Bell tower image

Increasing Access to College (IAC)

Jessica Bacon

Susan Baglieri 

The Increasing Access to College (IAC) project at Montclair State University launched in 2015, adding the University to the hundreds of colleges and universities seeking to increase inclusivity and diversity of students with disabilities in higher education. IAC offers structured support to people who are co-enrolled in a day program or high school transition with intellectual disability labels and who are not likely to attend college through traditional pathways. Students participating in the IAC are fully integrated into campus life with peer support, and students engage in auditing courses across campus, as well as participating in social and recreational aspects of college life. In 2018, the Kessler foundation awarded the IAC $10,000 and most recently, the The Lacey Family Inclusive Education Fund generously donated $250,000 to the IAC. These funds will be used to expand the offerings of the IAC at MSU. The IAC is founded and led by Dr. Jessica Bacon, Associate Professor and Dr. Susan Baglieri, Professor.

Link to the Strategic Plan:

Pillar Two: Growing Through Diversity and Access, specifies the desire to “capitalize on the historic strength of diversity in the institution and continue to grow that strength as the State increases its diversity” (2.1), which includes the strategy to “Continue to refine the University’s student recruitment practices to attract and recruit applicants that are fully reflective of the diversity of New Jersey, including under-served socio-economic students, all racial and ethnic groups, and national and international students for whom Montclair State can be a welcoming community” (strategy b). The development of a program designed to recruit students with intellectual disabilities directly contributes to expanding the diversity of students who are served by the University to strive toward levels that match the diversity among 18- to 24-year-olds in the State, with regard to disability.

The IAC also contributes to Pillar One: Fostering Student Transformation, by being evidence of an “Increased number of new programs and experiences that, based upon analysis of existing, highly transformative programs, appear to have the most potential to transform students academically or personally” (measure 1.3.2.). Our programming over the years has engaged about 160 undergraduate students in community-engaged teaching & learning (service-learning) and in service through the Bonner Leader Program in conjunction with the Center of Community Engagement, 8 graduate assistants through the College of Education and Human Services and Teaching and Learning Department, 2 undergraduate student researchers through the Student Faculty Research program, and 5 interns for the leadership certificate program. The past contribution of the IAC to student transformation is evidenced by:

  • In 2019 the IAC project was awarded the Outstanding Service Award for a Campus Community Partner by Center for Community Engagement Montclair State University in recognition of its work with service-learning students.
  • In 2017 undergraduate student, EvaMarie Danza, presented the Increasing Access to College Project, as part of a panel entitled “Tales of Community-Engaged Teaching and Learning: Instructors and Students Reflect” at the 8th Annual University Learning and Teaching Showcase at Montclair State University.
  • In 2017 undergraduate students, Dominique Laing and Patricia Walsh, presented the session, “Disability and Inclusivity: Developing the Increasing Access to College Project at MSU” at the 2017 Social Justice Conference sponsored by the Office of Equity & Diversity at Montclair State University.
  • Patricia Walsh and an IAC student, Antionio Reyes, co-authored an article about their experience in the IAC, entitled “Trish and Antonio’s journey: Creating friendship through peer engagement on campus,” which was published in Tash Connections, volume 42, issue 2).

In sum, MSU students have benefited and been transformed by their engagement with the IAC project in ways that have been recognized by others and presented, authored, and published by students.

The IAC upholds the CEHS vision through implementing progressive and innovative programming that increases the inclusivity on our campus, and within our local community- leading to a more just and equitable and just society. It also provides opportunity for traditionally enrolled CEHS students to learn alongside students with intellectual disabilities labels, increasing their capacity to bring the ethics of inclusion into their future careers and lives.


Bacon, J. & Baglieri, S. (2021). Perspectives of students labeled intellectually disabled at college: Using disability studies in education as a lens to contemplate inclusive postsecondary education. Journal of Disability Studies in Education 1(23).

Baglieri, S. & Bacon, J. (2017). Teaching and care: Cripping fieldwork in teacher        education. Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal, 13(4).


Return to Homepage