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The MSU ACCESS program offers an inclusive plan to promote the successful transition of students with intellectual disabilities into higher education. These students have a desire to continue academic, career and technical, and independent living instruction in order to prepare for gainful employment. The program includes an advising and curriculum structure; and requires students with intellectual disabilities to participate on not less than a halftime basis with nondisabled students in (1) regular enrollment in credit-bearing courses, (2) a uditing or participating in courses for which the student does not receive regular academic credit, (3) enrollment in noncredit-bearing, non-degree courses, or (4) participation in internships or work-based training.

Intellectual Disabilities

The MSU ACCESS program will serve students by providing individual support and services for the academic and social inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities in academic courses, extracurricular activities, and other aspects of the institution of higher education’s regular postsecondary programming. The MSU ACCESS program serves between 5 to 10 students with intellectual disabilities. The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) defines the term “student with an intellectual disability” to mean a student (1) with mental retardation or a cognitive impairment, characterized by significant limitations in intellectual and cognitive functioning, and adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills; and (2) who is currently, or was formerly, eligible for a free appropriate public education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Most students will have cognitive challenges such as significant learning disabilities, mild mental retardation, mild autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, or TBI. They may experience sensory or mobility impairments as well. They will be expected to behave appropriately in a university learning environment and have the desire to be in a academic but socially supported setting. After proper orientation and training, the students should be able to navigate campus, adhere to a class schedule, dine independently, and negotiate non-academic activities independently.

Person-Centered Planning

MSU ACCESS will integrate person-centered planning in the development of the course of study for each student. Each student is an individual and should be viewed as one. One-on-one interaction will provide each student a nurturing environment in which the student can thrive and be successful. Careful and purposeful listening will offer insight into future plans in the development of an individualized plan for each student. Each semester, most students will audit a MSU university class of particular interest to the student. The class audits will serve to target areas of interest and work-related educational experiences that will lead to increased independent living skills and to future gainful employment.


MSU ACCESS provides individual support and services for the academic and social inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities in academic courses, extracurricular activities, and other aspects of regular postsecondary programs.


The academic courses will include a reading, writing, and mathematics course for each semester of the 4-year curriculum. Classes will follow the MSU academic calendar for the 4-year program. Students will attend classes from 9:00am – 3:00pm, Monday through Thursday with progress evaluations scheduled on Fridays.

Students will also take academic enrichment classes such as: Human Growth and Development, art, music, history, technology, and government.

Independent Living Skills and Self-advocacy

The students will also take independent living skills and self-advocacy skills classes that are centered on acquiring life skills. Examples of these classes might be: financial management, community access, social skills, self-care and medical management, independent living skills, self-advocacy skills, nutrition, fitness and well-being, meal preparation, home maintenance, and independent entertainment choices. The students can also participate in elective courses such as: banking, yearbook preparation, public speaking, horticulture, earth science, geography, and wildlife and fisheries.

Work Experience and Career Skills

All juniors and seniors will have work skills development training and orientation. MSU ACCESS will promote integrated work experiences and career skills that enhance opportunities for gainful employment. Juniors and seniors will be expected to develop a portfolio. Juniors will acquire employment on campus. Seniors will acquire employment in the community. Grades in the self-contained courses that are taught by MSU ACCESS staff will be based on effort.

Social Inclusion

Also students will be taught socialization classes such as: social skills, world cultures, citizenship, and conflict resolution. MSU ACCESS students will become part of the MSU’s The Office of Student Leadership Community Engagement (SLCE). The SLCE consists of several programs. MSU ACCESS students will take part in the Day One Leadership Community. Day One students develop a strong sense of self-awareness and self-discipline, while learning to work with others in making the world a better place to live, work, and thrive. MSU ACCESS students may live in the Day One living learning community in South Hall, take part in the Day One class, and participate in community service projects with the Day One Students.


MSU ACCESS will participate in year-end evaluations of the program; division, university, and grant (if applicable). MSU ACCESS will also monitor weekly the progress of each student. A time period will be set aside each Friday for the staff to evaluate each student’s individual progress. Weekly probe assessments in reading and math along with work samples in writing are markers of academic achievement. Feedback will be given to the student and parents. If needed, new plans will be put into action. Grades will be assigned on effort put forward by the student.

Partnership with Relevant Agency

The university has a contract with The Mississippi Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (MDRS) to provide academic as well as daily living needs of our students. The office of Disability Support Services is in contact with MDRS counselors throughout the students’ academic career at MSU. This partnership is vital to our students’ success.

Institutionally Owned and Operated Housing

The Department of Housing and Residence Life is committed to providing a living situation for students with intellectual disabilities that will be a supportive environment on campus. It also strives to enhance the skills of the students in learning to live independently after graduation from the MSU ACCESS program.

How to Apply

Priority will be given to a select number of students based on:

  • Applicant's learning needs and desire to attend program
  • Ability of program to meet applicant's needs and goals
  • Ability of the applicant to exhibit appropriate behavior and independently negotiate transitions between classes and buildings, lunch and non-academic activities.
  • Potential of applicant to successfully achieve his/her goals within the context of the program content and setting
  • Commitment from the applicant's family/caregivers to support the goals of the program
  • Mississippi Resident

Application Process

  1. Applications are available at the office of MSU ACCESS Program or here
  2. Return or mail the completed application to:
    MSU ACCESS Program
    P.O. Box 806
    Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762
  3. Contact MSU ACCESS Program at 662-325-3335 to schedule an interview. If a sign language interpreter is needed, please make that request at the time you schedule your appointment.

Financial Information

Academic Program Tuition $17,500 (Housing, dining, and class audits not included). Scholarships may be provided if funding becomes available.