Penn State Altoona Policy Statement
Generally, all courses prescribed for the major in Penn State Altoona degree programs are considered essential, and therefore, course substitutions are very rarely granted. A student who has a documented disability and is concerned that performance in a prescribed course may be affected by the disability is strongly encouraged to arrange for an intake meeting with the Office of Student Disability Resources as soon as possible. Requests for course substitutions generally cannot be made prior to entrance to a major. All requests for course substitutions must be finalized prior to the student's semester of graduation.
- After an intake meeting between the Student Disability Resources Coordinator and the student, the documentation is reviewed and evaluated to determine if it meets Penn State's guidelines. The student is directed to submit a written letter of request with the rationale as to the reason for the request. The student may also submit any corroborating information from other sources to support the course substitution.
- The Disability Services Coordinator will review the documentation to determine eligibility under the ADA. It is possible a Documentation Review board or University Park Student Disability Resources will review the documentation to determine eligibility under the ADA. The Documentation Review Board can consist of disability specialists, psychologists, licensed professional counselors, medical professionals, and other assigned staff. It is determined if
- the documentation meets Penn State's guidelines for appropriate documentation,
- if the student's condition meets the criteria for having a disability under the ADA, and
- if there is sufficient evidence to warrant the support of a course substitution as a reasonable accommodation based on the strength of the clinical documentation, academic history, severity of identified functional limitations and accommodation history.
- The Student Disability Resources Coordinator will provide a verification letter to the student if the course substitution is deemed to be a reasonable and necessary accommodation in order for the student to succeed within the major. The student will need to sign a Release of Information Form to obtain the support letter from Student Disability Resources.
- Upon receipt of the verification letter, the division head will consult with the coordinator in the program where the substitution is requested. This division head may also consult with the Office of Student Disability Resources about the nature and degree of the disability, alternative reasonable accommodations, and appropriate courses for substitution. The division head will determine whether or not the substitution is appropriate, and will inform the student, program coordinator, and Office of Student Disability Resources in writing of the decision.
- If the division head determines that the course substitution is not appropriate due to the essential nature of the course to the program or the lack of an equivalent alternative, the student may appeal the decision to the Director of Academic Affairs. If the appeal is denied, the student may choose to follow Penn State's approved procedure and file a grievance regarding this decision with Penn State's Affirmative Action Office.
Course Substitutions - General Information
All students who seek to earn a baccalaureate degree from Penn State must complete a minimum of six credits of general quantification (GQ). There are many courses that fulfill this requirement, therefore, course substitutions are generally not granted for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities who are concerned about their ability to fulfill the GQ requirement should contact their academic adviser and/or the appropriate staff person in the Office for Student Disability Resources.
Foreign Language Courses
Recognizing that the nature and severity of some disabilities may preclude learning a foreign language even with reasonable accommodations, the University will permit the substitution of specific courses. Because these requirements are often important parts of a program, each case must be carefully considered on an individual basis before a decision is made by the appropriate Dean of the student's College or Division Head for individual campus majors. If a foreign language is an essential component of a student's program (for example, if a student is majoring in international business) a substitution will not be considered.
The following procedures must be followed if a student with a disability is seeking a modification of the foreign language requirement:
- The petition process should begin as soon as there is strong evidence that the student may be unable to fulfill the foreign language requirement due to a disability.
- The student must provide the appropriate staff person in the Office for Student Disability Resources with current, relevant, and comprehensive documentation and data from relevant professionals. This documentation must substantiate a severe disability and its specific impact on the student's ability to learn a foreign language.
When the appropriate staff person within the Office for Student Disability Resources reviews the student's documentation and supporting evidence, the information will be related to the student as to whether there is enough data to support a request for a course substitution. If there is sufficient data to support a request for a course substitution, and if the documentation provides sufficient validation to support the request, a support letter will be written by the Disability Services Coordinator and be provided to the student. After a student signs a Release of Information Form, the student will be provided with their support letter. The student will give the letter to the appropriate Division Head at Penn State Altoona if the student is enrolled in a Penn State Altoona major. For University Park majors, the Student Disability Resources staff will forward the student's documentation, assessment, review board determination (if applicable), academic history, and petition packet to Student Disability Resources at University Park for disposition.
If there is not sufficient data to support a request for a course substitution, the staff person within the Office for Student Disability Resources will discuss options with the student. The student may also be referred to his/her academic adviser, tutoring services, or the Division of Undergraduate Studies. Some students find that they are able to fulfill the foreign language requirement by enrolling in the Intensive Institute offered each summer at the University Park Campus. Other students find that it is possible to complete the foreign language requirement by using a variety of accommodations and strategies.