We do know that autistic students suffer high levels of depression, anxiety, and social isolation. We also know that their difficulties can affect their academic performance. (Group projects can be hard.) They have to cope with these problems without the protection of an IEP, since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not apply to higher education. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provide for certain accommodations (for instance, extra time for tests), but the student has to seek them. According to Jane Brown Thierfeld, co-director of an organization of professionals who assist autistic students, for every student receiving special services, there are one or two on that same campus who have not come forward.
At Autism Research and Treatment, Anne M. Roux, Paul T. Shattuck and colleagues have an article titled: "Characteristics of Two-Year College Students on the Autism Spectrum and Their Support Services Experiences. The abstract:
Approximately 80% of college-going youth with autism in the US attend a 2-year college at some point. These community-based, universally accessible institutions offer both academic and vocational courses and have experience in teaching diverse learners. This study used nationally representative survey data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 to describe the characteristics and services experiences of adults with autism who attended postsecondary education after high school, focusing on those who attended a 2-year college. Over 60% of those who attended 2-year colleges had little to no trouble conversing or performing functional skills like counting change during high school, and extracurricular participation was common (93.8%). Most 2-year college attenders (85.7%) were able to navigate to places outside the home versus 43.9% of those with no postsecondary education. Over half took vocational courses at 2-year colleges, while one-quarter pursued academic study. Less than half (48.6%) of those who disclosed their disability to the school reported receiving services, accommodations, or other help. Most (87.3%) felt they received enough help, but fewer (68.0%) felt the services they received were useful. Future research should delineate specific needs of students with autism in 2-year college settings and identify what supports are needed to improve persistence and completion rates.