By BCR Staff
There is a critical shortage of qualified special education teachers, and the need seems to grow bigger each year. Over 80% of the nation’s special education teachers report a considerable gap between the needs of students with disabilities and the trained professionals capable of meeting them. For future teachers seeking an online special education degree, there is a built-in guarantee that their newfound skills are highly sought-after after in the field.
If it is not possible to travel to campus, students can earn an online degree in special education. Many schools have incorporated this specialization in their education departments. Depending on the institution and the student’s individual career goals, special education can either be the central degree focus or incorporated into the broader scope of the curriculum.
The following ranking represents the top 25 online bachelor’s degrees in special education. These schools were selected through research focused on the critical elements of a high-value special education online degree. For more general information regarding distance learning programs see our ranking of top online colleges.
In determining the order of this ranking, we awarded points based on:
- Range and versatility of special education curriculum (1-5 points)
- Quality of online classroom portal and learning resources (1-5 points)
- Experiential learning and student-teaching opportunities (1-5 points)
- Flexibility of online courses and degree pace to accommodate working adults (1-4)
- An additional point was awarded for noteworthy features that made it a top college for non-traditional students
In the event of a tie in points, the school with the lower net price appears higher in the ranking.
Tuition and enrollment data was sourced from College Navigator.
The following list of ranked colleges represents the top 25 online bachelor’s degrees in special education.
#25 – Fort Hays State University
Total Enrollment: 14,658
Net Price: $11,993
Fort Hays State University is a comprehensive school with degree options in virtually any field. FHSU students have reported enormous success in certification tests and acceptance to higher degree programs. FHSU online provides the same academic excellence, with a dedicated distance-learning staff known to be highly attentive. Fort Hays offers an online education degree with a built-in minor in special education; this combination of skills provides optimum versatility as educators embark on their career. FHSU’s special education online curriculum includes focus areas including assessment, technology applications in special education, educating exceptional students, among others.
#24 – University of Maine System – University College
Total Enrollment: 4,416
Net Price: $8,627
University College has seven available campuses, all in partnership with the University of Maine system. Through this merging, students have extensive opportunities to customize their education. UC – UM’s online education program is also considered a hub of academic opportunity. For undergraduate students seeking a degree focused in elementary special education, there is both an elementary teacher preparation program and a special education teaching certification; online students who combine these programs benefit from the wealth of knowledge it contains.
#23 – Kansas State University
Total Enrollment: 23,779
Net Price: $16,431
Kansas State University is a respected research institution that includes the main campus, two satellite branches, and online learning division. KSU’s locations offer more than 400 academic areas of study, combined. For aspiring special education teachers, KSU’s global campus has an online bachelor’s degree in early childhood education; this versatile degree integrates early childhood, special education, and pedagogy curriculum components. Kansas State has a number of scholarship opportunities, several of which specifically designated for current or future teachers. KSU boasts a 94% job placement rate for its undergraduates
#22 – Grand Canyon University
Total Enrollment: 75,834
Net Price: $21,168
A private Christian school, Grand Canyon University is a multi-faceted academic institution. GCU’s degree programs include flexible distance-learning opportunities; among these degrees is an online bachelor of science in special education and elementary education. The online BS in elementary and special education is an affordable option for those pursuing a future in the field; students enrolled in this online special education bachelor’s degree provides the strategies needed to work with children of diverse learning abilities. Graduates of the BS in elementary and special education program are well-equipped for a vast range of classroom needs.
#21 – University of Southern Mississippi
Total Enrollment: 14,552
Net Price: $11,916
The University of Southern Mississippi is a well-respected, diversified college with students from over 74 countries. Among USM’s celebrated offerings is a distance learning degree program, ranked among the best in numerous widespread publications. USM has an online bachelor’s degree in special education that is designed for those who are becoming teaching assistants; this comprehensive curriculum includes courses in biology, humanities, history, and a range of specialized work in particular disabilities. Should undergraduate special education students wish to go further in their studies, USM additionally has an online master’s degree in special education.
#20 – Northcentral University
Total Enrollment: 10,916
Net Price: $10,368
A regionally accredited online school, Northcentral University has an extensive range of degree choices for nearly any career interest. NCU’s education department has a degree completion program for those who want to concentrate their online degree in special education; to complete the degree, students need to finish 120 credits special education general curriculum. NCU’s online education graduates are prepared for numerous academic settings once in the job market; all instruction is guided by the needs of people qualifying for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA).
#19 – Liberty University
Total Enrollment: 75,756
Net Price: $24,794
A Christian-based college, Liberty University has over 550 academic areas to explore. Despite a total enrollment of over 110,000, Liberty manages to maintain an average 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Liberty’s online programs are known to be particularly flexible, lending to more convenience for the full-time working adult. Included among LU’s undergraduate degrees is an online bachelor of science in special education interdisciplinary studies; this high-ranked online education program holds the utmost standards for its students and professors. Liberty’s online BS in special education has featured courses that include autism spectrum disorders, learning behavior, and problems, intervention for students with intellectual disabilities, among others.
