The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Special Education Programs

Badge with 2-Line TitleOnline Master'sin Special Education2017
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Are you an educator or professional looking to transition into special education? If so, pursuing an online master’s in special education is an affordable way to get you there. A master’s in special education gives teachers advanced qualifications to work with students with a range of disabilities, and opens doors for a number of high-need careers in administration, local and state agencies, residential facilities, community centers, and other related special needs settings. Online graduate education programs are designed with flexible schedules and coursework, allowing busy educators and other professionals the ability to continue working full-time and balance other priorities, including education and family.

While many online colleges advertise cheap online master’s in special education programs, it’s important that students look for schools that offer both high-quality and affordable online master’s in education programs. Many online programs offer lower tuition rates than those on-campus or offer students in-state rates; however, this isn’t the only factor to consider when assessing affordability. Other important elements to look for include length of program (many are offered in an accelerated format); flexible payment schedules and loan programs; and graduate-level scholarship, grant, and other financial aid opportunities.

Below, you’ll find our list of the most affordable online master’s in special education programs in the country. Factoring in a variety of metrics, our College Affordability Score has identified the best online programs in special education. If you’re thinking about returning to school for your degree, and are interested in taking classes online, be sure to take a look at these top programs.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 University of Florida 93.06 3/5 87% Gainesville, FL

UF is a public, research university that was founded in 1853 in Gainesville, Florida, and is one of the oldest members of the State University System of Florida. The school offers an online master's in special education that prepares students for a variety of careers in the education field. The program is offered through the Teach Well Online Academy and includes 12 credits of core teaching coursework and 24 credits based on a student's chosen track. Students can choose from one of the following tracks: general, autism, disabilities in society, early childhood studies, dyslexia, and special education.

UF’s master's in special education online program is perfect for educators already working in schools that serve special needs students. It is also a good fit for public school teachers who want to better serve their general student populations or who want to become special education specialists. This program can be completed in two years of full-time study.

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2 Texas A & M University-College Station 83.47 3/5 79% College Station, TX

Texas A&M is a public university that was founded in 1876 in College Station, Texas. It is the flagship university of the Texas A&M University System, which has branches located throughout the state. Texas A&M’s Education & Human Development Department currently offers eight fully online graduate degrees in education, including a MEd in special education. The school designed these programs based on the latest pedagogical research and they are all taught by full-time, tenure track professors. The online master's in special education program is an affordable option for teachers who want to advance their careers in the special education field as specialists, school leaders, and teachers.

This 36-credit program includes courses on a variety of topics, such as behavior management, educating individuals with autism spectrum disorders, early literacy for students with diverse instructional needs, and more. Students learn how to serve students with autism, dyslexia, and ADHD, as well as learning how to provide positive behavior support to all learners. Texas A&M is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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3 University of South Florida-Main Campus 81.78 3/5 65% Tampa, FL

USF is a public university that was founded in 1956 in Tampa, Florida. The school offers a variety of distance learning programs through its Innovative Education Department, including an MA in exceptional student education. USF's distance learning programs stand out due to their specialized concentrations and affordable tuition. Students can choose one the following concentrations: learning disabilities, behavior disorders, exceptional student education, and intellectual disabilities.

This 36-credit program includes 27 credits of core courses and nine credits of classes in a student's chosen concentration. While this program does not lead to teacher certification, it does prepare students to pass special education certification tests in most states. This program also prepares students to pursue high-level positions in schools that serve special education students. USF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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4 University of Houston-Victoria 76.78 2/5 48% Victoria, TX

UHV is a public university that was founded in 1973 in Victoria, Texas. The school is a member of the University of Houston System, which consists of several schools in the Greater-Houston area. UHV offers a variety of distance learning programs specifically for educators, including an affordable master's in special education online. The MEd in special education offers the following concentrations: general special education, applied behavior analysis, autism spectrum disorders, and diagnostician certification.

Students must complete between 30 and 39 credits of coursework, depending on their chosen concentration. Graduates from the diagnostician certification concentration are prepared to sit for educational diagnostician licensing exams. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree and completed prerequisite coursework to be considered. UHV is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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5 Western Governors University 75.74 3/5 18% Salt Lake City, UT

WGU is an entirely online university with main offices located in Salt Lake City, Utah. WGU has been dedicated to offering online degrees designed for nontraditional students since its inception in 1997. Today, WGU is a leader in online education and emphasizes competency-based learning in its coursework. The school offers a MS in special education program that is perfect for general education teachers interested in special education instruction.

