MSU ACCESS program students now eligible for federal financial aid

Contact: James Carskadon

STARKVILLE, Miss.—The U.S. Department of Education has designated Mississippi’s only post-secondary program for students with intellectual disabilities as a comprehensive transition program, a designation held by only 25 percent of similar programs throughout the country.

Mississippi State University ACCESS program students are now eligible for federal financial aid programs as part of the new designation. The program provides a complete college experience, with a curriculum that encompasses independent living skills, enhancing self-advocacy and adaptive skills. Eligible students now can receive Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and participate in Work-Study programs.

“Financial aid can make ACCESS available to students who otherwise could not afford the program, opening it to a more diverse student population,” MSU Director of Student Support Services Julie Capella said. “It’s wonderful to increase the financial accessibility of this successful program.”

Former ACCESS student Wade Sims, left, discusses his artwork during a 2016 exhibit hosted by the ACCESS Program. (Photo by Megan Bean)

ACCESS is one of approximately 50 programs in the country and the only one in Mississippi to hold the comprehensive transition program designation. All ACCESS students have an individualized advising and curriculum structure designed to meet the specific goals of each student and help them reach their maximum potential. Students are integrated into an inclusive environment for a true college experience, in addition to completing internships that allow them to gain valuable work experiences and career skills.

As part of the program, ACCESS students have substantial freedom on campus as they navigate between meals, academic activities and extracurricular activities independently. The independence helps ACCESS students develop self-confidence, explore their interests, manage their time and become fully engaged in campus life.

ACCESS aims to provide students with increased employment opportunities, societal involvement and autonomy after they leave MSU. Students who complete the ACCESS program receive a certificate of completion at MSU’s commencement ceremony.

For more on ACCESS, visit  

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