At Pace University in downtown Manhattan, students with high-functioning autism and ADHD participate in a unique program, Ongoing Academic Social Instructional Support (OASIS). Students receive one-to-one coaching daily and participate in social activities weekly. Some programs for such students at other universities avoid disclosing their students’ identities to professors or resident assistants (RAs) in dorms, but OASIS is more involved and hands-on; staff will even help students get up and get to class if necessary. Coaches communicate with parents, professors, and other staff; they know if students are attending class, when their assignments are due, and how they are performing in school. The OASIS offices provide a safe, quiet location for students to escape from the urban intensity of NYC, as well as a place to socialize together over pizza.
There are 40 participating OASIS students, who must first be admitted into Pace like any other applicant. About half choose to live in the dorms, and there is a housing coordinator to help with any issues that may arise. Nearly 78% graduate within 5 years, which is an impressive statistic given that two-thirds of autistic students don’t even enroll in college (and of those who do, most attend 2-year colleges). Students participate in internships and receive career counseling, including mock interviews and resume assistance.
Pace University accepts 80% of applicants; the average GPA of incoming freshmen is 3.25, and 94% receive financial aid. The university’s 9,000 undergraduates study in both NYC and 40 minutes north of the city in Westchester (Pleasantville). There are dedicated schools for health professions, business, education, and computer science, as well as arts and sciences. In addition to bachelor’s and graduate degrees, students at Pace can enroll in combined bachelor’s/master’s programs in fields such as accounting, education, and psychology. Students have access to peer, faculty, and alumni mentors. There is an honors college for academically stronger students (e.g., SAT at least 1270 or ACT at least 27) which offers a variety of housing and academic benefits.