This online special education master's program includes 12 courses that are completed over four terms. These courses cover a variety of topics, including instructional design, the needs of special education students, and special education research. Each course requires the completion of several competency assessments to prove that a student has mastered the subject. The school recommends that students spend at least 15 hours per week on their studies. WGU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

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6 Florida International University 74.42 3/5 53% Miami, FL

FIU is a public research university that was founded in 1965 in the Miami, Florida. The school offers 20 online graduate degrees that are specifically designed for working professionals who are looking to advance their careers. FIU's MS in special education program prepares graduates to better reach and assess students with special needs, particularly students with autism spectrum disorders.

Once students complete the program they receive an autism endorsement in addition to their degree, which better prepares them to pursue a variety of careers in special education settings. This 36-credit program can be completed in two years by enrolling in two courses per eight-week session. Applicants must have a teacher certification and a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 during their final 60 credits of study to be considered. FIU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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7 George Washington University 71.94 5/5 80% Washington, DC

GWU is a private research university that was founded in 1821 in Washington, D.C. Today, the school serves more than 26,000 students each year and is the second oldest college in the District of Columbia. The school offers a variety of distance learning programs, including an online MA in secondary special education & transition services. GWU’s affordable master's in special education online is perfect for educators who want to work with special education and at-risk populations at secondary schools. Graduates are prepared to help the high school students they serve transition towards adulthood in their careers and in college.

This program teaches students how to empower and advocate for high school students with special needs. The 39-credit program includes courses on a variety of topics, such as legal issues in educating exceptional learners, curriculum and instructional methods in special education and transition, and developmental assessments of adolescents. Students must also enroll in a teaching internship course at the end of the program. GWU is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

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8 University of Nebraska-Lincoln 71.86 3/5 67% Lincoln, NE

UNL is a public university that was founded in 1869 in Lincoln, Nebraska. The school serves the largest number of students of all universities in the state, including a growing number of distance learners. UNL offers a MA and a MEd in special education, both of which are ideal for PK-12 educators interested in working with special needs students.

Online students in these online master's in special education programs can choose one of the following concentrations: deaf and hard of hearing, early childhood special education, and visual impairments. The MA program includes 30 to 36 credits of coursework depending on a student's chosen specialization and the MEd program includes 36 credits. The MEd track includes a required nine-credit minor on another area of education of a student's choice. UNL is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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9 University of Massachusetts-Boston 71.65 3/5 43% Boston, MA

UMass Boston is a public research university that was founded in 1852 as Boston State College. The school is the third-largest campus within the University of Massachusetts System. UMass Boston’s College of Advancing and Professional Studies offers 16 distance learning programs, including an affordable master's in special education online degree that is ideal for educators who want to teach blind and visually impaired students at PK-12 schools. Graduates from this MEd in vision studies program with a specialization in orientation and mobility are qualified to sit for the National Professional Certification Examination of the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals.

The 37-credit curriculum includes courses on a variety of subjects, such as technology and visual impairments, visual functioning, braille communications, disabilities for education professionals, and O&M and independent living. Unfortunately, the school is currently not accepting students for online study who reside in Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland, or Minnesota due to state regulations. UMass Boston is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

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10 Indiana University-Bloomington 70.33 3/5 77% Bloomington, IN

IU is a public university that was founded in 1820 in Bloomington, Indiana. The school is the flagship institution in the Indiana University System and serves more than 50,000 students each year. IU offers an online MSEd in special education program that features classes that meet the standards of the Council for Exceptional Children and the State of Indiana. Graduates are prepared to help students with high-incidence disabilities and can pursue a wide variety of careers in special education.

Students must choose one of the following tracks: early childhood, instructional strategies, intense interventions, behavior intervention, or autism. The 36-credit curriculum includes courses on a variety of topics, such as assessment and remediation of the mildly handicapped, classroom management and behavior support, and families, school, and society. Students must also complete a culminating capstone project during their final semesters. IU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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11 The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 69.96 1/5 41% Edinburg, TX

UTRGV is a public university in Edinburg, Texas, that primarily serves students at satellite campuses in the Rio Grande Valley region. The school offers a variety of distance learning programs, including a master's in special education online. UTRGV’s MEd in special education program is ideal for working teachers who want to become better advocates for their students. This program was designed specifically for special education teachers and specialists and emphasizes curriculum development, assessment, and classroom management skills.

The curriculum includes 30 credits of coursework that can be completed in just 10 months if students follow the school's recommended accelerated schedule. Students who work in partner schools in the state of Texas are eligible for special scholarships, grants, and reduced tuition. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. UTRGV is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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12 Michigan State University 69.46 3/5 78% East Lansing, MI

MSU is a public land-grant university that was founded in 1855 in East Lansing, Michigan. The school's College of Education offers seven online graduate programs that are designed for PK-12 educators in the U.S. MSU’s online MA in special education program allows students to specialize their studies in either learning disabilities or autism spectrum disorders. This online master's in special education program also leads to recommendations for teaching endorsements in autism spectrum disorders and learning disabilities. These endorsements qualify graduates to work as specialists and coaches in the respective subfields of special education.

