Performancing Metrics

50 Best Online Master of Special Education Degree Programs 2018


online special education masters programsThe field of special education is as vast as a child’s personality and has many different areas in which licensed teachers can make a difference. Helping children and young people at all different levels of abilities takes caring, committed, and competent educators. For teachers who already work in the field of special education or for people who want to help children and young people with special needs thrive, a Master of Special Education degree can help achieve that dream. Oftentimes, however, fitting in the pursuit of an advanced degree to help hone one’s skills and move on to a more specialized career path can be problematic. That’s why the online Master of Special Education is in the top ten of the 50 most popular online master’s degrees. Online special education programs often cater to students who are actively teaching–providing asynchronous classes (meaning there is no set class time and students can logon at their convenience), dedicated online student support services, and mentors and advisors to guide and instruct when needed.

Since time is precious and the amount of information and possible programs out there can be a bit overwhelming, we’ve culled through many online special education programs to find the best of the best. As is true with any online master’s degree program in the education field, please make note of your state’s certification requirements to make sure they fit in with any program you may want to pursue. Many of the programs on our list participate in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), an agreement that enables national standards to dictate comparable coursework and education outcomes between states. That being stated, it’s always a good idea to double check your program and your state’s requirements to become a licensed teacher. But read on to see our picks (and how we made them) of the best online master’s in Special Education–the methodology and list is below!

Quick Links to Our Top 10

  1. Western Governors University
  2. Florida State University
  3. Western Carolina University
  4. Indiana University Bloomington
  5. Saint Joseph’s University
  6. Graceland University
  7. Ball State University
  8. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  9. University of Arkansas
  10. Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Methodology: Gathering data through publicly available resources, such as US News and World Report, the National Council for SARA, the National Center for Education Statistics, and the school’s program websites, we assessed schools for our ranking using these criteria as guide-points:

  • Affordability
  • Extent to which the program can be completed online
  • School accreditation
  • Quality of learning outcomes

#50. University of Wyoming

Established in 1886 in what was then still just a territory, the University of Wyoming (UW) began offering classes on its Laramie campus in 1887. Forty-two students, both men and women, and five instructors, also both men and women, were involved in this land-grant institution on that first day. Envisioned also as a school for arts and humanities and a normal school, education instruction was taught alongside agriculture and engineering. Now with seven colleges and institutes, almost 200 academic degree programs, and just under 14,000 students, UW has grown in size and curriculum. In the summer of 2017, a new Office of the Chief Diversity Officer for Diversity and Inclusion was set up in the spirit of inclusion to promote diversity and equity among students, faculty and staff on campus. Serving as Wyoming’s only four-year university, UW has been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1923.

Program Details: The Master of Arts in Education degree program with an endorsement in K-12 Special Education through UW’s School of Counseling, Leadership, Advocacy, and Design easily lands in our top 50 spot. Recognized by both the Council for Exception Children (CEC) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), this MA degree ranges from 33 required credit hours (if students choose a final project) to 41 hours (for students who opt for a thesis). Not entirely online, the program utilizes “video-conferencing, online, intensive weekends, or combinations of delivery methods” to provide ease of accessibility for their students. The program is specifically for teachers who are already licensed, but UW is a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) and provides information for students to assess the licensure needs of the state in which they reside and work. Tuition per credit hour for the 2017-2018 academic year is $210 for Wyoming residents and $629 for all others.

Admissions website

#49. Fitchburg State University

The State Normal School in Fitchburg was established to educate teachers in 1894 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The two-year program was initially attended by 46 women and taught by three instructors in a former high school building. A success, the school grew through the years and added buildings and produced the first-of-its-kind “practical arts teacher-training” program for men in 1911. By 1932 the school began offering four-year education degrees and the name was changed to State Teachers College at Fitchburg to reflect that. As the curriculum expanded to include other disciplines, several more name changes occurred. The school settled on the name Fitchburg State University in 2010. Now almost 8,000 students study in more than 75 academic degree programs on the 60 acre campus, as well as on 122 acres for ecological and nature research and 42 acres for recreation. Regional accreditation is provided through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Program Details: Fitchburg State offers multiple specializations in the Master of Education (MEd) in Special Education degree through this mostly-online program. With both licensure and non-licensure options, students can choose from seven concentrations that require anywhere from 36 to 42 credit hours to complete. Almost all classes are delivered asynchronously–meaning there is no set login time and students can participate in class at their convenience, but there are “limited Saturday sessions for select classes” that students will know about from the beginning of the program in order to make on-campus arrangements. The program is a mirror of the on-campus program, with the same coursework and faculty, but with the added forethought and care that a dedicated “university team was constructed to prepare for the development and implementation of this online program.” Fitchburg State also provides many specific special education support services to ensure student success and an online sampling of lectures for the prospective student. Tuition is $377 per credit hour regardless of residency.

Admissions website

#48. University of West Florida

In 1963 the Florida Legislature determined to establish a university in Pensacola as part of the State University System of Florida. The University of West Florida (UWF) would become the sixth university in the twelve-university system, and classes at UWF would begin in 1968. Originally just for graduate degrees and juniors and seniors, three resident colleges made up the structure of the university. It would not be until 1983 that the school would admit freshmen. The main campus in Pensacola sits on 1,600 acres of a nature preserve, and almost 13,000 students are enrolled. UWF is a public, research space-grant institution regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Details: From the beginning, students of UWF’s MA in Exceptional Student Education degree program are provided with a “faculty mentor who will provide career advice and advisement concerning professional issues.” Coursework consists of twenty-one credit hours of core classes and a minimum of fifteen hours of a cognate program of study–for students choosing the specialization area Special & Alternative Education, they can choose for their cognate area either Special Education or Alternative Education. Classes offered include topics such as “Best Practices in Teaching Challenging Students” and “Issues in Classroom Management.” The MA degree is offered through the NCATE-accredited Professional Education Unit at UWF, but this program does not lead to teacher certification. Rather, it is ideal for already-licensed teachers who want increase their skills in the Special Education field and advance in either school or agency settings. For the 2017-2018 academic year, tuition is listed per credit hour as $295.34 for Florida residents and $628.23 for out-of-state students.

Admissions website

#47. Oakland University

Michigan State University–Oakland, as Oakland University was first called, was born in 1957 when Alfred Wilson and wife Matilda Dodge Wilson (who was also the widow of the co-founder of the automotive manufacturing Dodge Brothers Company) donated their 1,443 acre estate in Rochester, Michigan to Michigan State University. The first class of 570 students began studying in 1959, and the name was officially changed to Oakland University (OU) in 1963. OU became its own university apart from Michigan State in 1970, and now this public, coeducational, doctoral research institution educates over 20,000 enrolled students in 270 academic degree programs. Proud of its “global perspective,” OU  is also “an active community partner providing thriving civic, cultural, and recreational opportunities and valuable public service” on campus and in the surrounding metropolitan Oakland County. The Higher Learning Commission regionally accredits OU. 

Program Details: The 100% online MEd in Special Education degree through OU’s School of Education and Human Services provides a teaching endorsement for students who pursue the Concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Requiring 44 credit hours, students take twenty-five credit hours of core courses such as “Legal Issues in Special Education” and “Quality of Life” and take fifteen credits of classes such as “Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorders” and “Communication and Language Issues in ASD” towards the ASD Concentration. The remaining four credits must be earned through a student teaching practicum. (Some students, depending on undergraduate background, may find it necessary to take as many as eight additional credits of foundational courses). Students will find special online student support services to help as they move through the program, such as several distance learning guides to Oakland’s Kresge Library. The tuition rates for the MEd in Special Education ASD Concentration program are the same for in-state and out-of-state students at $706.25 per credit hour.

Admissions website

#46. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

After World War II the United States saw an influx of returning veterans desiring a college education. To meet this growing need in North Carolina, fourteen night schools were opened throughout the state. Using Central High School as its campus, the Charlotte Center opened its doors to 278 students in the fall of 1946. Within a few years, the state of North Carolina determined that the residential colleges throughout the state were sufficient to meet the educational needs of all students. Wanting to continue offering classes in the area, city leaders urged the city school district to maintain the school, renaming it Charlotte College. In 1961 the thriving school moved to a campus that would grow to 1,000 acres, and four years later the school became renamed University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) as part of the statewide university system. Now, almost 30,000 students are enrolled in this research-intensive, public university regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Details: Offering both a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Special Education (K-12) degree and a MED in Special Education: Academically or Intellectually Gifted degree completely online, UNC Charlotte appeals to students who already have licensure and those who still need to achieve it. The MAT degree program is an extension of an initial certificate program that requires 39 credit hours and culminates in a license, whereas the MEd is a 33 credit hour program for already-licensed teachers. With classes running the gamut from “Transition Planning and Service Delivery” to “Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Students” to “Theory and Development of Creativity,” students can expect both hands-on learning experiences and “academically rigorous program and writing intensive” coursework. And even better–even though the coursework is entirely online, there is a wealth of resources and support for all of UNC Charlotte’s distance learners. State residents can expect to pay $237.90 or $247 per credit hour depending on the program, and non-residents $858.90 or $893.

Admissions website

#45. University of Idaho

Founded in 1889 in Moscow, Idaho, the University of Idaho (UI) is the flagship university and oldest public intuition of higher education in the state of Idaho. Developed when the state was still just a territory, classes began for the 40 (both male and female) first enrolled students in 1892. The 1,585 acre residential main campus in Moscow has been joined by campuses all throughout the state–four branch campuses, multiple extension offices and a research park. Both a land-grant school and a space-grant school, UI houses ten colleges which offer 178 academic degree programs to the almost 12,000 enrolled students. The spirit of the school’s origins are reflected in its mission of a “commitment to enhance the scientific, economic, social, legal and cultural assets of our state and to develop solutions for complex problems facing our society.” The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities regionally accredits the University of Idaho.

