• An estimated 67% of students with learning differences enroll in postsecondary institutions after graduating from high school, but only an estimated 41% graduate from community colleges and 34% from four-year colleges and universities.
  • As of May 2016, the overall Year1 – Year 2 retention rate for the STEPP Program was 92%. 81% of participants have graduated or are on track to graduate, while another 8% transferred to another institution and have graduated or are making forward progress.
  • As of May 2016, 45% of currently enrolled students had GPA’s at or above 3.0 and 77% had GPA’s at or above 2.5.  The remainder of students were in good academic standing with GPA’s at or above 2.0.




For information about this grant, please visit our Grant Database.





1. Strengthen teacher capacity

6. Explore learner profile





- Metacognition

- Universal Design for Learning









In the media




Contact person for Oak LDP grant

Name: Sarah Williams

Position: Director

Email:  williamssar@ecu.edu



Website & social media links

“I think the way [the program] has set up the staff is pretty great…Ms. X is kind of a go-to for whatever we need. I think I bother her every single day with some sort of ADD conversation. Even when her door is closed and the Do Not Disturb sign is on, you can still ask her a quick question. The staff is always here for you…aside from being paid as their job, they genuinely love every single student and they want the best for us at all times.”

– Student participating in the STEPP Program



What have you accomplished through your Oak-funded programme that you’re most proud to share with your colleagues?


Students frequently join us in our mission to raise awareness about college potential and success for students with learning differences: for example, one student started a “Mind the Gap” initiative her freshman year and has now presented to hundreds of preservice teachers in the ECU College of Education about her experiences as a student with dyslexia, plus provided recommendations for removing unnecessary barriers for students.  Another student connected with the College STAR blog team to begin a podcast series called LD State of Mind.  Still in its infancy, the podcast seeks to provide insights and advice to college-bound students with different learning profiles.



What’s the most interesting challenge your Oak-funded programme currently faces?


Our most consistent challenge is not related to student support, but addressing perceptions and stereotypes in the larger educational setting.  For example, helping people to understand the value of a small program that can have a large impact is a constant challenge when working to sustain the program with non-state funding.



East Carolina University (ECU)’s STEPP Program guides students with learning disabilities, whose access to postsecondary opportunities are often limited, through three key transition points toward college and career success: transitioning from high school to the university setting, entering into a specific major or program, and graduating to enter a chosen profession. Its grant will allow the program to sustain and deepen its support for the 40-50 students it currently serves each year and to expand the impact of its work beyond the participating students

Expanding access to a college education for students with learning differences



STEPP’s mission is to provide students with learning disabilities who aspire to achieve a college education, and demonstrate the potential for postsecondary success, with access to, and comprehensive support throughout, their university experience.  Through partnering with these students, their families, and a variety of educational communities, the STEPP Program builds a network of resources and opportunities that empower and support students, from admission to graduation, at East Carolina University. By helping promising students who otherwise would not have met college-entrance criteria gain special admittance, designing an integrated and collaborative system of support for them, researching short-term and long-term outcomes, and responding programmatically based on what its leaders learn, STEPP opens the door to a college education for students with learning disabilities.







With Oak’s support, the STEPP Program serves 40-50 students annually and is admitting ten new students with identified learning disabilities each year. STEPP is increasing and better targeting its recruitment activities and continually refining its programming. It is working to maintain and increase the retention rates for its participants to ensure that they continue to match or exceed those of the university overall.



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Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.

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