Loras College is a Top 25 School for Students with Autism

Robert Waterbury

Research group points to school’s empowering program

DUBUQUE, Iowa – Loras College, a Catholic liberal arts college, is the only school in Iowa to make a list of the top 25 schools for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). About one in 59 children has been identified with ASD according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Loras College has provided supportive programming for students with disabilities since 1986,” said Lynn Gallagher, Ed.D., director of Disability Services at the Lynch Learning Center at Loras College. “The ARCH Program is another way to assist students with their learning and transition to college life.”

While the ranking by Best Value Schools starts with annual tuition cost, the research group focused on Loras’ ARCH Program. The four-year program, launched in 2015, is designed to help students with ASD thrive emotionally, academically and socially. Students work directly with certified autism specialists to hone skills ranging from self-advocacy and organization to stress management and socialization, while earning their bachelor’s degree.

Students enrolled in the program meet weekly with their coach from the Loras College Lynch Learning Center. The Learning Center has provided programs for students with learning disabilities and ASD for nearly 30 years. In addition to skill building, students receive specialized occupation prep including job shadowing, internships and one-on-one career counseling.

A 2015 federal survey found that only about 36 percent of autistic young adults attended college or vocational schools, and 58 percent held a paying job between high school and their early 20s – a rate reportedly much lower than that of their peers with other kinds of disabilities.

Ranked 19th, Loras topped schools including Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia; Drexel University, Philadelphia; and Boston University.

The Autism Specific Program offers an additional five-day summer transition program that is available to help students acclimate to campus and allow them to move in two days prior to first-year orientation. Students interested in the new program should apply simultaneously to the College and through the Lynch Learning Center.

For more information, contact Gallagher at or 563.588.7921.

About the Loras College Lynch Learning Center
Loras recognizes the dignity of persons with disabilities and challenges them to grow in our supportive environment while developing the skills associated with active learners, reflective thinkers, ethical decision makers and responsible contributors. The Lynch Learning Center, formerly known as the Loras Learning Disabilities Program, was created in 1986 to provide additional services to students with a primary diagnosis of learning disabilities or attention deficit disorder. The Center offers three levels of service for students with diagnosed disabilities: The Enhanced Program, Accommodation Services and the new offering for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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