Young adults with disabilities who receive Supplementary Security Income (SSI) may think that postsecondary education is beyond their financial reach because their SSI benefits do not provide them with enough income for living and medical expenses after the costs of education have been met. Employment in addition to schooling may not seem a viable option because earned income can result in a decrease in, or disqualification from, the receipt of SSI and related medical benefits. However, there are ways that students with disabilities can finance postsecondary education and retain all or some of their SSI benefits.
The option of retaining benefits while financing postsecondary education is especially important for students with disabilities given findings that only approximately 27% of these students go on to postsecondary education as compared to 68% of students without disabilities (Blackorby and Wagner, 1996; Wittenburg, Fishman, Golden & Allen, 2000). Further, data shows that youth who participate in and complete postsecondary education or vocational training are more likely to secure employment than are those who do not (Benz, Doren and Yvanoff, 1998; Blackorby & Wagner, 1996; National Organization on Disabilities, 1998). The remainder of this article examines ways in which SSI can be compatible with postsecondary education support.