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University Participant (UP) Program

Pictures of students and supports. Says UP program. Raising expectations. Providing opportunity. Transforming outcomes.



The WCU UP Program provides an inclusive, two-year, on-campus living and learning experience for college-aged persons with intellectual disability. The goal of the program is to facilitate UP students' transition from secondary school to adult life with education, employment, and independent living. The UP program currently enrolls up to 12 students at a time. 


UP students live in on-campus dormitories distributed throughout university residence halls under the same university policies that apply to all WCU students. On-campus life is fully integrated and inclusive. There are no separate facilities, settings, or classes for UP students.


WCU undergraduate students are recruited to provide paid and unpaid support to facilitate UP Students living on campus, attending classes, engaging in social and recreational activities, becoming involved in student organizations, and developing friendships.


The UP Program started as a pilot program in 2007 then was partially funded as one of the Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) through the Office of Postsecondary Education and continues to serve as a model demonstration program for North Carolina.

Now officially the first accredited inclusive post-secondary program in the country!

Program Overview

UP Grads 2024

UP Program Graduates - Class of 2024

University Participant  Program students are not eligible for an undergraduate or graduate degree from the university and are not eligible to earn college credit, however they do recieve a Certificate of Accomplishment awarded through WCU's Educational Outreach department. UP students are permitted to audit individual courses as part of the UP Program and required to pay appropriate fees for these courses as well as other university costs (i.e., housing, meal plan, student activities, etc). The UP Certificate of Accomplishment is awarded after a two-year period based on satisfactory completion of at least 80% of their goals each semester and continued growth in each of five program components. These components include the following:

  • Personal development skills (e.g., communication skills, personal care skills, self-determination, etc.)
  • Community participation skills (e.g., using public transportation, budgeting, grocery shopping, etc.)
  • Vocational preparation skills (e.g., learning specific job skills on or off campus)
  • Social participation and learning (e.g., participating in university functions such as athletic events, belonging to university clubs or organizations)
  • Course auditing (e.g., auditing three to four courses per semester)

Note: UP students must pay current university fees for auditing courses.

Ready to learn more?

Here are a few highlights and testimonials in our recent UP to Date Report created in Summer of 2024.

Interested in getting on our mailing list to recieve information about important upcoming dates? Complete our interest survey!

Ready to become a Catamount? Check out our admissions process, requirements, and application details!

Have some questions? Check out our frequently asked questions page to see if other people have them too!

Interested in seeing what life is like as a UP student at WCU? Check out our student life page to see what UP is all about!



UP Program Staff

While the staff below oversee the operations of the UP program, it is the amazing natural supports who truly make the program happen! We couldn't operate without the 200+ natural supports that help out each semester. Check out how to get involved and make the most out of your college experience!

Kelly Kelley

Kelly R. Kelley

Program Director

Alex Raxter Mathis

Alexandra R. Mathis

Program Coordinator

Susan Buchanan

Susan K. Buchanan

Student and Career Services Specialist


Meredith Morrison

Partnering Medicaid Provider, Abound Health QP

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