Sage Offers New Online Degree for Students with Special Needs

August 23, 2011 at 10:23 am

Achieve Degree

New York State Senator Roy McDonald addresses the media with Sage President Susan Scrimshaw and Excelsior College President John F. Ebersole.

Watch the press conference »

The Sage Colleges and Excelsior College have joined forces to develop a new bachelor’s degree designed for people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders or other learning disabilities, to expand their career options and enjoy the benefits of college education.

The program leads to a B.A. in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Computer Science and, like traditional bachelor’s degrees, is comprised of 120 credits. However, the program content and delivery accommodates students’ learning styles and abilities to maximize their chances for success.

The online format allows for accommodations that can make college less stressful for students with particular social and other needs. These accommodations include:

  • Small class sizes: no more than 15 students per class
  • Content delivery in multiple formats to benefit a variety of learning styles
  • Flexibility in assessment and participation modalities
  • Specialized training for instructors teaching in the program
  • 1-credit lab courses in practical topics such as online study skills, personal finance, conversation and interpersonal communication, career preparation, and interviewing skills
  • One-on-one support from a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to help each student navigate all facets of the college experience, including administrative aspects, technology, academic demands, and social needs

While the program provides extensive support services, the content and demands of the coursework are consistent with Sage’s other undergraduate programs. Admission to the Achieve Degree program is competitive; students must meet Sage’s admission standards.

This program was developed through a unique collaboration between Sage and Excelsior's Educators Serving Educators (ESE), a unit in its Extended Education Division. A new, not-for-profit endeavor, ESE is a means for Excelsior to share its expertise with other colleges in a highly collaborative way that will enable them to develop and expand their own online programming.

ESE conducted research on the market for this program and combined its expertise in online course development together with Sage’s expertise in autism education to bring the program to fruition. The curriculum was developed under the guidance of Sage professor Dana Reinecke, Ph.D., BCBA-D, director of Sage's highly successful online master's program in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Autism. Sage adjunct professor and ABA consultant Laura Stolfi, MS, BCBA was hired as Achieve Degree program director.

The first cohort of Achieve Degree students will begin in January 2012. Students may enter the program in the fall or spring semester, and progress through the program year-round, with six, eight-week terms per year.

"By allowing students to focus on one or two topics per term, faculty and mentors are able to work closely with students to provide the sorts of feedback and interaction that facilitate learning," says Sage Provost Terry Weiner, Ph.D. "Further, by eliminating long periods of inactivity such as summer break, students are able to stay focused in 'study mode' and not risk losing valuable intellectual connections and study skills that must then be regained, slowing forward momentum toward the degree."

Patty Bashe, coauthor of The OASIS Guide to Asperger Syndrome says, "Many individuals with Asperger syndrome and similar ASD learning styles often find themselves set on an educational course that 'plays to' their cognitive strengths while failing to acknowledge or address common 'nonacademic' areas of weakness such as executive function skills, social relationships, and daily independence skills. The Achieve Degree program recognizes the crucial role this 'nonacademic curriculum' plays in all aspects of life." Bashe serves an advisor to the Achieve Degree program.

The Achieve Degree is comprised of courses from the social sciences, humanities and the quantitative sciences. This liberal arts education, coupled with an emphasis in Computer Science, is designed to foster skills in reading, critical thinking, analysis and expression plus provide practical, career-oriented skills that can lead to success in today's professional world.

For more information about the Achieve Degree at Sage
or admission to the program, contact:

Office of Admission
(518) 292-8615