Program Details: The MEd in Special Education through the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at UI’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences offers three different tracks from which incoming master’s degree students can choose. The Master’s-only track is “for experienced special educators who have a bachelor’s degree in special education or a closely-related field.” The Master’s plus Certification in Special Education track offers students “initial Special Education Exceptional Child K-12 teaching preparation and certification” and is ideal for students whose background was in an education field other than special education. The Master’s plus Special Program Area track allows students to “concentrate on a special program of focus.” All three programs require either student teaching or a culminating master’s project determined in conjunction with a faculty advisor. Tuition for the entire program is estimated for a full time student to be $8,864 for residents and $25,188 for non-Idaho residents.

Admissions website

#44. American Public University

Desiring to offer “career-relevant, distance education for a mobile population of military learners with unique needs,” retired Marine Corps officer James Etter created American Military University (AMU) in 1991, with main offices first in Manassas, Virginia and then moving to Charles Town, West Virginia. A for-profit university, AMU was re-developed into American Public University System (APUS) in 2002 and the American Public University (APU) was formed to provide the same educational standards and programs to a broader base of students. Core values of Learning, Quality, Integrity, Diversity, Freedom of Inquiry and Expression, Accountability, Access to Underserved, Adaptive and Responsive, Innovation, and Collaboration guide the university system. With over 200 academic degree programs, APUS has granted nearly 80,000 degrees over the past two decades. APUS is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Details: The MEd in Teaching with a Concentration in Special Education (seven other concentrations are also available) through APU’s School of Education requires 36 credit hours to graduate, but allows for up to fifteen transfer credits. Providing “academic theory with best practices for effective teaching in the classroom,” this 100% online, two-year program does not lead to initial licensure. Twenty-four credit hours of core coursework covers topics such as “Classroom Management for the 21st Century” and “Meaningful Inclusive Instruction and Co-Teaching.” The Special Education concentration requires three additional classes: “Living and Learning with Exceptional Students,” “Foundations in Special Education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education,” and “Classroom Accommodations and Modifications for Special Needs Learners.” Classes start on a monthly basis for ultimate flexibility. Tuition is listed as $350 per credit hour or $325 per credit hour for students with a military grant.

Admissions website

#43. University of Cincinnati

In 1819 two institutions of higher learning were established in Cincinnati, Ohio–Cincinnati College and the Medical College of Ohio. Both schools would go on to be integrated into the University of Cincinnati (UC), which was founded in 1870. UC was brought about by a large gift through the estate of businessman Charles McMicken. McMicken died in 1858 and left the money to the city in order to charter a university. Delays by the Civil War and local lobbyists arguing over the school’s curricular focus caused the school to not open until 1870. Now with several campuses covering almost 500 acres, this comprehensive public coeducational research university enrolls more than 44,000 students who study in over 600 academic degree programs. One of the top fifty largest universities in the United States, UC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

Program Details: The online Master of Education in Special Education (SPED) degree program at University of Cincinnati provides rigorous coursework that focuses on both “theory and practice” through multiple delivery methods. With “intensive individualized instruction, problem-solving assignments, and small-group work,” this 30 credit hour program with four start dates a year offers students four concentrations from which to choose. Advanced Studies, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Transition to Work, and Behavior Disorder concentration coursework covers such topics as “Foundations, Trends, and Issues in Special Education Leadership,” “Positive Behavior and Supports,” and “Collaboration and Teaming.” UC also offers a page of resources and many online SPED student support services. Through these offerings, prospective and current students can read about salary and job trends and how other students manage the work/life balance, or get in touch with their own “personal Enrollment Advisor.” Current tuition per credit hour is $724 for Ohio residents and $739 for non-residents.

Admissions website

#42. Nova Southeastern University

In 1965 a group of businessmen who met regularly for breakfast in Fort Lauderdale, Florida decided to form an institution of higher education for the benefit of their community. Grounded in the physical and social sciences, Nova University of Advanced Technology was established as a graduate school, first located in downtown Fort Lauderdale and later moving to the former site of an airfield in Davie, Florida used during World War II. Nova began offering a broader curriculum, and around the same time Southeastern University of the Health Sciences also began expanding. The schools would merge in 1994 to become Nova Southeastern University (NSU), and now in addition to the 300 acre main campus in Davie, NSU has Florida campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, Tampa and one in Puerto Rico. Diversity and innovation are key elements of this private, non-profit research university with almost 25,000 enrolled students. Regional accreditation is provided by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Details: Through the Abraham S. Fischler College of Education, NSU’s Master of Science degree with a specialization in Exceptional Student Education/Special Education (ESE) is ideal for already-licensed teachers or professionals in other service careers looking to expand their knowledge of special education and gain a master’s degree. There are nine credit hours of required courses, and students can choose the fifteen remaining credits in the endorsement area they desire–choices include Autism, Learning Disabilities, Developmental/Intellectual Disabilities, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Gifted, and Prekindergarten Disabilities. The culmination of the program is a portfolio in which the student is to “maintain reflective journals and create files of samples of their students’ work and the assessment instruments.” The dedicated faculty members of the Department of Curriculum & Instruction are “professional practitioners and recognized scholars” who help NSU students integrate what they have learned into their methods of teaching and helping others. Tuition is $955 per credit hour for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Admissions website

#41. University of Texas of the Permian Basin

In 1973, the Texas towns of Midland and Odessa gained an upper-level (junior and senior and graduate students) university. The University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB or UT Permian Basin) had been in the works since the Texas Legislature approved its development in 1969. Just over 1,000 students registered for the first classes at this school within the University of Texas System. UT Permian Basin began accepting freshman and sophomore students in 1991, changing the composition of the school from a mostly commuter campus to a more traditional, residential one. With three colleges, UT Permian Basin promotes as a part of its mission to “provide quality education to all qualified students in a supportive in-person and online educational environment.” Over 6,000 students are enrolled at UTPB, which is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Details: For professionals who want to earn their special education master’s degree in a short period of time, the Master of Arts in Special Education at UTPB is a good choice. The 36 credit hour program can be completed in just a year, with six start dates and 100% online delivery for flexibility and accommodation. The same on-campus faculty provide the coursework for the online program and emphasize the “importance of cultural diversity, theories of behavior, human ontological development, classroom best practices, research design and current trends” in order to provide students with the skills to be the best special education professionals and practitioners. Required course topics and electives range from “Cultural Diversity in Education and the Social Sciences” to “Educational Psychology” to “Autism across the Lifespan” and each class lasts eight weeks. Students are also provided with many support services to make their “online experience great.” Tuition is only $270.07 per credit hour regardless of residency.

Admissions website

#40. Georgia Southern University

Founded in 1908, the First District Agricultural & Mechanical School was a land-grant school for Statesboro, Georgia’s rural schoolchildren. Fifteen students and four teachers made up the first classes of housekeeping and cutting edge, early-1900s farming practices. Within twenty years, the school’s focus changed to accommodate the need for educators in the area. Known as Georgia Normal School from 1924 to 1929, the school changed again to become a four-year institution and became South Georgia Teachers College to reflect that change. Thirty years later brought another reconstruction of curriculum and focus, this time becoming Georgia Southern College. In 1990, the college grew to become a university and was finally renamed Georgia Southern University (GSU). A member of the University System of Georgia, GSU is a comprehensive, coeducational doctoral research institution serving over 20,000 enrolled students. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges regionally accredits GSU.

Program Details: The Department of Teaching and Learning in GSU’s College of Education offers a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree program that will lead to “initial teaching certification and a master’s degree for aspiring teachers.” Students desiring a concentration in special education would pick Study Concentration 3 in Special Education (grades P-12), which is one of six concentration options. This special education concentration is completely online, and while still requiring a student teaching assignment, students can obtain a placement where they reside. Cohorts start each summer, and the program requires 45-51 credit hours to graduate depending upon a student’s previous coursework. Classes in the six-step concentration process include topics like “Perspectives on Mild Disabilities” and “Approaches to Literacy Instruction.” The program’s learning outcomes cover the areas of content knowledge, instructional planning, instruction, and assessment. Tuition for fall 2017 is listed as $410 per credit hour.

Admissions website

#39. University of South Florida

A new state university was approved for the county of Hillsborough by the Florida Cabinet on December 18, 1956. Exactly one and a half years earlier on June 18, 1955, Florida Governor LeRoy Collins had signed a bill into law to create the school. Named University of South Florida (USF), the school was built in Tampa, and classes would begin in 1960. The major push for the school had come from Samuel Gibbons, a Democrat who served as both a state and an U.S. Representative, affectionately nicknamed the “Father of USF.” Housed in the State University System of Florida and part of the three-institution USF system (including USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee), USF Tampa is a metropolitan public research university on almost 2,000 acres with over 48,000 enrolled students. Regional accreditation for USF is through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Details: Through the College of Education, the USF Exceptional Student Education program offers two Master of Arts (MA) degrees and one Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) that are all completely online. For students who are already licensed, the MA in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Severe Intellectual Disabilities or the MA in Exceptional Student Education provide endorsements and specializations to help further the careers and the scope of teachers’ influence. The MAT in Exceptional Student Education degree is for students who studied in a different field as undergraduates. Requiring 50 credit hours and student teaching field experiences in a classroom, the degree leads to “endorsements in both ESOL and Reading” and “state of Florida teacher certification in Exceptional Student Education (ESE).” Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but the sequential core coursework only begins each fall. Total tuition and fees for the past school year were listed per credit hour as $431.43 for Florida residents and $877.17 for non-Florida residents.

