Posted April 2015
By MOE Staff
Earning an online master’s degree in special education offers a number of benefits to teachers who want to take the next step in their career. While undergraduate programs have a limited ability to prepare educators for the most challenging classroom situations, advanced degrees can help fill in knowledge gaps and offer skill sets uniquely tailored to the educational needs of learning disabled and autistic children, as well as gifted learners. In particular, earning your degree online provides a convenient and flexible way to earn your degree that wasn’t possible before the advent of distance education in college.
In our attempt to offer you a useful selection of top online master’s degrees in special education, we considered a number of factors in our ranking. They are as follows:
1. Tuition Rates: We approximated each school’s tuition rate (which meant averaging in-state and out-of-state rates where applicable) to determine a rough annual cost of education at that institution. Please note that we obtained these values from College Navigator. If you note a discrepancy with these values, please contact the National Center for Education Statistics in addition to notifying our website administrators. We weighted this category 10% of the overall score, as affordability was less important than measures of academic quality.
2. U.S. News Ranking: We borrowed the opinions of our friends from U.S. News’ online special education program rankings and included these scores in our own methodology, weighted 20%.
3. Retention Rates: This value refers to a school’s one-year retention rate for their graduate programs in education. If a school kept a high number of students in the program after their first year, we took this as a good sign! We weighted this category 30%.
4. Program Members: We used data regarding the total number of students enrolled in a graduate program in education and compared this with the total student body. Schools with a higher ratio received higher scores, as this suggests that they place a strong emphasis on their education department and attract a higher than average number of students to this degree program in particular. We weighted this category 15%.
5. Unique Programs: Lastly, we created a 1-5 scoring system as a quantitative way to rate the breadth and uniqueness of a school’s course selection. Schools that didn’t offer any information received 1’s, while schools that provide a plethora of concentrations/specializations in addition to interesting and/or innovative classes not offered elsewhere received a 5. All other colleges fell somewhere in between, earning a 2, 3, or 4. We weighted this category 25% of the overall score.
At the end of the day, the maximum number of points a university could earn was 266. You’ll notice that the #1 school on this list came quite close to a perfect score, and all other colleges represented earned points well above the mean. Take a look, research the schools, and share with your friends!
Online Masters in Special Education Degree Program Ranking 2015
10. Drexel University
Online Master of Science in Special Education
As one of U.S. News’ top 100 graduate online education programs in the country, Drexel University prides itself on preparing teachers to help develop today’s diverse students through its master’s special education online curriculum. Learners can select from four concentrations: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Technologies for Special Education, Collaborative Special Education Law and Process, and Customization. The Master of Science in Special Education degree prepares professionals with the basic competencies and knowledge to work with students with disabilities in various settings. The part-time program also has a higher than average retention rate, making it a great choice for students truly committed to their education.
Total Score: 163.7
9. West Virginia University
Online Special Education M.A.
West Virginia University’s high retention rate in its online special education master’s program makes it one of the more attractive schools for those looking to earn credentials in this field of study. Ranked as one of the top graduate online education programs in the United States by U.S. News, WVU’s College of Education and Human Services offers a master of arts degree, certification, endorsement, and master’s degree plus certification. All students pay in-state tuition rates despite their residency. Specializations include gifted education, Autism spectrum disorder, low vision/blindness, early childhood education, and severe/multiple disabilities. While all special education classes take place online, those who miss classes can easily access archived lectures at a later date.
Total Score: 165
Tuition: $7,794/yr (In-state) $21,096/yr (Out-of-state)
8. Fitchburg State University
Online Master of Education in Special Education Degree
Students comparing cheap online masters in special education degree programs should look into Fitchburg State University. The student-centered online and hybrid format allows learners to complete their graduate degrees and certificates in their own time through almost entirely online classes. Selected courses require a limited number of Saturday sessions that are designed to fit within the working adult’s schedule. FSU’s special education program has several unique offerings, including guided studies, reading specialist, and teacher of students with moderate or severe disabilities. Students also receive 24/7 technical support and enjoy tuition that is moderately priced and affordable for most adult learners.
