Autism Center’s college program reaches matching fund goal

A family who wishes to remain anonymous has donated a $30,000 gift to the West Virginia Autism Training Center’s College Program for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder at Marshall University.  The donation was provided to be an incentive to challenge other donors to match, dollar for dollar, up to $30,000.  In less than one month, that challenge has been met.

Marshall’s college program was recently the subject of a highly complimentary article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which noted that the program, which began in 2002, is the oldest one in the nation that supports students on the autism spectrum as they pursue traditional college degrees. The article may be accessed at

Since that story appeared on Oct. 9, “we have been happily flooded with calls and e-mails,” said Rebecca Hansen, coordinator of the college program.  “We are thankful for the exposure and hope to accommodate more students in the near future.”

Currently there are 48 students who work individually with graduate student mentors who guide them in navigating the academic and social aspects of college life.  Students live in residence halls and local apartments, following the typical curriculum as other Marshall students. The college program began with a $50,000 donation from Virginia businessman Larry Austin, whose son, Lowell, became the first student in the program and who now works at the Autism Training Center.

The purpose of the college program is to provide individualized skill building and therapeutic supports to degree-seeking students with Autism Spectrum Disorders through a mentored environment while navigating a college experience at Marshall University.  For more information, please visit