Admissions website

#38. East Carolina University

The East Carolina Teachers Training School officially began in Greenville, North Carolina in 1909. Leading up to the school’s opening were two denied appeals from other cities in eastern North Carolina to the General Assembly in 1901 and 1905 for a normal school to train teachers. The General Assembly did however pass an act in 1907 to provide funds for a school in that area of the state, and Greenville won the bid to be the location. Just over 100 women and not quite twenty men began classes on that first day—their education would be tuition-free if they would stay and teach in the eastern part of the state for two years after graduation. The school became a four-year program in 1921 and was renamed East Carolina Teachers College, but in 1951 was changed again to East Carolina College, and then again to the final name East Carolina University (ECU) in 1967. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges regionally accredits ECU.

Program Details: For students who already possess, or are eligible to obtain, initial special education teaching licensure, ECU’s Master of Arts in Education (MAEd) in Special Education degree offered online through the College of Education’s Department of Special Education, Foundations and Research is a great option. With 39 required credit hours delivered in thirteen courses in a cohort model, students have support and collaboration built-in to the two-year program–and in addition there are many specific online student support services. There are four application deadlines and four start dates a year. Four concentration areas are offered: Behavioral and Emotional Disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities, Learning Disabilities, and Low Incidence Disabilities. Tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 year are listed per credit hour as $249.26 for NC residents and $893.82 for others, but the ECU College of Education offers many scholarships to incoming and current students.

Admissions website

#37. Lamar University

Lamar University, which is one of only twenty-seven universities designated by the Carnegie Foundation as a Doctoral Research Institution, humbly began as South Park Junior College in Beaumont, Texas in 1923. With 125 students and fourteen educators, the school’s first home was the third floor of the South Park High School. As the school grew to serve a larger portion of the state, a contest was held to rename the college in 1932. Lamar College became the new name, after the second President of the Republic of Texas Mirabeau B. Lamar. By 1942 the school would become distinct from the South Park school district by moving to a new campus. Through the decades there were curriculum expansions and mergers with other colleges, which led to the creation of the Lamar University System in 1983, and in 1995 this System became a part of the Texas State University System. Now known as Lamar University, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges grants the regional accreditation.

Program Details: Paying attention to the importance of “research, assessment and content specific to the exceptional learner,” Lamar University’s 100% online MEd in Special Education degree is constructed to “meet the educational requirements of the Council on Exceptional Children.” A 36 credit hour program that can be completed in eighteen months, the twenty-four core credits are made up of coursework topics such as “The Learning Process” and “Normal Human Growth and Development.” Twelve hours of special education electives include class subjects in “Psychoeducational Evaluation of Exceptional Learners” and “Modification of Curriculum & Instructions for Atypical Learners.” With multiple start dates each year, students can begin classes when their schedule allows, and Lamar University offers applicants an Enrollment Specialist to help them navigate the admissions process. Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year is listed as $275 per credit hour (which includes the distance learning fee) regardless of residency.

Admissions website

#36. George Mason University

Originally a branch of the University of Virginia, George Mason University (also known simply as “Mason”), is proud of its commitment to “creating a more just, free and prosperous world.” In 1949, the school started in various high schools, churches, federal buildings and homes in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax and Prince William. First named Northern Virginia University Center of the University of Virginia, after a decade it was renamed George Mason College of the University of Virginia in honor of United States founding father George Mason. In 1972 it became a school independent of the University of Virginia, and was re-dubbed with its current name. Now the largest public university in Virginia with four campuses in Virginia and one in South Korea, ten schools and colleges, and almost 40,000 students, Mason is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Details: The part-time, 100% online MEd in Special Education degree is offered through Mason’s College of Education and Human Development. Ideal for students who are working professionals and want to work in the field of special education, the program’s “innovative approach to inclusive education is designed to benefit learners with disabilities throughout their entire lives.” Requiring 30 credit hours to graduate, four foundational classes make up the core coursework, and students choose between two certification tracks: Autism Spectrum Disorders or Applied Behavioral Analysis. Classes are offered both synchronously and asynchronously and are in such topics as “Universal Design for Learning,” “Characteristics of Individuals with Autism,” and “Ethical and Professional Conduct for Behavior Analysis.” With the same faculty and the same student services provided as on-campus, online students have many supports in place to help them succeed. Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year is $775 per credit hour for both Virginia residents and those in other states.

#35. George Washington University

In President George Washington’s first State of the Union address, he favorably presented the idea of establishing a national university that would be central to the people of the United States. This was in 1790, and it would be almost thirty years before his vision would come to pass. A group of Baptist ministers petitioned Congress to found this central university in 1819, and they began securing funding and moved towards purchasing land in the District of Columbia to be the school’s campus—46 acres known as College Hill originally. This movement led to the development of Columbian College, and in 1822 classes started for the first time. The school grew, and the name was changed in 1904 to honor the man who had the original vision: George Washington University (GW). This private, research institution has three campuses, fourteen schools and colleges, and more than 25,000 students. GW is regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Program Details: The Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD) through GW Online offers an MA in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners degree program. This NCATE accredited degree program leads to K-12 certification and is centered on a “progressive curriculum and field experiences.” The faculty members are professors who are also practitioners, so students can be assured they are not just learning valuable skills, but also gaining applicable methods in a hands-on approach. Thirty-three credit hours are required, and course topics include classes like “Linguistic Applications in English as a Second Language” and “Development of Children with Disabilities.” In addition to online student support available generally through GW Online, the GSEHD also has its own specific Career Services office that provides distance appointments for online students and remains available to students once they become alumni. 2017-2018 Tuition is $850 per credit hour.

Admissions website

#34. University of Kansas

Abolitionists who settled in the Kansas Territory in the mid-1800s wanted to inhabit an area that would enter the union without the blemish of slavery, and they wanted to establish an institution of higher education.  In 1861 Kansas became a state and within a few years the Governor, Thomas Carney, signed a bill to establish a state university. The town of Lawrence was to provide a $15,000 endowment and land for the university–which was given as a donation from former Kansas Governor Charles L. Robinson.  In 1864 the University of Kansas (KU) was officially chartered. The first program in 1866 taught preparatory lessons to 26 girls and 29 boys–1869 was the year college-level education was first taught. This major public, research university now has four campuses in addition to the main campus in Lawrence.  Thirteen schools and over 30,000 students make up the academic landscape of KU, and the Higher Learning Commission provides regional accreditation.

Program Details: KU has a highly-regarded Special Education Department to provide the online master’s degrees in special education. The “world-renowned” faculty members are “social advocates” for and educators of persons living with disabilities, so students in this program benefit from groundbreaking approaches to providing education. There are several different degree programs offered. One option is the Master of Science in Education (MSE) with a concentration in Special Education and an emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which requires 36 credit hours and a field placement. The Master’s in Secondary Special Ed & Transition option is for students who desire to work with older students and young people aging out of the school system. This is a 30 credit hour program with no practicum or field placement requirement. Finally, the 33 credit hour High Incidence Disabilities Master’s in Special Education program has three tracks from which to choose: the Master’s/Teacher Track, the Master’s/Non-Teacher Track, and the Endorsement-Only Track. All three programs can be completed in about two years, and tuition is $595 per credit hour.

Admissions website

#33. University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida welcomed the Gainesville Academy in 1858 with state senator James Henry Roper at the helm. Just six years later the school and all facilities were transferred to the state of Florida. Several mergers with other schools—such as the East Florida Seminary and Florida Agricultural College—occurred and the school was renamed University of the State of Florida in 1905.  Now called the University of Florida (UF), this land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant school is a public research institution on a 2,000 acre campus. Sixteen schools and colleges serve the nearly 55,000 students enrolled in more than 300 academic degree programs. The school has a claim to fame due to the development of Gatorade in 1965. Student athletes were experiencing heatstroke during practice, so the home of the “Gators” created an “aid” to keep the athletes from getting ill. UF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Details: The Teach Well Online Academy through the College of Education is UF’s 100% online program for special education MEd degrees. For already-practicing teachers who need to work towards their degrees part-time, this 36 credit hour degree program can be completed in two years. Twelve credits make up the “Teach Well Core” and include coursework topics like “Collaborative Practice in Inclusive Schools” and “Teaching Learning Strategies.” The remaining twenty-four credits are taken from a combination of elective courses as part of a general track, or students can choose from five specific tracks: Autism Focus, Disabilities in Society, Early Childhood Studies, Education and Healthcare Transitions, and Dyslexia. Three start dates are available in the fall, spring and summer and students can transfer up to nine credit hours from another school. Tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 academic year per credit hour is $527.66 for Florida residents and $631.19 for non-residents (this includes a financial aid waiver).

Admissions website

#32. University of Southern California

Judge Robert Maclay Widney led a group of locals in the aspiration of establishing a university in the rustic frontier town that was Los Angeles, California in the early 1870s. Forming a Board of Trustees and achieving the donation of 308 land lots in 1879, Widney helped secure a campus and an endowment for the university that was to be. When the University of Southern California (USC) officially began, 53 students and ten teachers made up the first class. Prior to the USC mascot becoming a white horse named Traveler, from the 1940s through the early 1960s USC had as its unofficial mascot George Tirebiter, a rough-around-the-edges dog (actually, several dogs) that was infamous for chasing car tires on campus. The oldest private research university in Southern California, USC is both a sea-grant and a space-grant institution and currently educates over 40,000 students. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges has regionally accredited USC since 1949.

