St Joseph’s University new residence hall for students with autism


Kylie McGovern, Editor

On Feb. 25, fellow Philadelphia university and basketball rival, St. Joseph’s University, announced that it will be opening a residence hall for students with autism. St. Joseph’s, has the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support and plans to open its first residence hall specifically for students on the spectrum. This new residency will have a capacity of up to 17 student residents and a student adviser. This hall is called Saint Albert’s Hall and it will undergo $250,000 in renovations this summer. Most recently, Saint Albert’s Hall was used for COVID-19 housing. The new residence hall is meant to be for the first year or two, after which students will transition to other housing. The Kinney Center’s director Angus Murray explains that, “We came to the realization that the residence hall was a spot where a lot of our folks were struggling. Academically, they’re usually able to make the cut and succeed, but because of their social skills, they struggle in the residence halls. So we thought it might be helpful to have what we’re referring to as a longer runway as they transition from high school to college.” St. Joe’s is one of the first Philadelphia colleges to create a living option like this, but other colleges in the area like Drexel, Eastern, Rutgers and West Chester.The annual cost to live there is $12,000, but Angus Murray said St. Joe’s is seeking scholarship funding.

41 students are enrolled in Kinney’s ASPIRE (Autism Support Promoting Inclusive and Responsive Education) program and get help through the center. That number is growing and expected to reach 50 next year on the campus of nearly 6,800 undergraduate and graduate students and next year, enrollment will grow to more than 9,100 when St. Joe’s merges with the University of the Sciences.

The Kinney Center opened in 2009 when Paul Hondros, a St. Joe’s alumnus, was frustrated with the lack of services for his son and he became lead donor. Kinney employs 16 full-time staff members, nine graduate assistants and 125 part-time undergraduate students who provide services to children and adults of all ages. Students in the program are paired with peer mentors for the first two years and then eventually encouraged to become a mentor. Staff help them improve social skills, organize and manage time and prepare for careers. The center also has social events. ASPIRE students, who pay $8,000 for the services; take a full course load; participate in clubs, sports and activities and are in a variety of majors. They maintain an 84 percent six-year graduation rate, similar to St. Joe’s overall average. 

To design the new residence hall, St. Joseph’s is partnering with Thomas Jefferson University design students. Eighteen students and two professors from Jefferson’s College of Architecture and the Built Environment went inside the residence hall at St. Joe’s to take pictures and measurements, and to meet with Kinney staff.

Editor’s Note: Regardless of athletics riverlaries, I am happy to see different schools in Philadelphia working together to make living on campus and attending college a more accessible experience.  

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