Total Score: 170
7. Kentucky State University
Online Masters of Arts in Special Education with Certification
Kentucky State University’s accredited online masters in special education degree programs offers an education that is uniquely tailored to students within this field of study. Almost 5 percent of the entire student body is involved in the special education program, many of whom are pursing a Master of Arts in Special Education with Certification in Learning and Behavior Disorders curriculum. This figure is higher than similar schools and programs, suggesting a particularly dedicated focus on special ed. at KSU. The program is not only geared to current educators looking to enhance their skills, but also those with other degrees who want to become certified teachers. Students receive 24/7 support, access to online resources, and monitoring to help them succeed in an online classroom.
Total Score: 177
6. Rowan University
Online M.A. in Special Education
The masters special education online program at Rowan University has an impressive 100 percent retention rate and focuses on the sociological, education, and psychological needs of children with disabilities. The Master of Arts in Special Education has three unique tracks. First, the Graduate Endorsement track helps students qualify for the special education endorsement. The Autism Spectrum Disorder curriculum helps those already licensed to teach special education learn more about working with students on the Autism spectrum. Lastly, the Learning Disabilities track keeps students up-to-date on the latest research on learning disabilities and methods.
Total Score: 180
5. Fort Hays State University
Online Master of Science in Special Education
Fort Hays State University offers a master’s of special education online degree for those who want to make a difference in the lives of children. The goal of the Master of Science in Special Education is to prepare teachers for the classrooms of today while also looking ahead to future academic environments. With a high retention rate and affordable tuition cost, students can choose from one of two curriculums: High-Incidence Special Education, which focuses on the needs and challenges faced by today’s special needs educators, and Gifted Learning, which helps teachers work with these exceptionally skilled students. Besides having a high retention rate, Fort Hays State University also ranks 30th in the United States for its graduate online education program, according to U.S. News.
Total Score: 199
Tuition: $3,094/yr (In-state) $8,812/yr (Out-of-state)
4. Florida State University
Online Master of Science in Special Education
Florida State University’s special education graduate program offers teaching professionals three diverse tracks: Early Childhood Special Education, High Incident Disabilities, and Severe Disabilities, the latter of which includes Autism spectrum disorders and severe intellectual disabilities. This is one of the more popular online masters special education programs in the state, and students often enjoy the unusual schedule, which requires them to take one course each fall and spring and two in the summer. A variety of specialization courses are also available each term. FSU uses the Blackboard distance learning instructional platform for all its online classes. Students should note that in Fall 2015, FSU’s Masters program in Special Education Studies coverts to a Masters program in Curriculum & Instruction with a major in Special Education.
Total Score: 203
Tuition: $9,684/yr (In-state) $24,116/yr (Out-of-state)
3. University of Northern Colorado
Online Early Childhood/Early Childhood Special Education
Deemed one of the best online education graduate programs by U.S. News, University of Northern Colorado lives up to its reputation by presenting three unique online special education masters programs for professionals. UNC’s School of Special Education offers six masters of special education online: Special Education Generalist, Deaf/Hard of Hearing Specialist, Visual Impairment Specialist, Gifted and Talented Specialist, Early Childhood Special Education Specialist, and Intervention Specialist. With a higher than average retention rate, UNC attracts nearly 4 percent of its students directly to Special Ed. graduate programs.
Total Score: 215
Tuition: $8,996/yr (In-state) $17,640/yr (Out-of-state)
2. Ball State University
Online Master of Arts in Special Education
Ball State University’s Master of Arts in Special Education offers three distinct fields of study: Autism, Applied Behavioral Analysis, and Director of Exceptional Needs, all of which are on the school’s accelerated tracks. Ranked as the 8th best graduate online education program in the country by U.S. News, Ball State also has a high retention rate. The online special education masters program offers both fixed-time online classes as well as asynchronous models, and even has a “Build Your Own Master’s Degree” program that allows learners working toward an advanced diploma to combine a variety of licenses and certificates to match their interests and career goals.
Total Score: 218
Tuition: $8,098/yr (In-state) $20,014/yr (Out-of-state)
1. Graceland University
Online Master of Education in Mild/Moderate Special Education
Graceland University is the 5th best graduate online education program in the United States, as noted by U.S. News. Its Master of Education in Special Education allows learners to enhance their teaching strategies of mild/moderate classrooms. The convenient online classes are not only rewarding, but offer relevant and practical research-based techniques designed specifically for special education students. The school’s exceptionally high retention rate further exemplifies the standards set forth by this program. This is truly one of the best and most rewarding accredited online masters in special education degree programs.
Total Score: 241
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