychology at this time to coordinate activities including grants, direct services, research, and training.

CPED: A Center of Excellence

Exemplifying its commitment to direct services that are guided by outcomes-based research, the Postsecondary Education Disability Unit built upon the results of the model LD program and expanded its focus. In 1986 the Connecticut State Legislature allocated additional funding to the Unit to provide technical assistance on postsecondary disability services to all Connecticut colleges and universities. As the need for professional development training expanded nationally due, in part, to the increasing number of students with disabilities accessing higher education, the Postsecondary Education Disability Unit began offering its Postsecondary Disability Training Institute in 1989. The Institute comprises a major initiative of the Center and continues to offer state-of-the art training on an annual basis with nationally recognized faculty and professionals as its staff.

In 2000, a request was made to the University’s Board of Trustees to change the official designation of the Postsecondary Education Disability Unit to the Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability (CPED). At that time, CPED was recognized as a University Center for Excellence with an interdisciplinary focus and emphasis on promoting scholarly activity, research, teaching, and service. In synchrony with ongoing program evaluation conducted by the Center on all its activities, a decision was made in 2008 to centralize all disability services to promote a one-stop model of service delivery. The learning disabilities direct services program (UPLD) became a component of the University’s Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) with an emphasis on research-guided practice and state-of-the-art professional training (visit www.csd.uconn.edu for more information).

In 2019, the name of the Center was changed to the Collaborative on Postsecondary Education and Disability to reflect the collaborative nature of our work with researchers and practitioners at institutions across the United States.