What is TOPS?

The TOPS Program is a 2 and 4-year Workforce Development Certificate program that focuses on 4 basic transition areas: Academics, Career Development, Independent Living, and Self-Determination.

The TOPS program is not a degree granting program but a catalyst for employment and/or a bridge to degree granting programs.

TOPS Program Tracks

Click here to view Satisfactory Academic Progress(SAP policy PDF)

Workforce Development Certificate 4-Year Track (120 semester hours): The 4-year track is for students who seek to gain general knowledge of and professional employment skills in a specific career cluster. A student who completes the certificate track will receive the Workforce Development Certificate 4-Year that signifies the student’s completion of the targeted programming area.

Workforce Development Certificate 2-Year Track (60 semester hours): The 2-year portfolio track is for students who desire to obtain basic transition skills in preparation for enrolling in a degree program, or those who seek to focus mainly on their professional employment skills. The students will construct an electronic portfolio throughout the program. An electronic portfolio is a multi-media presentation given to employers to assist students in marketing their skills in a specific job cluster. The portfolio contains elements that depict the knowledge and skills of each student.

See a breakdown of the TOPS program tracks.


The Academics program area focuses on academic access and lifelong learning through auditing Ohio State inclusive courses and program Student Learning Communities that support students’ personal and career goals. Students may also choose to enroll in credit-bearing courses at Columbus State Community College (CSCC). 

Each student may enroll in 4 credit hours of course work. Students are enrolled in one inclusive course from the Ohio State course catalog. This course either supports the student’s career path or is a course in an area of interest. The other course is a course from the course catalog for TOPS students only. The course is taught by program staff focusing on areas such as job and career readiness, independent living, and self advocacy.

Students are supported by:

  • Full-time TOPS Educational Advisor, whose responsibilities include coordinating with university faculty and academic personnel, assisting students with course selection and sequencing, ensuring students receive appropriate accommodations and modifications, and evaluating/monitoring student performance on a regular basis.
  • TOPS Educational Coaches, trained OSU interns whose responsibilities include providing students with support and accommodations as necessary, as well as assisting the TOPS Educational Advisor with student evaluation and monitoring.

TOPS students can take advantage of our TOPS Academic Center, staffed by TOPS Educational Coach Interns, for study as well as goal-planning needs. Current as well as previous TOPS students who decide to pursue coursework at CSCC (and CSCC only) can utilize the TOPS Academic Center for support.  


The Employment program area focuses on career development and job readiness through unpaid and paid internships using a Project SEARCH model, with the goal of obtaining and sustaining competitive, permanent employment. Employment experiences are aligned with student interests, skills and goals as closely as possible; initial placements place a stronger focus on learning/enhancing soft skills. 

TOPS students typically engage in internships that are 3-15 weeks long, and 8-15 hours per week.

Some exploratory employment activities that TOPS students engage in include:

  • Online and offline job search
  • Informational interviews
  • Skills workshops
  • Job fairs
  • Job shadows
  • Labor Market Research

Students are supported by:

  • Disability Career Specialists, whose responsibilities include job development, on-the-job training and supports, training for job sites and stakeholders, and reporting 
  • TOPS Job Coaches, who provide on-the-job training and supports to students

Some recent internship placements include:

  • Customer and guest relations at Columbus Zoo
  • Office assistant at Atwell Hall 
  • Cleaning and janitorial services at The New James and Woody Hayes athletic center
  • Dental sterilization at Nisonger Dental Clinic
  • Fitness center attendant at RPAC

Interested employers: find out more about partnering with TOPS.

Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Service Report Cards:

Independent Living

The Independent Living program area focuses on activities where students learn and practice skills required to live independently, make healthy choices, and socialize successfully. The program area also focuses on campus membership and support for participation in campus and community organizations, activities and events. 

Some TOPS students choose to commute, while other live near campus. Efforts are currently underway to secure campus housing. Many students wishing to live near campus typically live at University Village. UV is within walking distance of basic amenities such as a grocery store, bank, restaurant and hair shop. There is a regular shuttle to campus 7 days a week. UV is also on several major city bus lines.

TOPS students also engage in social activities on and around campus. Some examples include dining on high street, working out at RPAC, attending sports events, and participating in advocacy opportunities. 

Students are supported by:

  • TOPS Residential Coordinator, whose responsibilities include facilitating social activities for TOPS students, teaching independent living skills, and engaging in active recruitment. 
  • TOPS Social Coaches, trained OSU interns who provide support during TOPS social activities. 


The Self-Determination program area focuses on advocacy and community service through student-directed, person-centered planning, mentoring and volunteering. 

Students are in charge of scheduling and running their Person-Centered Planning (PCP) Meetings, where they meet with various stakeholders to review progress, develop goals and actions steps, as well as identify necessary supports. 

Students also develop Self-Advocacy Plans in preparation for their PCP meetings, which serves as a summary of their personal characteristics, program experiences, and transition goals. 

Students complete a minimum of 25 hours per semester of community service. University supports are used as well as the TOPS residential coordinator.

To learn more about the program, visit us at one of our Information Sessions. OSU Nisonger TOPS Information Sessions 2018-2019

Program Credentials

The TOPS Program was developed with funding from U.S. Department of Educational office of Postsecondary Education Grant # P407A100039.

The TOPS Program is part of Think College, a national organization dedicated to developing, expanding, and improving inclusive higher education options for people with intellectual disability. 

The TOPS Program is a U.S. Department of Education certified Comprehensive Transition Program (CTP). Students who are enrolled in a CTP may be eligible for Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational opportunity Grant, and Federal Work-Study Programs. 

The TOPS Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) for community employment supports and community job development.

Transition Services

257 McCampbell Hall
1581 Dodd Drive
Columbus, OH 43210

(T) 614-685-3185
(F) 614-366-6373
(E) transitions@osumc.edu

Program Director/Principal Investigator: Margaretha Izzo, Ph.D.