#18 – City University of Seattle
Total Enrollment: 1,874
Net Price: $16,100
Part of the National University System, City University of Seattle is considered to be a wise degree investment. This dynamic college has well-established academics and a committed faculty of professors. Among City University’s distance-learning degrees in a bachelor of arts in education; students who wish to focus their online degree in special education, there is an available concentration for that path. The special education concentration has course options that include fundamentals of the IEP process, behavioral analysis and management, and exceptionality in special education. The City University of Seattle has numerous scholarships for further tuition affordability.
#17 – Stephen F. Austin State University
Total Enrollment: 12,742
Net Price: $11,987
Founded in 1923, Stephen F. Austin University is an affordable, reputable school option with over 120 areas of study. SFA online is an extension of the college’s top-notch academics, providing flexibility and tech-savvy faculty. SFA’s special education bachelor’s online is a degree completion program; this degree’s online portal is modeled after the EC-6 program, designed by the school’s Department of Elementary Education. Student’s enrolled in the special education degree program take unique courses in educational programming for students with autism, assistive technology for individuals with disabilities, functional living skills for persons with disabilities, and more.
#16 – University of North Carolina Wilmington
Total Enrollment: 15,740
Net Price: $16,218
For over 70 years, the University of North Carolina has successfully combined top-notch degree programs with a welcoming academic community. This school attracts high-achieving students and a faculty of seasoned educators. UNCW’s distance-learning component holds degree offerings from bachelor to doctoral level. For budding teachers unable to make it to campus, there is an online BA in elementary education that has an extensive curriculum in special education; this curriculum provides a solid foundation in meeting the needs of special students in an elementary setting. For special education online BA students, there are upper division course requirements to be completed before official enrollment.
#15 – Granite State College
Total Enrollment: 2,141
Net Price: $13,922
Based out of New Hampshire, Granite State College is a small academic community that specializes in the needs of the adult learner. GSC has numerous accreditations, and its online programs have been lauded by U.S. News and World Report and military-affiliated publications. Among Granite State’s online degrees is a bachelor of science in early childhood education; this degree track is the right option for students pursuing a special education B.S. online. GSC’s degree in early childhood education prepares future teachers in nursery school to third-grade settings; online students complete curriculum such as special education law, young children with exceptionalities, behavioral interventions, and other highly valuable areas.
#14 – Dakota State University
Total Enrollment: 3,307
Net Price: $11,993
Founded in 1881, Dakota State University is known to be an innovative, forward-thinking college that celebrates each student as individual learners. DSU’s technological expertise extends to its distance-learning component, where the latest in online learning technology is employed. DSU’s online special education degree is built into its elementary education track; this academic program focuses on K-12 classrooms, and students receive hands-on learning experiences through a two-semester teaching residency. The online special education degree has received positive feedback from its recent alumni, particularly with regard to quality academics and course option flexibility.
#13 – Western Governors University
Total Enrollment: 84,289
Net Price: $9,115
Western Governors University is a respected college whose degree programs exist entirely online. This affordable school has an excellent distance-learning technology and learning resources, led by a seasoned faculty. Among WGU’s degrees is an online bachelor of arts in special education; this cross-categorical program is designed with K-12 curriculum, relaying knowledge in a broad range of disabilities, learning needs, and classroom settings. Online special education BA students have preclinical requirements that allow for the experiential application of course curriculum.
#12 – University of the Cumberlands
Total Enrollment: 7,652
Net Price: $17,619
The University of the Cumberlands is a Christian-based school that welcomes students of all backgrounds and faiths. This mid-sized college is committed to remaining affordable, student-centered, and current with the best educational practices. Cumberland’s distance-learning programs include an innovative bachelor of science in interdisciplinary early childhood education; for those seeking an education degree that includes special education online, this program is a strong option. University of Cumberland’s BS in education incorporates key curriculum areas spanning math, arts, humanities, child development, and interventions for exceptional learners; recent alumni of this online BS has praised its comprehensive learning experience, challenging academics, and flexibility of the program.
#11 – Old Dominion University
Total Enrollment: 24,322
Net Price: $15,218
Old Dominion University is a Virginia-based school with students from over 180 countries. This college is known in particular for its progressive academic initiatives and excellent practices for the military-affiliated. ODUOnline has an affordable degree in special education; it provides students with skills in both early childhood special education and special education adapted curriculum. Old Dominion graduates in special education are viable, experienced candidates with the background for a long-lasting career. Recently, ODUOnline’s special education degree was ranked number 3 in CollegeChoice.net. Old Dominion’s advanced online technology makes earning a degree a seamless distance-learning experience.
#10 – University of Wisconsin – Stout
Total Enrollment: 9,633
Net Price: $14,038
Founded in 1891, the University of Wisconsin-Stout is a mid-size academic institution with over 9,000 students local and abroad. UW-Stout’s affordable degree completion programs include an online B.S. degree in special education; this distance learning degree is designed especially for busy working adults, providing needed flexibility and consistent support. This college’s curriculum is designed to give students the cross-categorical skills needed for maximum career versatility; among the special education areas of study include cognitive, emotional, learning, and behavioral disabilities of students. The University of Wisconsin-STOUT has earned accolades from numerous other publications include Affordable Colleges Online, and U.S. News and World Report.
