And colleges are working to include people with special needs in their mainstream courses, according to the study by academics at Edinburgh University.
The report, presented to this week's annual conference of the British Educational Research Association, questioned 637 Scottish school-leavers with special needs who entered college in 1994. The vast majority went on to specialised college courses, with just 22 per cent following mainstream courses.
But researchers Kathleen Ward and George Thomson found many people on mainstream courses were receiving other support.
Some 56 per cent of students entered transition or access courses, while around 13 per cent went on to work-related training schemes. Just under a third went on to other FE courses, while just over 3 per cent aimed for HNC or HND qualifications.
Researchers also found both students' qualifications on leaving school and the courses they chose at college were closely linked to their disabilities or special needs, suggesting colleges were able to offer courses geared to different needs.
Data on students' progression, while bound by confidentiality, did exist, showing further commitment to their needs.
And early data on students' destinations suggested their chances of employment were increased.