CIP – College Internship Program
Our atypical young people need a lot of support as they transition to adulthood. Many families try to provide that support, with or without help from agencies, as the young adult continues to live at home. To do it well requires a lot of time, effort, and confronting all kinds of challenges without losing hope or burning out.
Now picture young people with ADHD, Asperger’s, or other learning differences having a whole staff of experts to help them understand more about life and themselves. They live away from home, sharing a 2-bedroom apartment, among a community of peers going through the transition process with them. They have academic support as they take classes at college, or vocational support for getting started on a career.
All this – and more – is available through a program called CIP, or College Internship Program. It’s one of those residential programs I had a hard time finding at first, but later rejoiced when I discovered several in existence.
I recently attended what’s called a CIP Experience Day, where staff members give families and professionals an overview of the program, a tour of the facilities and apartments, and a chance to ask current students questions about their experiences. I came away thinking, “this is everything you could want in helping these young people launch into life,” and feeling optimistic about the future of the students we met.
One of CIP’s brochures says, “We graduate young men and women of confidence, character, and integrity capable of making contributions to society and claiming their place as citizens of the world.” Who wouldn’t want that? Isn’t that what we dream about?
Here’s some background: CIP was founded in 1984 by Dr. Michael McManmon. (By the way, it was only 12 years ago that Dr. McManmon realized he himself has Aspergers – making him part of the population his program is designed to help!) CIP has six locations in the US: Amherst NY, Berkshire MA, and Brevard FL in the East; Bloomington IN in the Midwest; and Berkeley and Long Beach CA in the West. According to the CIP website, the Massachusetts location has upwards of 50 students, while the enrollment at other sites is around 20-30. The programs are largely the same among all the sites, with some variations depending on the local community and particular strengths of staff members.
Students are between the ages of 18-26 and have a documented diagnosis of Asperger’s, High-Functioning Autism, PDD-NOS, ADHD, NLD, Dyslexia, or other Learning Differences. Other admissions criteria are the potential to live and attend a college or career program independently; reasonable emotional, behavioral, and psychological stability; and most of all, motivation to meet the program’s goals. A typical CIP student is in the program 2-3 years.
While young adults enrolled in the program are referred to as students, it’s important to note that CIP itself is not a school. However, the CIP facilities and nearby apartments are located within an easy commute (on foot or public transit) to local 2-year or 4-year colleges. For those attending college, CIP staff members assist the student with everything from enrolling to figuring out a class schedule to getting accommodations to communicating with the professor – as well as helping with study techniques and tutoring.
If college is not in the student’s plans (at least for the moment), CIP helps with career counseling, job preparation, and internship placement.
About those plans: CIP ensures that students set their own short-term and long-term goals in what are called Person-Centered Plans. With assistance from staff and feedback from peers, each student periodically assesses his or her progress towards achieving the goals. Creating the plans and monitoring progress is one aspect of CIP’s emphasis on developing executive functioning skills such as making plans, getting organized, completing tasks, and managing time.
With a typical staff to student ratio of 1:2, CIP provides comprehensive guidance in a variety of areas. For example, CIP Long Beach has one or more staff members in the following departments:
- Academics: help with study strategies, academic coaching, executive functioning, tutoring, and study hall.
- Advising: case management, communication bridge between parents and students, liaison with other programs providing support
- Career: training, counseling, community service, resume development, internships, job placement, on-the-job assistance
- Life Skills: support for apartment living, menu planning, food shopping, cooking, socializing, recreation
- Social Skills: group and individual practice, conflict resolution, support for interacting in the world at large
- Therapy: art therapy, equine assisted psychotherapy
- Wellness: fitness, health, nutrition, stress reduction
In addition to time spent in school or on the job, students gather weekly to meet with staff in each of these areas. One thing I liked about the CIP approach is that if a student in the group is not picking up well on a particular skill, the staff member and student will meet one-on-one at another time to work on developing the skill.
Here are some of the other positives I heard and saw during the CIP Experience Day:
- Every morning starts with a reframing class, in which students talk about their feelings, and strategies for getting to a better place. This practice helps combat the negative mindset that is common among people with learning differences. (“Think Positive” is a motto you often encounter around CIP.)
- Staff are on hand to guide the students in the big and small issues of apartment living.
- There are fun weekend activities and a weekly themed potluck dinner.
- All students do 20 hours of community service a year.
- Every year includes an optional cultural trip. Destinations in the past have included Greece, New York City, and Belize.
- The program provides students different levels of support depending on the individual’s need. Students enter CIP at the level of support that makes sense for them. Most students move to lower levels of support as they proceed through the program. (Parents will appreciate that costs decrease with lower levels.) Students receive transition counseling as they are getting ready to exit the program.
Are you wondering whether all of this really makes a difference to CIP students down the road? Well, statistics presented on the CIP website point to much more positive outcomes for its graduates as opposed to the general atypical population. (Follow this link, then click on “Outcomes & Statistics” in the sidebar.)
Students and families who want to give CIP a try might want to check out Summer@CIP. These two-week sessions expose the student to CIP curriculum, fun activities, a group of peers – and the chance to take a break from living at home! One summer program is open to high school students entering 10th, 11th, or 12th grade in the fall. A second program is for high school graduates up to the age of 26.
Now that you’ve seen what CIP has to offer, you may be excited about looking into enrollment. Oh, and by the way, how much does it cost?
Um — a lot.
The CIP website and literature do not shy away from this topic. (Follow this link, then click on “Tuition & Fees” in the sidebar.) The fact is, it requires a big chunk of change to provide these services. First, there is tuition, which for incoming students varies from around $45,000 to $76,000 depending on the level of services required. (Current students who have progressed to needing less support are charged around $20,000 to $30,000.) Tuition for college is an additional expense. If the student is in the career program instead of college, that costs around $7,000. Then there’s the cost of the housing (in Long Beach – one of the more expensive sites for housing – this is around $13,000 a year), a fee of a couple of thousand (give or take) for the mandatory orientation program, and a monthly allowance of $550 for food and personal spending money. The optional cultural trip would be another expense.
Resources are available to soften the financial blow at least a little. These resources include: the possibility of a medical deduction on taxes; reimbursement from your insurance company for CIP’s clinical services; tuition credit for having attended Summer@CIP; a sibling discount; early payment discounts; CIP Tuition Assistance; SSI, SSDI, Vocational Rehabilitation or school district funding; financial aid for college attendance; and loans.
Before proceeding with the application process – which is quite involved, and not to be entered lightly – it would make sense to get a lot of information from CIP about the costs and payment options, as well as investigating the particulars of the other resources mentioned above.
I hope this has given you some insight into the benefits, and costs, of CIP’s programs. I’ll probably research other schools and programs in the months ahead, and we can all learn about how they are the same or different. For now, much applause for the services offered by CIP, the dedication and expertise of their staff, and for the young adults in the program who are making the most of the opportunities CIP provides for a brighter future.