College Options for Students with Intellectual Disabilities featuring the TigerLIFE program at the University of Memphis

by Carjamin Scott on July 25, 2018, at 8:05 p.m. CST

Students with intellectual disabilities are able to attend college. Since 2010, five colleges in Tennessee have offered inclusive post-secondary education opportunities for high school graduates interested in furthering their education.

According to the TN Inclusive Higher Education Alliance website, “students with intellectual disabilities attending a comprehensive training program (CTP), are able to use federal financial aid to help pay the cost of attendance.”

CTPs are degree, certificate, or non-degree programs for students with intellectual disabilities. All of TN’s programs are CTPs, but only one program, TigerLIFE at the University of Memphis, is a designated community rehabilitation provider (CRP).

CRPs focus on “practices that reflect individual integrated employment as a priority outcome,” as stated on the Think Works website.

TigerLife at the University of Memphis by Maurice “Moe” Williams

Maurice “Moe” Williams, photo from University of Memphis website

TigerLIFE (Learning, Independence, Fostering Employment & Education) at the University of Memphis is “a 60-hour program culminating in a completion award in Career and Community Studies. Participation in the Tiger LIFE program provides students with an option for continuing their education beyond high school to increase employment opportunities,” as indicated on the TigerLIFE website.

As noted in the Daily Helmsman, “Moe Williams, associate director of the University of Memphis Institute on Disability and founder of the TigerLIFE program, developed the program as part of his Master’s thesis. Williams was working at the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau as the director of education programs while working on his Master’s degree.”

“We (TigerLIFE) are unique because we are the only employment-based training institute in the state of TN,” stated Williams.

TigerLIFE also has these three unique features.

  1. TigerLIFE has the highest enrollment in the state, 75-100 students.
  2. The tuition at TigerLIFE is the least expensive in the state, $4,950.00 per semester.
  3. The TigerLIFE program is administered alongside the University of Memphis Institute on Disability (UMID), a team of disability researchers.

Williams mentioned, “We operate differently and work collaboratively with a behavioral staff who monitors our curriculum and the day to day activities of our students.”

The University of Memphis Institute on Disability (UMID)

The University of Memphis Institute on Disability (UMID) as stated on the website has “formed alliances with government, private, academic and legal entities to research and develop programs which encourage people with disabilities to pursue higher education toward graduation and employment.”

TigerLIFE collaborates with the UMID, particularly for behavioral intervention and program analysis. UMID sets the curriculum for students, assists with career readiness, and facilitates job placement.

Tennessee’s Inclusive Post-Secondary Institutions

All of TN’s inclusive programs have different features and benefits, such as on-campus housing, which TigerLIFE does not provide. Below is a list of the other inclusive post-secondary institutions in the Tennessee.

  • Next Steps at Vanderbilt University
  • FUTURE at University of TN Knoxville
  • IDEAL at Lipscomb University
  • EDGE at Union University

Additional Research on this Topic Pending

Carjamin is a candidate for the Doctorate in Education emphasizing Learning Organizations and Strategic Change. Her anticipated graduation date is December 2018.

To culminate her degree, she will co-author the capstone group project titled Parents’ Perceptions of TN Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities.

The issue the research will present is the parent’s perception of the impact of IPSE programs for their student with ID in the state of TN. This research is intended to help with undertaking continued analyses and assist our client, Dr. Erik Carter of Vanderbilt University and the TN Inclusive Higher Education Alliance with determining what success means for parents with children enrolled in IPSE programs.

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Carjamin Scott can be reached at and you can follow her on twitter @scottcarjie.

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