Program Details: The Rossier School of Education at USC provides an online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree program that offers “the same academically rigorous curriculum” as the on-campus program. With the add-on Special Education Credential, the program ranges between 28 and 43 credit hours and supplies unique and relevant coursework with classes such as “Establishing and Maintaining an Effective Classroom Ecology” and “Guided Practice Mild to Moderate Disabilities.” Student support for USC Rossier Online students is comprehensive and available from the first point of contact by an applicant to after graduation. With Admissions Counselors, Academic Advisors, Student Support Teams and Field Placement Teams, online students are never on their own. Another plus is the USC Rossier Online’ mobile app, 2SC, which allows students to access coursework at any time, even if there is no Internet connection available. Tuition for all students regardless of residency for the 2017-2018 academic calendar is $1,800 per credit hour.

Admissions website

#31. Minnesota State University Moorhead

The Moorhead Normal School began when the Minnesota State Legislature allocated $60,000 for the construction of a school to educate teachers in the northwestern part of the state. State Senator Solomon Comstock donated six acres of land for the campus, and construction on the multi-purpose building called Old Main in the town of Moorhead broke ground. In 1888 the school opened with five professors and 29 students, and tuition was free for all students who pledged to teach in the state for two years after graduation. An expanding campus and curriculum led to the name change to Moorhead State Teachers College in 1921. Sadly, in 1930 Old Main burned down, but the school continued on and grew even more, becoming Moorhead State College in 1957 and Moorhead State University in 1975. The current name of Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSU Moorhead) came about in 2000, and now this public university has almost 6,000 students studying in around 100 different academic degree programs. Regional accreditation comes from the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Details: The online MS in Special Education at MSU Moorhead offers three start dates to prospective students and requires twenty credit hours of core coursework. Core classes are in such topics as “Curriculum, Instruction and Learning Theory,” “Inclusive Teaching Practices,” and “Perspectives and Policies in Special Education.” Students go on to choose from six emphasis areas: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Developmental Disabilities, Early Childhood Special Education, Emotional/Behavioral Disorders, Physical/Health Disabilities, and Specific Learning Disabilities. Each emphasis area adds twelve to fifteen credit hours for a degree that ranges from 32 to 35 required credits. This degree program is ideal for students who majored in education or a related field as an undergraduate. There is an option for those who would to pursue licensure but not a degree, but students who choose this path are required to already have a MN teaching license. 2017-2018 Tuition per credit hour is $374.00 for MN residents (as well as residents of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin with reciprocity) and $748.00 for all others.

Admissions website

#30. Grand Canyon University

An abandoned armory building in Prescott, Arizona served as the first location of Grand Canyon University (GCU), which was then known as Grand Canyon College. Started by the Southern Baptist Church in 1949, just two years later in 1951 GCU moved to a campus location in Phoenix and secured good standing as a foremost private Christian university in Arizona. In 2004 the school transitioned from a non-profit institution to a for-profit school when it was purchased by Significant Education, LLC. Also a research institution as recognized by Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, GCU offers over 200 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs through eight colleges. Almost 20,000 students are enrolled at the residential Phoenix campus and over 60,000 students participate in GCU’s online learning programs. The Higher Learning Commission provides regional accreditation to GCU.

Program Details: Offered by GCU’s College of Education, the online MEd in Special Education degree program leads to initial teacher licensure for Arizona residents (although GCU Counselors are available to help guide and advise students from other states on how to obtain their licensure). Requiring 47 credit hours (students can transfer up to twelve credits), the program is flexible and accessible at any time. Coursework includes topics such as “U.S. and Arizona Constitutions for Teacher Candidates,” “Methods of Teaching Math to Students with Mild to Moderate Disabilities,” and “Learning Environments for Students with Mild to Moderate Disabilities.” With a plethora of grant and scholarship offerings, prospective students can be assured that their education will be affordable. Online tuition is listed as $515 per credit hour with no distinction between Arizona residents and residents of other states.

Admissions website

#29. University of North Dakota

Founded in the Dakota Territory in 1883, six years before it would be a state, the University of North Dakota (UND) is the flagship university of North Dakota. A petition to the Territorial Legislature of Dakota Territory led to the university being established in Grand Forks. Classes began in 1884 in the one building on campus—Old Main—which held all the classrooms, faculty and staff offices, the library and students’ dorm rooms. The first graduating class of eight was represented by both male and female students. The years were both expansive in curriculum and size and harsh for the community of UND. Flu epidemics, class suspension for War World I army use of the campus, and Great Depression trades of manual labor on campus for free board were some of the more dramatic trials that the school lived through. Now the school is a thriving public research and space-grant university with nearly 15,000 enrolled students. The Higher Learning Commission regionally accredits UND.

Program Details: 

Students can choose between a MEd and an MS degree in Special Education at the UND College of Education & Human Development. The program also offers no less than nine specialization options: Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Early Childhood Special Education, and Intellectual Disabilities are just a handful of the possible specialization areas. A strong program created for “certified teachers or non-certified individuals who want to strengthen their skills in serving children and young adults with mild to moderate disabilities,” a minimum of 32 credit hours are required to graduate in as little as eighteen months. All classes are completely online and offered asynchronously with weekly assignments and projects, and students can choose to start the program at three different times through the year (summer, fall and spring). All students can enjoy in-state tuition regardless of state of residence, and tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year is listed as $432.89 per credit hour.

Admissions website

#28. Emporia State University

The Kansas State Normal School, a teacher’s college and Emporia State University’s predecessor, was first conceived of when Kansas became a state in 1861. Three towns were possible locations, but Emporia was chosen by the Kansas Legislature in 1863. Two years later classes began—eighteen students were taught by the school’s only professor (who also happened to be Kansas State Normal’s president). The first building to be constructed on campus was not actually finished until four years after the school’s establishment and after the first graduation was held. Two other normal schools in the state closed, which allowed for more state funding going towards the teacher’s school in Emporia. The name of the school changed several times as the curriculum grew—it settled on Emporia State University (Emporia State or ESU) in 1977. Almost 6,000 students are now enrolled in over 80 academic degree programs at Emporia State’s four schools and colleges. The Higher Learning Commission provides ESU with regional accreditation.

Program Details: Emporia State’s online MS in Special Education degree with a High Incidence Concentration is offered at The Teachers College’s Department of Elementary Education. Requiring 36 credit hours but allowing up to seven years to complete them, the degree allows students to work at their own pace. Coursework focuses on theory and application with classes such as “Characteristics of Students with High Incidence Disabilities,” “Autism Spectrum Disorders: Medical Issues & Trends,” and “Family/Professionals Working w/Exceptionality.” The goal for the graduates of the program is to become “effective practitioners, critical thinkers, and creative planners” who can serve this population. Three application deadlines occur before each of the three start dates a year, and students must be accepted both as a gradate student eligible for study at Emporia State and also into the Special Education Program. Prior to acceptance, applicants can take as many as nine credit hours of electives in the program. Tuition for 2017-2018 per credit hour is $343.25 for Kansas residents and $470 for most others (residents of certain counties in Oklahoma receive a tuition discount).

Admissions website

#27. Frostburg State University

State Normal School No. 2 began in 1902 in Frostburg, Maryland. The residents of the town, and in particular the editor of the Frostburg Mining Journal, J. Benson Oder, were instrumental in the establishment of the school—they raised the money to purchase what would be the location of the first building on campus, Old Main. Four instructors taught the first class of 57 high school-aged students in subjects such as Latin, science, drawing and calisthenics. By 1935 the school had grown in scope and changed its name to reflect that—State Teachers College at Frostburg. Almost thirty years later the name changed again to Frostburg State College, and finally in 1987 it became Frostburg State University (FSU). A year after that, FSU joined the University System of Maryland and now has 60 academic degree programs and almost 6,000 students. Frostburg State University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Details: Frostburg State University offers an online MEd in Special Education degree program in which students can choose a specialization in grades 1-8 or graders 6-12. This is a comprehensive program that examines “every element of the special education environment, from understanding exceptionalities and developing appropriate instructional content and practices to planning, managing behaviors and collaborating with others.” For students who are public school certified or eligible to be, the program ranges from 39 to 42 required credit hours. Students take classes sequentially, starting with the Professional Education Core (example class: Developmental Theory and Experiential Growth) and then the Special Education Core (example class: Characteristics of Exceptional Children). Electives and a Capstone project culminate the degree. For prospective students who would like to learn more about the program before applying, FSU offers informational events and program webinars. Tuition and fees for the 2018-2019 (subject to change) per credit hour are $429 for in-state students and $547 for out-of-state.

Admissions website

#26. Kentucky State University

In 1886 the citizens of Frankfort, Kentucky raised $1,500 and donated a plot of land to be used to charter a school to train black teachers for the state’s schools for black children. In this spirit of goodwill, the State Normal School for Colored Persons opened in 1887 with 55 students, three instructors, and a president. Adding departments in home studies, agriculture and mechanics, the school became a land-grant college in 1890. Several name changes occurred through the years as the school expanded and closed the high school program. In 1972 the school became Kentucky State University (KSU), and the plot of land that once was the small campus has now grown to almost 900 acres—including the 311 acre agricultural research farm and the 306 acre environmental education center. Over 2,000 students are enrolled in this public institution, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges provides regional accreditation.

