The cost of college is sobering for any family, but those with sons and daughters who have intellectual disabilities face additional obstacles to covering the bills.

"Right now, these students cannot take out loans," said Meg Grigal, senior research fellow at the Institute for Community Inclusion, a national coordinating center.

At Bethel University, which is private, the cost of sending a student to the Bethel University Inclusive Learning and Development (BUILD) program is the same as what other students pay — about $40,000 for room, board, tuition and fees. While many BUILD students may qualify for grants, scholarships, state vocational support and other help, they are ineligible for federal aid.

A law passed last year allows families with disabled children to set up tax-free accounts, much like 529 college savings plans. But paying the bill is still a daunting proposition.

Two families with students in Bethel's BUILD program have established GoFundMe crowdsourcing accounts to help them pay for educational expenses.

Grigal is confident that postsecondary programs for students with intellectual disabilities will mushroom. That's why she recommends that families put college on their agendas early, so they can prepare.

"Right now, college is not consistently part of the conversation about the future," she said. "They [parents] need to hear stories how other families made it a reality for their child. Seeing is believing."

Kevyn Burger