American Sign Language

Can American Sign Language Be Used for College Acceptance and Credit?

This question is really a two-part conversation. Can American Sign Language fulfill admissions requirements AND can it meet course requirements to graduate while IN college?

The debate rages on about whether American Sign Language (ASL) is a foreign language.

The hang-up appears to be that most who communicate with ASL still rely on English for reading and writing. The argument becomes is it really a “foreign” language if English is still part of the equation. However, because the grammar, structure, and process is radically different from English, more states are accepting it. More than half of the states accept ASL as a foreign language.

Admission to College vs Graduation from College

The University of New Mexico keeps a list of current universities that accept ASL to fulfill their foreign language GRADUATION requirement. If you search this topic on Google, you will find this list everywhere.

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Some things to note about the list…

The author points out that he only adds or deletes schools when someone brings a change to his attention. He may be missing some, or he may have some which shouldn’t be there.

Use this list as a reference, but always check directly with all candidate colleges to ensure you clearly understand their requirements.

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So what about ASL to fulfill admission requirements?

Acceptance of ASL as a foreign language in ADMISSIONS is more of a moving target. However, it seems acceptance of ASL as a foreign language is growing. We discovered this web page, ASL College, that is searchable by state. Click on the state and a list will open of universities and whether they a) accept ASL for admission and b) accept ASL for graduation.

This distinction is important to keep in mind. Say a student takes 2-3 years of ASL prior to college, that may meet their entrance requirement. However, if the foreign language requirement is 3 or 4 semesters of study in a language to GRADUATE college, can a student continue with ASL or will they be forced to start a different language?

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How about ASL in high school?

A side note…not all high schools offer ASL as a course. Some do like Hilliard City Schools in Central Ohio, and some offer a summer or online course option. If your district does not offer ASL, your student may need to seek out dual enrollment or College Credit Plus options at local universities to find an accredited class for high school credit. College Credit Plus is a popular way to get this coursework for students without a high school offering.

A good idea for students is to perhaps take an introductory course to see if ASL is something the student will enjoy before committing further. We found two local Central Ohio options: dsc.org or www.columbusspeech.org.

Back to the college course requirements…A quick check of some Ohio universities shows that when a college accepts ASL for admission, they also provide coursework in ASL. Kent State has one of the largest ASL programs in the nation.

An example of a university that does not accept ASL or have ASL as a course of study is Denison. Because they do not offer the course, they do not accept ASL as credit in admissions.

Going forward, colleges seem to be walking a tricky balance. They want to accept American Sign Language as a foreign language and offer coursework in it. However, colleges are facing more financial difficulties, and programs will need to be cut. ASL could be one of them.

An important post script to this piece

We have had several families share with us about the value of ASL for their dyslexic students. Often the multi-sensory nature of ASL is a great option, and while it is not a 100% guarantee, many colleges may evaluate on a case-by-case basis and waive their standard foreign language requirements in favor of accepting ASL. In this article, Yale talks about partially waiving their foreign language requirement for dyslexics. Waiver decisions will depend on the university and the student. A good idea is for families to start discussing college/vocational goals in 8th grade with their IEP counselor to make the best choices for their student and their needs.

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