Program Details: Offered through KSU’s School of Education, the online Master of Arts in Special Education with Certification in Learning and Behavior Disorders P-12 (MASPE) program is “founded on personal student support, high expectations, relevant and practical experiences, and distance learning technology.” Students are guided and supported through the entire program—whether it’s through electronic educational support services or field education advisement. All students must participate in a student teaching practicum in a school with “students with Individual Education Plans in the area of Learning and Behavior Disorders.” The curriculum is made up of 36-45 credit hours dependent upon a student’s prior educational background. Some students may be required to take a prerequisite twelve credit hours in topics such as “Legal and Parental Issues in Special Education” and “Teaching Mathematics to Children and Youth with Learning and Behavior Disorders.” Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic calendar is listed as $500 per credit hour.

Admissions website

#25. Old Dominion University

Originally an extension of the College of William and Mary, Old Dominion was founded in Norfolk, Virginia in 1930 in order to train teachers and engineers. Initially a two-year school, 206 students registered for classes which were held at a no-longer functioning elementary school. By 1962 the school had experienced so much growth under President Lewis W. Webb Jr. (known affectionately as “the father of Old Dominion University”) that it became the independent Old Dominion College. A university since 1969, Old Dominion University now enrolls almost 25,000 students in the school’s six colleges: Arts and Letters, Business and Public Administration, Education, Engineering and Technology, Health Sciences and Sciences. Old Dominion (or ODU) is a public doctoral research institution regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Details: The Department of Communication Disorders & Special Education at the Darden College of Education offers through ODU Online an MS in Education in Special Education degree that is an excellent option for students residing in Virginia or Washington State (the only locations in which the program is available). Focusing on “scholarly research, advanced instructional strategies, and the foundations of special education leadership,” this 30 credit hour program offers classes like “Fundamentals of Human Growth and Development: Birth through Adolescence” and “Characteristics and Medical Aspects of Disabling Conditions.” The coursework is the same as the on-campus program, and ODU offers dedicated resources for the online learning experience.  Support is available for both prospective students (a quiz called “is online learning right for me?” is offered online in order for future applicants to test the waters) and current online students with multiple academic resources and technical supports. Tuition per credit hour is $496 for Virginia residents and $538 for Washington residents.

Admissions website

#24. University of Missouri

The University of Missouri in Columbia claims the distinction of being the first public university to be established west of the Mississippi River. When the Missouri legislature passed a bill in 1839 to charter a state school, the residents in Boone County gathered $117,921 and put aside land as the winning bid to locate the university in their town of Columbia. In 1870 the University of Missouri (known as MU or “Mizzou”) became a land-grant institution and started to experience unprecedented growth for the school. From the first graduating class of only two students in 1843 to a current student body of more than 33,000, Mizzou has grown to be the “state’s largest and most comprehensive university.” Eighteen college and schools offer more than 300 academic degree programs on the 1,262 acre main campus (over 19,000 acres statewide as the flagship of the University of Missouri System). MU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Details: The College of Education’s Department of Special Education houses Mizzou Online’s MEd in Special Education with an Emphasis in Early Childhood Special Education and Autism degree program. A 30 credit hour program that is delivered entirely online, students can expect to finish in about two years. Three start dates a year are offered, and all courses are semester based. Coursework is constructed to help graduates “design, deliver and evaluate services to children from birth to age 5,” and classes are offered in topics such as “Research With Exceptional Children,” “Young Children With Autism,” and “Advanced Behavior Management: Applied Behavior Analysis.” There is significant support offered before students are even enrolled—a brief quiz to assess prospective students’ aptitude towards online learning leads to an assortment of Student Success Resources. As a distance learner, tuition and fees are calculated for all Mizzou Online students as if they are Missouri residents at $416.49 per credit hour.

Admissions website

#23. University of Nebraska at Kearney

The Nebraska Legislature determined to start a normal school for the western part of the state in 1903. $50,000 was to go towards the school, and many towns wanted the school to be located in their areas. A bidding war ensued, but the town of Kearney was selected. The town had pledged 20 acres of land and apartments that could be used as dorm rooms. The female students began classes for the first time in 1905 (men could enjoy admission in 1939.) Steam engines were used to heat the campus Administration building, which was only partially completed for the first classes. First in 1921 and then again in 1963 the name of the school changed as the campus and academic programs expanded. Officially becoming the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) in 1991, this public coeducational institution currently enrolls more than 7,000 students. The Higher Learning Commission regionally accredits UNK.

Program Details: The MA in Education: Special Education – Special Education degree program is available completely online through UNK’s eCampus. Requiring 36 credit hours to graduate, K-6 or 7-12 special education certification is the end result of going through the program (although all applicants must already have initial teaching certification to be admitted). Twelve core courses are followed by twenty-four credits in the special education emphasis area. Classes include topics like “Functional Behavior Assessment and Behavior Intervention Planning,” “Inclusion and Differentiation Strategies for the 21st Century Classroom,” and “Critical Issues in Special Education.” In addition to an education in teaching special education, UNK gives a short tutorial on “netiquette” to make sure students are prepared to be their best selves whether in an online class or when responding to others. Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year per credit hour is $293 for in-state students and $467 for non-residents, plus all applicable fees.

Admissions website

#22. University of Arizona

The Arizona Territory Legislature approved the establishment of a Morrill Act of 1962 land-grant school in Tucson in 1885—several decades prior to the territory becoming the state of Arizona. The first university established in Arizona, classes started six years later in the fall of 1891 with 32 students and six instructors on the 40 acre campus. The University of Arizona (simply called “Arizona” or UA) is a top-notch, public research institution designated as a very high research university by the Carnegie Foundation. Now Arizona provides over 350 academic degree programs for the more than 42,000 enrolled students enrolled, and the campus and two medical centers cover over 380 acres. Faculty and alumni boast Pulitzer’s and Noble Prizes, and Fulbright Scholar awards. Regional accreditation is granted to Arizona by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Details: Three different MA in Special Education degree programs—Behavioral Support, Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Disabilities—are all available entirely online. For teachers who are already licensed, these flexible programs offered through UA’s College of Education Department of Disability & Psychoeducational Studies also provide four possible concentrations: Challenging Behavior, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Sensory Impairment, and Gifted Students. All degree emphasis areas require 36 units to graduate and core coursework in topics that include “Special Services in the Schools,” “Language Development for the Exceptional Child,” and “Behavior Principles and Disability: Assessment and Intervention.” Desiring to ensure that every online student feels like a valuable part of our student body,” UA offers “several dedicated support services to distance learners” such as Career Services, Wildcat Joblink, the Online Library, and round-the-clock tech support. Cost per unit is listed as $653 regardless of residency.

Admissions website

#21. Stephen F. Austin State University

A state teachers college was created by the Texas legislature in 1917, and the town of Nacogdoches was chosen as the site for the new school. The Stephen F. Austin Teachers College, named for one of the founding fathers of Texas (known as the “Father of Texas”), held classes for the first time in 1923 on a portion of the Thomas Jefferson Rusk homestead. A university since 1969, the Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA or SFASU) has nearly 13,000 students enrolled in over 130 academic degrees in the seven colleges and schools in campus. The SFA main campus is 417 acres, but there is also over 600 acres for an agricultural research and production and equine center and almost 2,700 acres of forest and field station. SFU is a public coeducational university completely independent of the Texas University System, and it is regionally accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Details: Three options are available entirely online for students in SFASU’s MEd in Special Education degree program through the Perkins College of Education’s Department of Human Services. Students can opt between initial teacher certification seeking, non-teacher certification seeking, and Educational Diagnostician certification seeking. The initial certification and non-certification programs require 27 credit hours of core course and nine credit hours of elective, and the Educational Diagnostician program has 36 required credits. Classes are in such topics as “The Educational Diagnostician,” “Trends in Education,” and “Physical/Health Impairments.” All programs provide students with a thorough “graduate level preparation in the area of disability awareness, instructional strategies, formal and informal assessment, and law.” The Department of Human Services’ goal is to help students cultivate the skills to help special populations increase their “ability to experience life more completely and successfully.”  Tuition and fees per credit hour for the 2017 fall semester for Texas residents is $377.50 and $497.50 for non-Texas residents.

Admissions website

#20. Drexel University

Altruistic Anthony J. Drexel, a Philadelphia banker and businessman, created his namesake institution of higher education in 1891 by establishing Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry. The school did not initially grant degrees, but by 1914 bachelor’s degrees were conferred and thirteen years later a Master of Science degree was conferred. In 1936 the name was changed to Drexel Institute of Technology to reflect the change, and by 1970 the school became Drexel University (five years after the school was allowed to confer the doctor of philosophy degree). The school fulfills Anthony Drexel’s vision “of preparing each new generation of students for productive professional and civic lives while also focusing our collective expertise on solving society’s greatest problems.” This “academically comprehensive and globally engaged urban research university” is made up of fifteen colleges and schools and has three Philadelphia campuses (main campus is 74 acres) for the almost 25,000 students and over 200 academic degree programs. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education regionally accredits Drexel University.

 Program Details: Drexel’s MS in Special Education degree program at the School of Education is delivered asynchronously to accommodate working teachers in need of an advanced degree. Six certificate options are available in Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Collaborative Special Education Law and Process, Special Education Leadership, Technologies for Special Education, and Multisensory Reading Instruction. A 45 credit hour program that can be completed in just 21 months, with 27 credits of core classes, twelve credits of concentration courses, and six credits of “action research.” In addition, students are expected to construct a professional portfolio that they must present during the program exit interview. Each student receives a dedicated academic advisor for the duration of the program for guidance and support, and the online program provides the same faculty members teaching the same quality coursework as the on-campus program. Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year is $921 per credit hour, with discounts available for alumni, military and Drexel’s partner organizations.