#9 – Nova Southeastern University
Total Enrollment: 21,625
Net Price: $25,344
Consistently ranked among the nations best colleges, Nova Southeastern University has small class sizes, scholar-level professors, and a wealth of educational resources. One of NSU’s popular undergraduate degree programs is an online bachelor of science in exceptional student education; this program also includes education in English for Speakers of Another Language (ESOL) instruction, providing added knowledge for teaching a wider range of students. NSU special education students additionally complete twelve weeks of classroom fieldwork, where BS candidates are immersed in every element of classroom planning, instruction, parent-teacher conferences, and more.
#8 – Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Total Enrollment: 882
Net Price: $19,401
Saint Mary of the Woods College is a faith-based institution that maintains an environment of inclusivity. While a small academic community, SMWC has received widespread recognition for its tuition return-on-investment, quality of academics, military-friendly practices, and more. SMWC’s education department is home to an online bachelor’s in special education; this degree program has courses in either 16-week or 8-week accelerated formats, providing optimum flexibility for working adults. In addition to a clinical fieldwork requirement, online special education students complete courses in educational psychology, special education law, behavioral assessment and intervention, vocational education, among many others.
#7 – University of Georgia
Total Enrollment: 36,574
Net Price: $14,956
Founded in 1875, The University of Georgia has a long, respected history of rigorous academics and student-focused faculty. A respected college for an online bachelor of arts in special education; this affordable degree completion program includes curriculum in assistive and learning technologies, teaching reading to individuals with disabilities, behavior management. UGA’s online special education students receive extensive hands-on learning, all within three different practicums and required student teaching. UGA’s online students receive the same consistent academic guidance and career advisement as those who attend on campus.
#6 – East Carolina University
Total Enrollment: 28,962
Net Price: $12,187
East Carolina University is a large, well-established school with highly qualified faculty and strong academics. ECU’s growing distance-learning program includes an online BS in special education; this comprehensive degree program includes interdisciplinary courses based on either adapted or general curriculum concentrations. Online bachelor of science students can engage in field-based learning and multiple levels of student developments; additionally, special education students learn the legal requirements, instructional planning, and numerous intervention strategies for this population.
#5 – University of South Carolina
Total Enrollment: 34,099
Net Price: $19,913
The University of South Carolina is a globally respected and award-winning institution, consistently at the top of academia’s most trusted rankings. USC is an enormous college network, now with eight campuses in addition to its online opportunity. USC’s online bachelor of arts in special education is framed in the K-12 classroom setting; this program fosters both personal and professional growth, and graduates are prepared to lead their future classrooms with confidence. The online special education BA has flexible degree pace options, particularly for those who need more than two years to complete their degree; students in this program also have the option of further specializing their degree with add-on certifications in special education.
#4 – St. Petersburg College
Total Enrollment: 30,028
Net Price: $7,089
Florida’s St. Petersburg College is a student-centered, low-tuition school with a wide spectrum of degree options. For future educators seeking an online degree is special education, SPC’s distance-learning division has a bachelor of science in exceptional student education; this undergraduate program focuses on the K-12 classrooms, primarily for children with mild to moderate disabilities. SPC’s online special education BS offers major core courses in classroom management, nature and needs of exceptional students, learning principles, and much more. Additionally, St. Petersburg College coordinates promising internship options for experiential preparation in classroom leadership.
#3 – Mayville State University
Total Enrollment: 1,130
Net Price: $12,104
Mayville State University is a small college with a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 98.2% employment rate for recent graduates. Mayville online is a reputable academic opportunity that has earned accolades for its value, faculty, and range of student services. MSU’s online B.S.ED. in special education is a rigorous degree program for career-oriented future teachers; this program delivers curriculum in social and emotional development, special education law, special needs in early childhood education, home and community relations, alternative communications, among other topics relevant to the population.
#2 – University of West Florida
Total Enrollment: 12,966
Net Price: $11,175
For over 50 years, the University of West Florida has maintained a community-centric learning environment, encouraging each student to mold their individual career goals. UWF has brought this approach to the global campus, with a growing number of degrees and specializations. West Florida’s award-winning online degree programs include a bachelor’s in teacher education and educational leadership; this online special education degree prepares graduates for long-term careers as principals, teachers, or other educational leaders. UWF education graduates are considered “highly qualified” with regard to the standards of the No Child Left Behind Act.
#1 – Drexel University
Total Enrollment: 24,232
Net Price: $39,021
Drexel University is a globally respected institution that draws the best in instructor faculty and career-driven students. Drexel Online provides the same challenging academic programs, one of which is a B.S. in education; this 180-credit track also includes an emphasis in special education. The online education bachelor of science degree is taken over the course of 10 terms, and students complete these terms within 2.5 years. Among Drexel’s special education curriculum are inclusionary practices for exceptional students, special education referral and assessment, and atypical child development.
The preceding ranked list of colleges represents the top 25 online bachelor’s degrees in special education.