Students must complete 30 to 36 credits of coursework depending on their chosen specialization. They must also complete an internship during their final semester. The curriculum includes courses on a variety of topics, such as autism spectrum disorders, applied behavior analysis, and classroom and behavior management. MSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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13 George Mason University 68.84 3/5 67% Fairfax, VA

George Mason University, commonly referred to as Mason, is a large, public research institution with a main campus in Fairfax, Virginia. Mason Online, the school's online division, offers 16 distance learning programs for practicing teachers. Mason offers a MEd in special education with an applied behavior analysis emphasis that is ideal for teachers interested in learning the specifics of how to implement applied behavior analysis in their classrooms.

This program includes classes that are compliant with the standards of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board and Mason's Education Department. The curriculum includes 30 credits of coursework and an optional 15-credit practicum. Students who participate in Mason's internship program complete 12 credits of practicum experience while working with a Behavior Analyst Certification Board specialist at an approved school in the area. All online courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Mason is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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14 University of Missouri-Columbia 68.72 3/5 70% Columbia, MO

MU is a public research university that was founded in 1839 in Columbia, Missouri. It is the flagship institution of the University of Missouri System and one of the state's most innovative education schools. MU’s Department of Special Education offers an affordable online MEd in special education program with a specialization in gifted education. This program prepares graduates to help gifted learners in grades K-12 reach their full potential. As a result, graduates receive an average salary increase of 25% and expand their opportunities for higher-level career prospects.

This 30-credit program includes courses on a variety of special education topics, such as the developmental aspects of human learning, assessment and evaluation in gifted education, and curriculum methods for gifted and talented students. Students must also complete a comprehensive take-home exam during their final semester. Missouri residents who complete this program qualify for the state's gifted education certification. MU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and this program is accredited by the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.

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15 University of Arizona 67.52 3/5 61% Tucson, AZ

UA is a public university that was founded in 1885 in Tucson, Arizona. The school offers a variety of online graduate degrees, including an affordable MA in special education. Students can choose one of three special education tracks: behavior support, deaf & hard of hearing, or disabilities. Graduates are prepared to pursue careers as specialist educators in their chosen subfield of special education.

This online master's in special education program includes 36 credits of coursework on a variety of topics, such as special services in schools, foundations of special education and rehabilitation, and research methods in education. Students in the behavior support track are prepared to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam after graduation. UA is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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16 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin 66.16 2/5 30% Odessa, TX

UTPB is a state university that was founded in 1973 in Odessa, Texas. The school offers a master's in special education online program that is ideal for for teachers who want to better serve special needs students. Students can choose one of the following concentrations: general special education, education diagnostician, and autism. Graduates are prepared to become special education teachers at any grade level or to pursue a variety of supervisory positions in the field.

Students in the general special education or autism concentrations must complete 36 credits of coursework, while those in the education diagnostician track must complete 45 credits and must enroll in nine credits of specialized training on-campus at UTPB. This training is offered during the summer term so that teachers who work during the school year can easily attend. All online students at UTPB pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. This program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

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17 Auburn University 65.00 3/5 69% Auburn, AL

AU is a major public research university that was founded in 1856 in Auburn, Alabama, as East Alabama Male College. The school offers eight programs and certificates specifically covering special education, including MEd and MS degrees in early childhood special education and collaborative teacher special education. These programs prepare graduates to provide special education services to children and youth with disabilities.

All degrees offer both a traditional and alternative degree path. The traditional path includes 33 credits of coursework, one-third of which must be in teaching field courses. There is also a required practicum course, which can be completed in a student's local area. The alternative degree paths include the same core requirements as the traditional program with the addition of a clinical residency requirement. These programs are accredited by the Alabama State Board of Education and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

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18 The University of Texas at Tyler 64.96 3/5 44% Tyler, TX

UT Tyler is a public university that was founded in 1971 in Tyler, Texas. The school is a member of The University of Texas System. UT Tyler offers an affordable master's in special education online that is currently only available to students living in Texas. This program has quickly become a popular options among Texas teachers who desire the flexibility of online learning for reaching their professional goals. The MEd in special education with a diagnostician certification is particularly appealing to educators who wish to become education diagnosticians.

The 36-credit curriculum includes courses on a variety of special education topics, such as instruction and assessment, developmental testing, behavioral disorders, and learning theory as applied to individuals with disabilities. Students can earn their degree in two years of full-time study. UT Tyler is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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19 University of North Texas 64.79 3/5 50% Denton, TX

UNT is a public research university that was founded in 1890 in Denton, Texas, as Texas Normal College and Teacher Training Institute. The school offers a one-year online master's in special education, which students can complete much faster than other typical two-year graduate programs in special education. Graduates are prepared to pursue careers as classroom teachers, autism specialists in public school settings, or life skills coaches.