Admissions website

#19. Purdue University

“Indiana’s Land-Grant University” started in 1865 when the Indiana General Assembly determined to partake in the benefits of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862. Choosing West Lafayette as the school’s home in 1869, a large donation of $150,000 from John Purdue as well as $50,000 and 100 acres from Tippecanoe County residents secured the funding for the school’s development. At the request of John Purdue, the school was named Purdue University in his honor. The groundbreaking occurred in 1871, and classes started three years later with six instructors and 39 students. Now the school has over 40,000 students enrolled in more than 200 academic degree programs within the ten colleges and schools of this public research university. A key value is the “Commitment to Freedom of Expression” at Purdue, in which the school “guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.” The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools provides regional accreditation.

Program Details: Combining “a unique view of the entire education landscape with practical experience,” the MSEd in Special Education degree at Purdue is a comprehensive and thorough online program. Ranging from 31 to 41 credit hours depending on which track is chosen, the program can be completed in as few as twenty months. Six tracks are possible–students can opt to just pursue the master’s degree, or they can follow either advanced or initial licensure tracks with a focus in mild intervention, mild and intense intervention, or intense intervention-only. For students who live outside of Indiana, Purdue practices license reciprocity with 42 other states and can assist students with their student teaching practicum in any of those states. The curriculum is in line with edTPA (which used to be called the Teacher Performance Assessment) with the goal of ensuring that “new teachers are empowered to teach each student effectively.” To this end, students must complete four professional portfolios–three with faculty advisement and one on their own. Tuition per credit hour is $329.05 for in-state students and $650 for out-of-state.

Admissions website

#18. Texas A&M University

With the distinction of being the state’s first public university, Texas A&M began with the decision in 1866 to take advantage of the Morrill Act of 1862. The state legislature established the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas in 1871, and the residents of Brazos County supplied 2,416 acres of land for the location of the school. By 1876 classes had begun for the white, male students allowed to enroll–it would not be until the 1960s that women and black students would be admitted. Also in the 1960s, the school’s name was officially changed to Texas A&M University. This public research university is a land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant institution with a 5,200-acre main campus in College Station and a branch campus in Galveston (and an international one in Qatar). Over 66,000 students study nearly 400 academic degree programs in the 19 schools and colleges. Texas A&M is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Details: Students can opt for either a Master of Science or a Master of Education in Special Education degree online through Texas A&M’s Department of Educational Psychology in the College of Education and Human Development. Requiring 36 credit hours to graduate, this two-year program begins every June and offers classes sequentially which are delivered both in synchronous and asynchronous formats. Stressing that online study “does not mean independent study,” this program has a faculty made up of practitioners who are also researchers and who have all been through specific certification training on how to provide the most effective online instruction possible. Classes offered include topics such as “Adolescent Literacy for Students with Diverse Instructional Needs” and “Ethical and Professional Conduct in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis.” A Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis is available as an additional option, and adds eighteen credits hours to the program. Tuition and fees per credit hour is $512.75 for Texas residents and $866.75 for all others.

Admissions website

#17. Michigan State University

Being the school that was the template for all land-grant institutions in the future, the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan was founded in 1855 in East Lansing. (The land-grant universities were created through the Morrill Act of 1862 and would provide federal lands to states to sell and then use the proceeds to fund institutions of higher education. The intention was a school “where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts”). Classes began in 1857 with 63 students, five professors, and three buildings (one of which was a horse barn). Changing names five time, the school is now Michigan State University (MSU) and educates more than 50,000 students in over 200 academic degree programs. The Higher Learning Commission regionally accredits MSU.

Program Details: Applications are accepted once a year in the spring for the completely online MA in Special Education program at MSU’s College of Education Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology & Special Education. The program begins each year in June for the admitted students, who are all assigned a “full-time, tenure-track faculty member” as an academic advisor to help them navigate their time at MSU. The program requires 30 credit hours and two endorsement areas are offered that each would add an additional six credits: Autism Spectrum Disorders or Learning Disabilities. All clinical requirements can be achieved through a student’s own classroom with faculty approval, so teachers can apply the skills they are learning immediately. Some of the courses students will take include topics like “Literacy Instruction for Students with Mild Disabilities” and “Collaboration and Consultation in Special Education.” Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year per credit hour is $759.50 for in-state students and $1,460.50 for residents of other states.

Admissions website

#16. Arkansas State University

The passage of an Act by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1909 led to the development of an agricultural high school (one of four in the state) to teach agriculture and textiles. On donated land in Jonesboro, Arkansas, the school was first led by Principal Victor C. Kays, and classes began in 1910 for 189 students and eight faculty. The “Aggie” school quickly grew in scope and curriculum, and by the 1920s had transitioned to a junior college. This change was reflected in the new name in 1925 of First District Agricultural and Mechanical College. Within the next decade the school began granting four-year degrees. By 1967 the school reached its current status as a university with the name change to Arkansas State University (ASU or “A-State”).  Currently over 14,000 are enrolled in this public research university with a main campus of over 1,300 acres. ASU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Details: The Master of Science in Education (MSE) for Special Education Instructional Specialist K-12 degree program at Arkansas State University is 36 credit hours and can be completed in less than a year and a half. With coursework covering topics like “Positive Behavior Interventions and Support,” “Collaboration for Special Education Service Delivery,” and “Characteristics of Individuals with Disabilities,” students learn applicable skills and real-world methodology. With a motto of “Placing the Student at the Center of the University,” ASU offers such student services as an online library, Arkansas State Disability Services (which provides help and support for students of “Arkansas State online courses, A-State Online Program, Distance Education, and A-State courses at sister-campuses”), and dedicated online 24/7 tech support through A-State Online Support. Tuition is listed as $294 per credit hour, which includes the administrative fee.

Admissions website

#15. Fort Hays State University

A prairie dog community in Hays, Kansas in the early 1900s would be the location of the school that would become Fort Hays State University (FHSU). Before the prairie dogs were moved, the infirmary at Fort Hays—an army post abandoned several decades earlier—was the initial location of the Western Branch of the Kansas Normal School. In 1902 the 57 students only had to pay $5 to attend, and two years later the campus was moved closer to town. The school would go through many changes in both name and scope, and by 1977 the final name was settled to reflect the university status—FHSU was born. This comprehensive, coeducational university has a campus of 200 acres and a University Farm on 3,825 acres. Five colleges and schools serve over 14,000 students in nearly 100 academic degree programs, and the Higher Learning Commission provides regional accreditation.

Program Details: The Virtual College at Fort Hays State University provides a “personal academic advisor” to each online student in the Master of Science in Special Education degree program, plus a plethora of resources and student services. Guaranteeing a “user-friendly” experience, the 36-credit hour program can be completed in about a year and a half to two years and is entirely online–students can complete coursework and any field education or student teaching experiences in the places in which they live and work. Students can choose between focus areas in Gifted or High-Incidence Special Education, and comprehensive exams are given in both the fall and spring semesters. With a curriculum that is “designed to promote reflection and critical thinking,” students take away from the program “authentic learning experiences with real-life application.” Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic calendar year is $280.73 per credit hour (plus fees) regardless of residency.

Admissions website

#14. Indiana Wesleyan University

Founded in 1920 in Marion, Indiana, the school known originally as Marion College was a private, evangelical Christian liberal arts institution from its beginning. Associated with the Wesleyan Church, Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU)—as it is now known—has five schools and colleges and enrolls over 15,000 students in more than 120 academic degree programs. Having offered online programs since 1997 and an international campus in New South Wales, Australia since 2013, IWU also has many Graduate programs available at sixteen Education Centers regionally and at learning centers across the state and in Kentucky and Ohio—hence the name-change in 1988 to reflect the reach outside of Marion. IWU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of both the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

Program Details: The IWU online MEd program with a major in Special Education through the School for Educational Leadership is designed for currently teaching educators from all states. This 33 credit hour program leads to initial licensure in special education for students with mild to moderate disabilities, but students from states other than Indiana will need to assess their state’s requirements to make sure the program will meet them. The cohort-modeled program takes just over two years to complete, and three yearly start-dates give students the opportunity to start when the time is ideal for their needs. Core coursework is offered in such topics as “The Culturally Competent Teacher Leader” and “Leading Instructional Improvement.” The Special Education major coursework offers classes like “Classroom Responses to Individual Differences in Language and Culture” and “Collaboration with Families and Professionals.” Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year is $471 per credit hour regardless of state of residency.

Admissions website

#13. Minot State University

Founded in 1913 as a two-year normal school to train teachers, the Minot Normal School in Minot, North Dakota served the northwestern part of the state. Eleven years later in 1924 the school transitioned into granting four-year degrees, and the name was changed to Minot State Teacher’s College to reflect that. Forty years after that first change the school had transformed to the point that the name was shortened to Minot State College to acknowledge that it was no longer an institution just for training teachers. By 1987 the school had grown in size and academic offerings and was renamed one final time–to Minot State University (MSU). This rural, public university is North Dakota’s third-largest institution of higher education, and it offers three colleges and a graduate school to the over 3,500 students who study in over 60 academic degree programs. Regional accreditation for MSU is provided through the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Details: The MS in Special Education degree program at MSU is entirely online and made up of 25-27 credit hours of core classes, a capstone thesis project, and a choice of program emphasis areas. With the goal of creating educators who are “agents of positive change,” the Special Education program emphasis areas include Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Specific Learning Disabilities, Early Childhood Special Education, and Special Education Strategist (this area covers autism, emotional and behavioral disabilities, and intellectual disabilities). Students choose from three start dates a year and work with faculty advisors to tailor an individual plan of study to their academic experience. For prospective students, MSU Online offers an Online Tutorial to allow them a glimpse of what being an online student would be like at MSU. Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year is $356.22 per credit for all online graduate programs regardless of program or residency.

