For Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students, it can be difficult to find a college rooted in a community you feel at home in—especially one that uses American Sign Language (ASL) as its primary mode of communication. But even with an obstacle or two in the way, there are always quality solutions to be found if you’re willing to dig for them. With this in mind, here are five of the best colleges out there for members of the Deaf community in no particular order.
1. Gallaudet University
Located in the heart of Washington, DC, Gallaudet University was the first college for Deaf students to be established in the United States in 1864. To this day, it remains the most well-known and respected university in the Deaf community. Students at Gallaudet learn from quality professors and are encouraged to build long-lasting relationships with their fellow students, all while imploring classic customs of Deaf culture, including the use of ASL. The University is so popular, in fact, that a documentary series following a group of Deaf students at the school (entitled Deaf U) is currently available to stream on Netflix.
2. Ohlone College
Ohlone College is located in Fremont, California—a city known for its vibrant Deaf community. Since its founding in 1965, the College has maintained an honorable population of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students despite not being established originally as a school for the Deaf. Ohlone’s Center for Deaf Studies prides itself on its exceedingly capable Deaf instructors and its impressive Interpreter Training program, headed by Deaf activist and author Thomas Holcomb. Keep in mind that as a community college, Ohlone only offers associate degrees and vocational certificates.
3. National Technical Institute for the Deaf
A branch of the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf was the first ever Deaf technical college established in 1968, and it remains the leading school in its field. With over 90 majors to choose from, a community of 1,100 Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students, and a 95% employment rate, NTID is the perfect option for any members of the Deaf community looking for a more hands-on degree. Additionally, NTID has a fantastic ASL Interpreting program known for its small class sizes to make sure every student gets the quality training they need.
4. California State University, Northridge
Established in 1958, California State University, Northridge is a predominately hearing school, but it earned a spot on this list due to having the largest population of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students at a mainstream university in the nation. CSUN is the home of the National Center on Deafness, whose highest purpose is to bridge the gap between the hearing and Deaf communities. The University is also home to a Department of Deaf Studies, where hearing students have the opportunity to obtain degrees pertaining to the Deaf community while also having the unique privilege of interacting with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing peers during the course of their education.
5. SouthWest College for the Deaf
A branch of Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, SouthWest College for the Deaf is the only community college centering wholly around Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students in the country. SWDC was founded in 1979 to provide the Deaf community with an education rooted in their own culture, which is heavily influenced by the use of ASL. Though the College doesn’t have a vast array of majors, the programs it does offer are taught directly in sign language and can lead to various exciting, anomalous careers such as welding. It’s an adept community college option for all members of the Deaf community.
Any one of these colleges is fully equipped with the capacity to become an adequate, welcoming home away from home for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students. If nothing else, I hope this list has opened your eyes to the possibilities of your educational journey going forward, something that has no business being rooted in anxiety and limitations. When it comes to your future, never be afraid to shoot for the moon! After all, the worst that can happen is landing amidst an equally breathtaking galaxy of stars.
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