Students participating in Benjamin J. Cecil 5K Walk for Independence

Vocational Independence Program

Senior Director: Paul Cavanagh, Ph.D.

Faculty: C. Alter, J. Baron, R. Bradley, A. Colvin, S. Delaney, K. Durkin, R. Ezeani, A. Frisina, G. Frisina, J. Fullhardt, K. Glover, C. Hawkins, J. King, C. Jockle, M. Ranaldo, W. Russell, H. Schorr, E. Vlasak.

Founded in 1987, NYIT’s Vocational Independence Program is one of the oldest, residential, university-based Comprehensive Transition and Post-Secondary (CTP) programs in the United States. Its students are members of the NYIT community and live at the SUNY Old Westbury residential site.

Under the umbrella of the Vocational Independence Program, there are three distinct programs:

  • Vocational Independence Program
  • Introduction to Independent (I-to-I) Summer Program
  • Associate Degree Program

The Vocational Independence Program

The NYIT Vocational Independence Program (VIP) is a college-based three-year certificate program for students with moderate to significant learning differences, including those with a diagnosis of high-functioning autism or an autism spectrum disorder. The mission of the Vocational Independence Program is to maximize the potential of individuals with learning differences to enable them to lead successful, independent lives. The Vocational Independence Program is designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Comprehensive Transition and Post-Secondary (CTP) program, a designation that allows VIP students to be considered for specific types of financial aid: Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), and work-study funds.

VIP students live at the NYIT residential campus and participate in every aspect of college life. Students benefit from a unique curriculum and receive instruction in academics/executive functioning, social functioning, independent living competencies, and employment skills. In addition to the classroom instruction, the curriculum provides for extensive community-based work internships and opportunities to take non-matriculated undergraduate credit classes.

After completing three years of primarily non-credit coursework (each semester averaging the time equivalent of 15–18 credits of classes and/or internships), the goal for VIP graduates is to achieve one of two outcomes:

  1. Students transition into the world of work and independent living, or
  2. Students transition full-time into a degree-bearing college, university, or technical school program, eventually leading to work and independent living.

VIP classes are kept small to support a student’s transition to a college environment. Community-based internships and training in independent living and social skills supplement formal classes. A unique aspect of VIP is that it is the only transition program in the country with an extensive classroom and experiential travel-training curriculum during a student’s first two years. Students who qualify through an ongoing appraisal process may enroll in NYIT credit courses.

Students receive grades and/or assessments for all aspects of the program, including lecture classes, vocational instruction, and independent living instruction. Instructors provide students with course outlines and objectives at the start of each semester.

The program’s support structure is strong, the student to staff ratio is better than 1:3. Each student has at least four advisers/counselors who coordinate the academic, budgeting, vocational, and social dimensions of the student’s program. A full-time director of residential life, a full-time medical director, and trained resident advisors staff the program’s residence hall, providing 24/7 support for students.

In their first year, students take classes that help them adjust to the collegiate experience (e.g., executive functioning skills, managing a personal budget) as well as core courses in health, social psychology, computers, and civics. Classroom experiences help them to maximize their potential for independence., Both classwork and homework have an experiential focus. Students do much of their learning outside the classroom, as part of the larger NYIT community, with field trips to nearby Long Island and New York City sites rich in historic, cultural, and environmental relevance. VIP freshmen use class time to explore different avenues of independence in conjunction with their employment training, as instructors help them to discover and expand personal strengths. Each student receives personalized academic advisement as well as access to a computer lab study hall.

During the second year, VIP students build on the growth they achieved during the first year. For students focused on an employment outcome, their classroom experiences continue to help them develop essential skills, and they participate in a community-based vocational internship in one of several focus areas, such as childhood recreation, office skills/clerical, retail, electronics recycling, food services, maintenance, and hospitality. Examples of placements by focus area are Marriott and the Hilton for hospitality, eWorks for electronics recycling, as well as Marshalls and Modell’s stores for retail. Sophomore students also hone communications skills in classes and are taught in technology-rich environments with computers, Smart Boards™, and videos to foster learning. Students focused on preparing to continue with college after VIP, begin taking from 3–9 credits at the NYIT Long Island campus. They particularly focus on core classes easily transferred to other academic institutions.

By the third year, VIP students expand their participation in community-based vocational internships and/or in credit classes at NYIT. The VIP third-year curriculum focuses on living independently. Food and nutrition, budgeting, and apartment living are key topics. The last portion of the spring semester consists of hands-on workshops on topics that students will face after graduation; from interview techniques to dressing for success, students have the opportunity for “dry runs” with the support and guidance of advisers. In all cases, students move at their own pace and with ample feedback from faculty and staff members who are involved with their progress.