Admissions website

#12. Texas Tech University

In 1923 the Texas Legislature established the Texas Technological College in Lubbock, Texas (the Texas towns of Floydada, Plainview, Big Spring, and Sweetwater were also in the running as possible locations). Classes began in six buildings for the 914 enrolled undergraduate male and female students in 1925, and two years later graduate studies were offered. The school became Texas Tech University (TTU) in 1969, and is now classified as one of only 115 universities with the “Highest Research Activity” by the Carnegie Foundation. The flagship school in the Texas Tech University System, TTU’s campus sits on almost 2,000 acres and is the sixth-largest university in Texas. Over 36,000 students are enrolled in the twelve colleges and schools which offer more than 300 academic degrees. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges regionally accredits this coeducational public, research university located in the South Plains of West Texas.

Program Details: With seven emphasis area options, the MEd in Special Education offered online through Texas Tech’s eLearning & Academic Partnerships division can help students achieve many different career goals. All seven programs–Autism, Applied Behavior Analysis, Deaf Education, Educational Diagnostician, Generic Special Education, Orientation and Mobility, Transition, and Visual Impairment–require 36 credit hours to graduate (most are completely online, but some of the certification options do require some on-campus classes or weekend workshops). Students take six credits of foundational requirements with choices of topics like “Cultural Foundations of Education” and “Educational Psychology” and six credits of Basic Special Education Core classes. The remainder of the program is then dedicated to the emphasis area, and students can opt between a Master’s thesis or a comprehensive written exam to culminate the program. Tuition for the 2017 fall semester per credit hour plus fees is $456.50 for both Texas and non-Texas residents.

Admissions website

#11. West Virginia University

The Agricultural College of West Virginia was founded in 1867 to take advantage of the Morrill Act of 1862. Six male college students, six faculty members, and over 100 preparatory school students were the first class in Morgantown, West Virginia. Just one year later the name of the school was changed to West Virginia University (WVU). By 1889 the first women were admitted as full students joining the 198 make students that year. these first ten female students led the way, but women at WVU would still have a dress code and curfew until 1973. WVU is classified as a high research institution, and this public coeducational university sits on 1,892 acres on the main campus in Morgantown, but also encompasses 15,880 acres throughout the state through the WVU System. Over 31,000 students are enrolled in 341 academic degree programs in the fourteen colleges and schools on the Morgantown campus, and the Higher Learning Commission provides regional accreditation.

Program Details: Through the College of Education and Human Services, WVU Online offers programs for both already-licensed teachers and those who need to seek licensure. The MA in Special Education and the MA in Special Education with initial certification or additional endorsement are offered completely online in both live, synchronous format and asynchronously via the WVU eCampus web. Five specializations are available: Applied Behavioral Analyst, Early Childhood Education, Gifted Education, Multi-categorical Special Education, and Severe/Multiple Disabilities. Students complete their field education teaching experiences in their own communities with guidance and supervision from the esteemed UWV faculty in the Department of Special Education. Through the Department, students have the opportunity to participate in various Professional Development events and resources to enhance their educational experience. Tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 academic year per credit hour are $561 regardless of residency.

Admissions website

#10. Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

 Founded and operated by Bishop Patrick Richard Heffron and the Winona Diocese, Saint Mary’s College began in 1912. A junior college for men in the Winona, Minnesota area, the school transitioned to a four-year liberal arts college in 1925. By 1933 the school had been purchased by the De La Salle Christian Brothers (a religious order founded by Saint John Baptist de La Salle in 17th century and known for their focus and dedication to teaching). The school remained all-male until 1969 when women were admitted as the school became coeducational. The next few decades saw expansive growth both physically and academically. In 1995 the school was renamed Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota (SMU or Saint Mary’s) to reflect the curricular growth as well as the reach of the university across the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and internationally in Jamaica and Kenya. This private university has nearly 6,000 students enrolled in all the various locations, and it is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Details: The Master of Arts in Special Education (MASE) degree program at Saint Mary’s is ideal for both certified teachers looking to enhance their abilities to work with students with special needs and for others who need initial licensure. Students have three dates in which they can start this fully-online, 36 credit hour program, and it can be completed in two years (those seeking licensure will need to take additional prerequisite coursework and participate in field experiences at one of Saint Mary’s physical campuses). With a goal of guiding students to “fully understand the unique needs of learners with a wide range of disabilities,” Saint Mary’s offers core classes in topics such as “Literacy Development & Interventions,” “Behavior Theories,” and “The Individual Education Process.” In addition to also offering specific special education resources, each online Saint Mary’s student receives an iPad to access their classes on their time for ultimate ease and accommodation. Tuition is $510 per credit hour for all online MASE students.

Admissions website

#9. University of Arkansas

Arkansas Industrial University was established in 1871 due to the state benefits of the Morrill Act of 1862. Winning the bid to have the University located in their town, the citizens of Fayetteville, Arkansas witnessed classes beginning for the eight enrolled students the following year on a site that was a former farm. The backbone of the University’s architectural structures, Old Main, was finished in 1875—it housed administrative offices and classrooms. By 1899 the name was changed at the urging of the students at the time to the University of Arkansas (“U of A”), and now over 27,000 students are enrolled in this public coeducational, land-grant, space-grant research university. U of A is the flagship school in the six schools within the University of Arkansas System, and it has regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Details: The MEd in Special Education offered by the College of Education and Health Professions through U of A Online’s Global Campus is primarily for already-practicing teachers who want to advance in the specialized field of special education (although students seeking initial licensure can still attend–they will need to take additional coursework beyond the regular program requirements).  A 36 credit hour program that can be completed in about two years, there are certificate options available in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Applied Behavior Analysis. Students take nine credit hours of core courses in topics like “Life-Span Human Development” and “Historical Foundations of Modern Education” and make up the remaining credits with three hours of cognate study and 24 of special education-specific classes. All classes are online, and a required practicum can be completed in the student’s home within a public school or agency that aligns with the program focus. Tuition is listed as $420.19 per credit hour regardless of residency.

Admissions website

#8. University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Established as a land-grant university in 1869—just two years after Nebraska had become a state—the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL, NU or simply “Nebraska”) began offering classes and constructing the campus in its first year of existence. The first few years were harsh—locusts consumed all attempts at agriculturally beautifying the campus, and the many trees that were planted could not survive the harsh prairie terrain. By the beginning of the next century however, things turned around. Student enrollment had jumped to almost 4,000 students, and the campus began to grow throughout downtown Lincoln and on the agricultural farming campus outside of town. This public, research university is the largest and oldest in the University of Nebraska system, and claims distinction as the flagship institution of the state. Nine colleges and schools located on more than 600 acres serve the more than 25,000 enrolled students. Regional accreditation is provided by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Details: Two degree programs and three specialization possibilities await students online through UNL’s College of Education and Human Sciences Special Education and Communication Disorders department. Offering both a MA in Special Education and a MEd in Special Education, students can choose between thesis and non-thesis options. The three specializations (Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education, Early Childhood Special Education, and Visual Impairments) are offered online–although the Visual Impairments specialization does require on-site summer coursework). For students seeking special education endorsements, the MEd program is ideal and requires 36 credit hours. For students who want to go on to research rather than teach, the MA program is the right fit–regardless of which program is chosen, all students work with an advisor to chart out their coursework and academic goals. Tuition rates for the past academic year were listed per credit hour as $325.50 for Nebraska residents, plus $77.25 in fees, and $609 plus fees for all others.

Admissions website

#7. Ball State University

The philanthropic Ball brothers (Lucius, William, Edmund, Frank and George), manufacturing businessmen in Indiana, purchased the failed Eastern Indiana Normal School (a private teacher-training university located in Muncie, Indiana) in 1917 and donated the campus and facilities to the State of Indiana. One year later the Indiana State Normal School Eastern Division opened with 235 students. The state renamed the school in honor of the Ball brothers just four years later to Ball Teachers College, and five years after that to Ball State Teachers College. The school’s enrollment and campus facilities continued to grow, as did the curricular offerings, and by 1965 Ball State University (BSU or “Ball State”) became the final name. This public coeducational research university now has 22,000 students, eight colleges and two satellite facilities in Indiana. The Higher Learning Commission regionally accredits Ball State.

Program Details: Ball State’s MA in Special Education is a fully online degree program offering five focus areas. Requiring at least 30 credit hours to graduate, students take nine hours of special education specific coursework, at least fifteen hours of coursework in their focus area, and a supplemental research course. Focus areas include Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism, Director of Special Education/Exceptional Needs, Response to Interventions, and Severe Interventions–students can focus on just one area, or combine them to tailor the degree to their specific needs. Classes are offered both synchronously (to build community in the online classroom) and asynchronously (to allow students the most flexibility in completing their work), and there are a myriad of student support services and resources to help students be successful. Examples of classes offered include “Educating High School Students with Severe Disabilities,” “Behavioral Consultation,” and “Organization and Administration of Special Education.” Tuition for the 2017-2018 per credit hours is $402 for Indiana residents and $603 for out-of-state students.

