Shepherds College for IDD Students May Expand to Other States

Blog: Shepherds College

A traditional college experience may seem out of reach for many young people with intellectual disabilities. But the planned expansion of faith-based Shepherds College in Union Grove, Wisconsin, may put that dream within reach.

Established in 2008, Shepherds College serves 75 students enrolled in three-year programs in culinary arts, technology and horticulture. In addition to their programs of study, students at Shepherds learn skills of independent living such as caring for their on-campus dorm rooms and apartments, doing laundry and food shopping and preparation. Shepherds students can participate in a range of extracurricular activities including Special Olympics.

The school is accredited by the Atlanta-based Council on Occupational Education, and about 75% of students graduate. Tuition is a steep $62,600 for the 2023-2024 school year, but loans and need-based scholarships are available. After completing their studies, three out of four Shepherds students are employed in their chosen professions.

When the school first opened, there was talk of expanding to other states, but the idea didn’t receive serious consideration until Brian Canright, then director of recruiting for the college, wrote his master’s thesis, which described a hypothetical plan for expansion. When Canright completed his degree, his thesis became the basis for the expansion plan.

Tracy Terrill, President of Shepherds, told Disability Scoop that she feels a responsibility to make a Shepherds education available to students across the country. By providing the three-year course of study, “we’re changing the trajectory of their lives. It’s profound,” said Terrill.

Canright, who is now vice president of expansion for the college, believes Shepherds is so unique and the need for post-secondary education for high school graduates with IDD is so great, that expansion makes perfect sense.

Shepherd will initiate its recruitment campaign for new campuses in July when some of its staff members present the “Shepherds College Preview Experience,” at churches in Georgia and Texas.

One stop the staff will be making is at Westwood Church outside Atlanta. The church’s outreach director, Kevin Bloye, told Disability Scoop “he is certain that families will welcome Shepherds College to Georgia, and that many of them will jump at the chance to enroll their sons and daughters.”  Currently Westwood Church is building a $5 million facility that could become the future home of Shepherds’ Georgia campus.

Initially, the college will create temporary commuter colleges in other states. If they perceive that there is real interest in the colleges, they may choose to build residential campuses. School officials believe that making the Shepherds’ experience available to everyone who can benefit is a moral imperative.