Associate Degree Support Program

The Associate Degree Support Program at VIP provides qualified students the opportunity to pursue an associate degree in three years with additional supports traditionally offered within the VIP program. Students have the option of pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Communication Arts or an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting. Students are supported in the program by a credit course coordinator, academic advisor, social counselor, and, if needed, an independent living skills coach.

For acceptance into the program, students must apply and be accepted separately to BOTH the NYIT Undergraduate Admissions office AND to the NYIT-Vocational Independence Program.

Recent guidelines to be considered for undergraduate admissions are as follows:

  • the SAT (combined score of 900 or better), or ACT (score of 19 or better) exam, and
  • have a GPA of 80 or above

Students in the Associate Degree Support program participate in the executive functioning and independent living components of the VIP curriculum, but they do not participate in the vocational components of the VIP curriculum.

Introduction to Independence (I to I) Summer Program

This five-week summer bridge program is designed to assist students in their transition from high school to post-secondary life. Students ages 17 years old and up are invited to live on our SUNY Old Westbury site where they focus upon the acquisition of independent living, social, and vocational skills. Read more about this summer program on the NYIT website.

Campus Life

NYIT’s Long Island campus, formally known as the Dorothy and Alexander Schure Old Westbury campus after the founder of the university, is nestled among 176 wooded and landscaped acres. A tranquil and lush setting, it comprises the former C.V. Whitney estate as well as several other Gold Coast Long Island estates.

VIP students enjoy all the services and amenities that the campus offers its students, including such things as NYIT libraries, student-run clubs and activities, athletic and other campus events, academic resources, and other student services. All residential NYIT students on Long Island live in residence halls located at the State University of New York (SUNY) Old Westbury campus. VIP has its own residence hall, exclusive to our students, within this residential village. Visit NYIT-Long Island campus for more information and to take a virtual tour.

VIP residential staff consists of a full-time coordinator of residential life, a full-time medical director, and trained resident advisors, who are on duty every evening starting at 5 p.m. and throughout the weekend.

Student Population

Students have either graduated from a secondary-school program or sometimes their secondary-school provider will contract with VIP to meet the requirements of transition planning for students receiving IDEA special education services. VIP students generally have specific learning disabilities and have received special education services in high school. Reading levels range from third grade to above 12th grade.

A flexible orientation process allows for a wide spectrum of abilities. Participants must be able to fit comfortably into the NYIT environment and demonstrate the ability and desire for the program outcomes of either employment or matriculation in a degree-focused educational setting. In addition, students are screened for emotional needs to ensure the program is able to support them. VIP is not a residential treatment facility and does not accept students with significant mental health disabilities.


The program accepts a freshman class of 20 to 40 students from around the world. VIP students must be at least 18 years of age. Admission decisions are made on a rolling basis, and it is recommended that candidates apply as early in the school year as possible due to limited space. VIP admits students of any race, creed, gender, and national or ethnic origin.

Candidates are encouraged to visit NYIT’s campus with their parents or caregivers prior to submitting an application. These visits provide applicants with the opportunity to meet with faculty and administration, observe classes, talk with students, and tour the campus. The formal application includes a parent application, references, school records, psychological/intelligence testing results, and social adaptive testing scores such as the Vineland. Potential students and their caregivers are required to participate in an on-campus admissions interview.


Tuition $53,550 $26,775
Room $9,500 $4,750
Meal Plan $4,970 $2,485
Health Insurance* $1,380 $690
Total $69,400 $34,700
Tuition Refund Insurance** $328 $164

According to published NYIT guidelines:

* Health Insurance is optional as long as the student provides proof of insurance and chooses to opt out
** Tuition Refund Insurance is optional, but the student must explicitly request to opt out

Note: The Vocational Independence Program of NYIT is approved by the U.S. Department of Education as a Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary (CTP) Program. VIP students are eligible for some forms of federal student aid. Students accepted into the Associate Degree Support Program must be accepted by the college and the Vocational Independence Program. Consequently, as a full-time student pursuing a degree, Associate Degree Support Program students are eligible for all forms of federal student aid.

Vocational Independence Program
P.O. Box 8000
Northern Boulevard
Harry Schure Hall, Room 207
Old Westbury, NY 11568-8000