Admissions website

#6. Graceland University

In 1895 members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) donated land for the establishment of a college in Lamoni, Iowa. They named it Graceland College, because the land surveyor for the site of the school, Col. George Barrett, made note of the hilly slope on which the campus would be located and declared it to be graceful. Eighteen men and women were the first students, and classes were held in a downtown building because none of the buildings on campus were quite completed. A nursing program at a hospital in Independence, Missouri was added to the curriculum in 1910, and other satellite campuses were added through the years in other towns in Iowa and Missouri. Known as Graceland University since 2000, this private liberal arts university is still affiliated with the RLDS (now known as Community of Christ) and is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Details: The 30-credit hour MEd in Special Education degree program at Graceland’s Gleazer School of Education (GSOE) is ideal for already licensed teachers who want to transition to working with children with disabilities or enhance their skills working with special needs children in their schools. Fully online and taking about two years to complete, students enter the program together (there are several start dates a year from which to choose) in a cohort and move sequentially through coursework such as “Introduction to Choice Theory: Teaching Students Responsible Behavior,” “Remedial Math Methods,” and “Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Accelerated study is available, and regardless of how quickly students move through the program, they will take away from GSOE the guiding principles of caring, reflecting, leading and collaborating for the benefit of their students. Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year is $485 per credit hour plus fees, regardless of a student’s residency. Group discount rates of 5-10% are available for educators joining the program together.

Admissions website

#5. Saint Joseph’s University

Thirty male students began classes at Saint Joseph’s College in the early fall of 1851 in classrooms directly beside Saint Joseph’s Church, a Jesuit congregation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The school’s first president, Felix Barbelin, S.J., is credited as the founder of the institution. Financial troubles and multiple moves plagued the school through the first few decades, but by 1922 a campaign to raise money to move the school to a better location brought about the purchase of twenty-three acres in a residential part of the city. This transition helped the school to grow—women were admitted in 1970, and in 1978 the school’s name was changed to Saint Joseph’s University (SJU or “Saint Joseph’s”).  Acquiring a former Episcopal Academy in 2008 led to the Maguire Campus and a combined 114 acres for the entire campus and the school’s 8,400 students. Regional accreditation is provided by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Program Details: Saint Joseph’s online MS in Education degree with Special Education certification is designed for Level 1 certified teachers in early childhood education through secondary school, or for Reading Specialists (students with other backgrounds can still participate in the MS in Special Education degree program without seeking certification). In addition to the Special Education certification tracks, there are two other tracks available: Autism Spectrum Disorders endorsement and Wilson Reading System® certification. The programs range from 36 credit hours for the Master’s-only track to up to 39 hours depending on which additional track is chosen. All programs require 24 credit hours of core courses in such topics as “Diagnostic Assessment and Progress Monitoring” and “Families, Schools, and Communities: Communication and Collaboration.” Online students benefit not just from the experienced and caring faculty at their disposal, but also from 24/7 tech support through SJU’s “Personal Support Center” and their own “Student Services Coordinator” to help guide them to the resources they need. Tuition for 2017-2018 is $765 per credit hour.

Admissions website

#4. Indiana University Bloomington

The Indiana State Legislature passed an act in 1820 to open a State Seminary in Bloomington, Indiana—the school would have one professor, Presbyterian minister Baynard Rush Hall, for the entire time it was a seminary (1825-1827). Ten young men were the first students, but by 1829 the school had become Indiana College. A decade later it was Indiana University (IU), and by 1867 the first woman was admitted as a full-time student. Now this flagship university in the Indiana University system is the largest in the state with almost 50,000 enrolled students. Multiple campuses make up IU Bloomington, and this public research university is considered one of the “Public Ivy” schools in America offering a high-quality education through any of the 550 academic degree programs at its sixteen colleges and schools. The Higher Learning Commission grants regional accreditation to IU Bloomington.

Program Details: A distinguishing feature of the only-online MSEd in Special Education at IU Bloomington’s School of Education is the “Mentor Teacher” that oversees and offers guidance throughout the student’s ongoing field experiences (for students who are already teaching, a mentor can be picked at the school in which they teach). This support from a seasoned teacher provides a ready-made resource of practical and applicable skills. Thirty-six credit hours make up the program, and students have their choice of one of several track options (Autism, Behavior Specialists, Early Childhood, Instructional Strategies, and Intense Interventions).  Twenty credit hours are devoted to core courses in topics like “Families, School and Society” and “Collaboration and Service Delivery,” twelve hours make up the emphasis area courses, and a final thesis or capstone project completes the program requirements. Tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 academic year are $496.06 for Indiana residents and $579.07 for non-residents.

Admissions website

#3. Western Carolina University

In the mountains of North Carolina, several families of the Cullowhee Valley area formed a community school for their children. Robert Lee Madison from Virginia was hired as a teacher in 1889, the school’s second year. Madison taught 100 children and young people, but saw the need to instruct more new teachers to serve these rural areas. In 1893 Madison received the first of annual state funds to open and maintain Cullowhee Academy, a normal school to train teachers. The school grew exponentially, gaining in size and academic scope. By 1929 the school become Western Carolina Teachers College and offered four-year degrees. Even more growth continued after World War II, and in 1953 the school added additional degree programs and became Western Carolina College. In 1967, the school gained university status and was renamed Western Carolina University (WCU or simply “Western”).  Merging with the University of North Carolina system in 1972, this public coeducational university sits on almost 600 acres. Over 11,000 students enrolled for the 2017 school year–a record for the school. WCU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Details: The College of Education and Allied Professions at WCU offers two online degree programs to accommodate prospective students’ different educational backgrounds. For students without a bachelor’s degree in special education or licensure in a relevant field, WCU has a Masters of Teaching (MAT) degree program. For students who hold the undergraduate special education degree and are already licensed, there’s the Masters of Education (MAEd) program. The MAEd program requires 30-33 credit hours–twelve hours of core classes, 18-21 hours of concentration coursework, and a final professional portfolio. The MAT program is 42 credit hours–requiring eighteen hours of core coursework, twenty-four credits for the concentration, and a professional portfolio. For prospective students who would like to practice an online experience before committing, WCU offers a “Catamount Online Readiness Experience (CORE)” to test the waters of distance learning. And once they’ve taken the plunge, students have a resource page called “How to Distance” that provides tutorials and materials on all they need to know to succeed. Tuition plus fees per credit hour for the 2017-2018 year is $246.57 for NC residents, $250 for active military, and $756.72 for all others.

Admissions website

#2. Florida State University

Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee, Florida is a coeducational public space-grant and sea-grant university and the oldest member of the State University System of Florida. The humble beginnings of FSU started with several different institutions in the 19th century—the Leon Academy, the Tallahassee Female Academy, the Florida Institute, and the West Florida Seminary all would end or merge to become FSU. In 1858 the Civil War led to the school becoming The Florida Military and Collegiate Institute to train students into soldiers. 1901 saw a reorganizing into coeducational and desegregated Florida State College, but the 1905 Buckman Act undid that progression by separating the College into three distinct institutions. It would not be until 1947 that the school returned to a coeducational institution, and not until 1962 that black students were re-allowed admission. Classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as an institution with “Very High Research,” FSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Program Details: The FSU College of Education’s online Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) degree program with a major in Special Education Studies starts each fall with all core classes offered asynchronously. The flexibility promised by this format allows students to maintain their jobs as educators and to use their current teaching assignments as the field education classroom practicum. A thirty-three credit hour program, twenty-one credits of required core coursework includes topics in subjects such as “Culturally Responsive Teaching,” “Positive Behavior Support,” and “Teaching and Technology.” The remaining twelve hours can be chosen from three different focus areas: Early Childhood Special Education, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or High Incidence Disabilities. Not for students seeking initial certification, the mission of the program is to produce teachers who are “competent and confident educators who have a commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities.” Online students are supported by all of the on-campus resources, but also have multiple specific resources available just for distance learning support. Tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 academic year per credit hour are $444.26 for Florida students and $1,075.66 for all others.

Admissions website

#1. Western Governors University

This private, entirely online, not-for-profit university located in Salt Lake City, Utah was the brainchild of nineteen United States governors during a 1995 meeting of the Western Governors Association.  Western Governors University (WGU) was formally proposed in 1996 and established in 1997, and there are four colleges that make up the university: the College of Business, the College of Information Technology, the Teachers College, and the College of Health Professions. The school uses a competency-based learning model, which means that each individual student has an educational journey very unique to their learning needs and competency in a given subject. Over 78,000 students are currently enrolled in WGU’s academic programs, and regional accreditation is provided by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Program Details: The unique MS in Special Education degree program at WGU lands in our #1 spot. This program takes about two years to complete and has a student-focused approach and competency-based learning model style. With the competency-based model, students assess their current skills and experience with the help of an Enrollment Counselor and a Faculty Mentor to develop an individualized Degree Plan–focusing on the subject areas that they need to master and moving more quickly through the subject areas in which they are already competent. Courses are organized into “competency units” as opposed to credit hours, and each of the courses provides the student with a “study guide and recommended learning resources” (there are thirty-one competency units of required coursework in topics like “Psychoeducational Assessment Practices and IEP Development/Implementation” and “Instructional Models and Design, Supervision and Culturally Responsive Teaching”). Don’t assume that going through at one’s own pace means it’s a lonely academic journey–all students participate in “Program communities” made up of fellow students and mentors to broaden their knowledge in their field of study and “Learning communities” in which other students going through similar assessments become a virtual support system. Tuition has remained the same since 2008–just $400 per competency unit.

Admissions website

Related Rankings

50 Best Online Masters in Education- Leadership
50 Best Online Masters in Education

Michael Templeton
Managing Editor

Kacey Reynolds Schedler
Contributing Editor