Disability service use and academic outcomes for college students with disabilities

Thumbnail Image


Publication or External Link





Despite the availability of disability support services, college students with disabilities continue to face poorer academic outcomes than their peers without disabilities. Over 70 percent of eligible college students with disabilities do not disclose their disability to their campus disability service to receive academic accommodations or supports. Among those who do utilize accommodations and supports, findings have been mixed regarding the relation between service use and students’ academic outcomes. However, few studies have examined timing of registration with disability service and use of services over time. The current study used secondary data to examine the relation between time of disability service registration and length of accommodation use on the academic outcomes of undergraduate students with disabilities (N= 1,980) who used accommodations between fall 2015 and spring 2019. Descriptive analyses showed overall strong academic outcomes, with a mean GPA of 3.10 and a six-year graduation rate of 82.7 percent. Students delayed an average of 2.38 semesters before registering with the disability service and used their accommodations for an average of 3.23 semesters. Differences in academic outcomes and accommodation use patterns are discussed with regard to gender, race/ethnicity, and disability type. As hypothesized, multiple regression analyses revealed that delayed registration with the disability service negatively predicted cumulative GPA and positively predicted time to graduation. Similarly, length of accommodation use positively predicted cumulative GPA and negatively predicted time to graduation. Results of the multilevel model regression with fixed effects showed that continued accommodation use positively predicted within-subject changes in students’ semester GPAs across the eight semesters of the study period. Implications for future research and for improving service delivery for university disability offices are discussed.