SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — High school students with documented individual education plans (IEPs) may be eligible for a program at Missouri State University that gives students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to attend college.

According to MSU’s website, the Bear POWER program utilizes a combination of college coursework, Bear POWER Academic Support Sessions and internship experiences. The program is flexible to give students options and offer supports to fit individuals’ needs.

Bear POWER Director Dr. April Phillips says students are able to have the typical experience of a college student with the additional support needed for academic success.

“Bear POWER is an inclusive post-secondary education program for students that have intellectual or developmental disabilities. We’re a five-semester program at Missouri State University. Our students come in and are typical Missouri State students, but we provide a circle of support, and they can take classes like any other student. But we provide extra support through our own class to help them with academics, social skills, independent living skills and job readiness.”

Dr. April Phillips, Director of Bear POWER

The program only accepts a maximum of 15 students at a time, with about a dozen slated for August 2023. Bear POWER is open to students with documented IEPs or 504s.

Because students eligible for Bear POWER may not qualify for typical student loans and grants, the program welcomes donations and grants to help with costs.

MSU students and community members can help out through Bear POWER’s volunteer ambassador program, which offers extra layers of support to students.