Beacon College: Higher Education for Students with Learning Differences
by Coraima Camacho
Students who learn differently than others might often feel limited within their college search. They might stress over which colleges or universities will be best equipped to their learning differences and if they will provide them with resources similar to their learning styles. However, the resource-rich environment, one-on-one curriculum and various student support systems found at Beacon College can help alleviate such worries. The Hoofbeat recently had the opportunity to speak with a representative to learn more about what Beacon, a private nonprofit four-year college, located in Leesburg, Florida, has to offer.
Founded in 1989, Beacon College is the first four-year college that teaches students with learning disabilities, ADHD, and other learning differences. A 6:1 student to faculty ratio paired with an average class size of 12 to 16 students and optional ACT/SAT scores allow Beacon College to tend to individual student needs and provide a one-on-one experience. Beacon College currently enrolls 350 students from 35 different states, nine foreign countries, and offers three types of degrees: Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts and Associate of Arts. Areas of study for the Bachelor of Science include Anthrozoology, Business Management, and Computer Information Systems. Bachelor and Associate of Arts degrees include Human Services, Humanities, Psychology, and Studio Arts. The university offers 12 minors and several co-curricular/enrichment opportunities such as study abroad programs. Beacon College features unique student resources to accommodate individual needs. For example, upon enrollment, students are assigned an experienced individual learning specialist who will guide, nurture, and monitor their growth throughout their undergraduate experience, free of charge.
With more than 90 percent of its students living on campus, Beacon College believes that participation in clubs and student organizations complement academic experiences and further acclimate students to campus life. Therefore, they offer an array of sports and student organizations ranging from academic to cultural, service and/or faith based, and special interests. Similar to its unconventional curriculum, Beacon College offers unique student organizations such as Car Club, Disney Club, and Equestrian Club. Their sports can be categorized by competitive leagues and recreational play. Competitive sports include basketball, bowling and volleyball. Meanwhile, recreational play includes 5K training, flag football, and kickball among others. Additionally, Beacon College hosts sample special sports events such as hiking and kayaking trips, 3-on-3 basketball tournaments, and their annual Student vs Staff soccer match. In the upcoming 2018 school year, they plan to incorporate year-round basketball, volleyball, and beach volleyball courts.
Students who enjoy physical activity but choose not to engage in competitive or intramural sports can enjoy the services provided by the Beacon College Fitness Center. The college’s new fully-equipped gym is open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and encourages students to join its free training program, BeaconFit. BeaconFit provides free personal fitness and strengthening training with certified trainers, and group classes including weight training, zumba, and yoga. Additionally, Beacon sponsors student weekend outdoor adventures that bring together the student body, faculty, and staff. In past years, students have attended both mountain biking and paintballing events.
Beacon acknowledges the importance of real-world, hands-on learning. 100% of their students participate in practical learning experiences - from job shadowing to internships. Habitat for Humanity, Orlando Predators Football, and Boys & Girls Club are some of the more than 30 internship opportunities provided to Beacon students. Additionally, Beacon offers study abroad opportunities, and feature an international cultural studies programs during the summer term. Previous travel abroad programs have visited Hawaii, and foreign countries including Croatia, Galapagos, Hungary, and Slovakia. In June 2017, students visited Japan, touring Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima to learn about culture, religion, food, and the impact of the atomic bomb. During the Fall 2017 term, 30 students studied in Prato, Italy as a part of Beacon-in-Tuscany, the first semester-long international study program for students who learn differently. The upcoming 2018 school year will feature a science-based trip to the cities of Fairbanks, Talkeena, Anchorage, Portage, Seward, and Denali National Park in Alaska.
Students considering attending Beacon College should be aware of the numerous financial aid opportunities. Among the financial aid options students have previously been granted are federal and in-state grants, federal and private loans, and private scholarships. Grant options include Florida Bright Future and Pell Grants. Loan options include Federal Direct Student Loans, PLUS Loans for Undergraduate students’ parents, and private lender loans. A wide range of scholarships are awarded annually to students who learn differently or meet other specific criteria. For example, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) awards four to six autistic students with a $5,000 tuition scholarship to promote Autistic leadership on their respective campuses as a part of their Autistic Scholars Fellowship Scholarship. Other scholarships include institutional scholarships such as the Philip A. Harris Scholarship and scholarships for minorities. Additionally, students can enroll in payment plans, or students with diagnosed learning differences apply for a medical tax deduction which may qualify tuition and fees as medical tax deduction.
While some students with learning differences might feel limited when searching for their ideal college or might be discouraged from attending out of state colleges, Beacon College’s various resources and enrichment opportunities make it a viable option for them. For more information, to schedule a summer visit, or to request a personal tour, visit www.BeaconCollege.edu.