The 33-credit MEd in special education with an autism intervention specialization includes courses on several topics, such as educational psychology, autism spectrum disorders, teaching students with high functioning autism, and more. Students can also earn a teacher certification through UNT's IMPACT program. Online courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. This program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

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20 Oakland University 64.34 3/5 44% Rochester Hills, MI

OU is a public university that was founded in 1957 in Rochester Hills, Michigan. The School of Education and Human Services offer more distance learning degrees than any other department at OU, including an online special education master’s program. This MEd in special education offers concentrations in autism spectrum disorders (ASM) or emotional impairment (EI).

Students in the ASD concentration must complete 44 credits of coursework, while those in the EI concentration only need to enroll in 40 credits of classes. The curriculum includes courses on a variety of topics, such as legal issues in special education, assessment in special education, quality of life, overview of autism spectrum disorders, and student with behavioral or emotional impairments. Both concentrations include a required supervised practicum experience that students must complete during their final semester. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree and a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be considered. They must also provide recommendation letters that speak to their capabilities as an educator. OU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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21 University of Arkansas 64.09 3/5 61% Fayetteville, AR

UA is a public research university that was founded in 1871 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It is the flagship school of the University of Arkansas System and is classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a research institution with the highest research activity. The school offers a variety of distance learning programs, including an online special education master's program. UA’s MEd in special education offers the following concentration options: general special education, special education with licensure, special education with ABA certificate, special education with ASD certificate, special education with therapy endorsement, and special education with education examiner endorsement.

Credit requirements vary based on a student's chosen concentration. Students enroll in courses on a variety of topics, such as classroom management concepts, learning theory, and adolescence and learning. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and provide GRE scores to be considered. UA is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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22 University of Alaska Southeast 63.80 2/5 16% Juneau, AK

UAS is a public university that was founded in 1972 in Juneau, Alaska. The school is a member of the University of Alaska System and serves more than 3,600 students each year. UAS offers a variety of distance learning degrees, including an affordable master's in special education online program. The MEd in special education exposes students to what they need to know to serve Alaska's rural and native populations.

The 33-credit curriculum includes courses on a variety of topics, such as inclusive education for students with disabilities, early childhood special education, assessment of students with disabilities, and transition planning for secondary students. This program does not include an internship requirement and instead emphasizes on several advanced educational resource courses. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and prior teaching experience to be considered. UAS is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

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23 University of Houston 63.39 3/5 48% Houston, TX

UH is a Carnegie Tier One research university that was founded in 1927 in Houston, Texas. It is the flagship institution of the University of Houston System and serves more than 42,000 students each year. UH offers 16 online master's degrees, including the MEd in special populations program. This master's in special education online degree provides educators with the skills needed to work with students with special needs.

Students must choose one of four areas of emphasis: special education, educational diagnostician, gifted and talented, or special education leadership. The special education and gifted and talented tracks are offered entirely online, while the educational diagnostician and special education leadership tracks require some on-campus visits. Educational diagnostician graduates are qualified to diagnose students in school settings, while special education leadership graduates are prepared to work as administrators at special education schools. UH is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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24 University of Nebraska at Kearney 62.85 3/5 55% Kearney, NE

UNK was founded in 1905 in Kearney, Nebraska, as the Nebraska State Normal School at Kearney. The school is a member of the University of Nebraska system and serves more than 7,000 students each year. UNK's eCampus offers a variety of distance learning programs on several subjects, including business, education, healthcare, and the sciences. The school offers a MAE in special education that is perfect for working teachers who want to earn additional credentials related to serving special needs students. This affordable online special education master's degree exposes students to the essentials of special education instruction and assessment.

Students must choose one of the following concentrations: gifted education, advanced practitioner, or general special education. All concentration share the same core requirements but have slightly different upper-level course requirements. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree and valid teacher certification to be considered. They must also submit either GRE scores or in lieu of that a personal statement. UNK is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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25 University of Kansas 62.40 3/5 61% Lawrence, KS

KU is a public research university that was founded in 1865 in Lawrence, Kansas. Currently, the University of Kansas School of Education is the only department at the institution that offers online degrees. KU’s MSE in special education program is one of the best master's in special education online in the country. Students must choose a concentration in either autism spectrum disorder or secondary special education and transition.

KU is one of only a few online schools that offers a program with an emphasis on secondary special education transition that prepares graduates to work with special needs students in high schools. This program can be completed in two years of full-time study. Classes are offered in eight-week session, with two session offered during the fall, spring, and summer terms. KU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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