A first-of-its-kind program launching in January is designed to make obtaining a four-year degree more attainable for people with developmental disabilities.

The bachelor’s degree program from Sage Colleges in Albany, N.Y. includes a traditional 120 credit hours, but features small classes, extra supports and a modified course schedule to meet the needs of students with autism and other special needs.

All class instructors will be trained to work with students with disabilities and coursework will be presented in a variety of ways to accommodate different learning styles, officials at the school say.

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What’s more, students in the program known as the Achieve Degree will each have personal support from a behavior analyst.

The program, which will focus on computer science, will run year-round, with six, eight-week sessions allowing students to juggle fewer courses at a time while still completing a rigorous academic program.

“By allowing students to focus on one or two topics per term, faculty and mentors are able to work closely with students to provide the sorts of feedback and interaction that facilitate learning,” said Terry Weiner, provost at Sage. “Further, by eliminating long periods of inactivity such as summer break, students are able to stay focused in ‘study mode’ and not risk losing valuable intellectual connections and study skills that must then be regained, slowing forward momentum toward the degree.”

Beyond pure academics — which Sage officials indicate will be on par with the college’s typical standards — the program will also focus on life skills. Students will take one credit courses to learn about everything from study skills to personal finance and interpersonal communication.

But the unique approach does not come cheap. Tuition for the first year is set at $27,000, with increases for each of the three subsequent years as the course load increases, Sage officials say.

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