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Top universities for Deaf students

Contributed by | Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Editor's note: This story was originally published in 2014. Due to extreme popularity, we've updated it with current information and additional colleges to publish again today. 

Nelson Mandela once said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” For the more than 20,000 Deaf students who attend post-secondary educational institutions in the United States each year, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures they have access to this powerful weapon. And while most schools meet the basic requirements necessary by law to accommodate hearing loss, some excel at providing services and meeting the specific needs of the Deaf community.

Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C.

Private, co-ed college

2015-2016 tuition and fees: $16,901 U.S. undergraduate, $17,660 graduate

Student-Faculty ratio: 8:1

Average class size: 13

young woman holding textbooks on campus
Some colleges go above and beyond to 
accommodate Deaf students.

As the only liberal arts college for the Deaf in the world, Gallaudet University prides itself in being a “barrier-free education” and is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The university offers a bilingual learning environment featuring American Sign Language and English with programs and services designed specifically to accommodate the Deaf. The Office for Students with Disabilities provides services for students with disabilities and self-advocacy training as well as interpreting, real-time captioning and tutoring services.

Undergraduate students can choose from a wide range of undergraduate degree programs, including Arts and Media, Business, Human Services, Humanities, Language/Culture, and Science/Math/Technology. Graduate degrees include ASL and Deaf Studies; Counseling; Education; Government and Public Affairs; Hearing, Speech and Language Sciences; History, Philosophy, Religion and Sociology; Interpretation; Linguistics; Psychology and Social Work.

Close to 2,000 students are enrolled at Gallaudet, which boasts a robust campus life including a campus ministry, full athletic program and renowned dance group. Recent literature indicates 83 percent of full-time students hold an internship before graduation; 98 percent of alumni who responded to a recent survey are working on or pursuing a graduate degree.

Additionally, Gallaudet has credit transfer agreements with several junior colleges in the country including Austin Community College, Austin, Texas; Kapi'olani Community College, Honolulu, Hawaii; Ohlone College, Fremont, California; John A. Logan College, Carterville, Illinois and Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill, Massachussetts.                                                                     

History: Gallaudet University realized its beginnings in 1850 when Amos Kendall donated land to establish an elementary school to educate deaf and blind students, originally named Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill authorizing the school to grant college degrees and renamed it National College for the Deaf and Dumb. In 1986, the Education of the Deaf Act awarded Gallaudet university status.

National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester, New York (NTID)

On the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)

Private, co-ed college

2015-2016 tuition and fees: $15,684

Student-Faculty ratio: 8:1

Average class size (2014): 9-11

One of nine colleges of Rochester Institute of Technology. Of the more than 14,000 undergraduate students from around the world on campus, 1,400 are Deaf or have hearing loss. The institute is the first and largest of its kind for Deaf students who can choose from more than 200 programs of study in RIT’s nine colleges.

Instructors communicate with ASL, spoken language, finger spelling, printed and visual aids, and online resources. FM systems are also available along with tutoring, note-taking, real-time captioning services and interpreting staff.  RIT’s campus has dozens of smart classrooms with state-of-the-art computers and multimedia-based technologies, as well as engineering labs and digital printing presses.

Campus life includes more than 200 clubs and organizations and dozes of men’s and women’s varsity, intramural and club sports. In 2015, 94 percent of deaf and hard of hearing NTID graduates found jobs within a year. The more than 8,000 alumni are employed with industry leaders such as BNY Mellon, Boeing aircraft, Inc., Central Intelligence Agency, Google, Microsoft, U.S. Department of Defense and Walt Disney Company.

History: The concept for NTID began with a proposal in 1964 from a workshop titled “Improved Vocational Opportunities for the Deaf”, which was held at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In 1965, Senator Lister Hill (Alabama) introduced the NTID Bill, which passed the House of Representatives and Senate unanimously. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare invited colleges and universities from around the country to apply for sponsorship of NTID. RIT competed against eight other colleges for NTID to become part of the university, which it did in 1968.

The Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf (SWCID), Big Spring, Texas

State supported, co-ed college

2015-2016 tuition: $59 per semester hour for Howard County residents with a $150 base amount, $98 per semester hour for out-of-district Texas residents with a $180 base amount, $412 per semester hour for out-of-state and international students with no base amount. Qualified Texas Deaf residents are exempt from tuition fees.

Student-Faculty ratio: 8-1

Average class size: not available

SWCID is a state-supported college operating within the Howard County Junior College District, which offers associate degree and certification programs. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. American Sign Language is the primary communication used in instruction. SWCID students are also able to participate in athletics, student organizations, class internships and other residential activities on the Howard College campus.

History: SWCID opened in November, 1980 after a feasibility study confirmed the need for a post-secondary institution to provide higher education and career training for the Deaf. SWCID focuses on educating students who may not be ready to attend Gallaudet University or the National Institute of Technology for the Deaf.

Other colleges

While these campuses are known for their services to the Deaf community, many other private and public universities have wide-ranging services and facilities for students with hearing loss of all degrees. Carnegie Communications publishes an online listing of other colleges noted for their resources, programs and services for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing. The links provide an overall snapshot of each campus but you’ll have to visit the school’s official website and specifically search for services for students with hearing loss to get a clear picture of what each college offers. 

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