Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) Degree Programs

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by Meg Whitenton

Updated July 15, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Samantha Fecich

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A doctorate in education (Ed.D.) prepares graduates to lead at every academic level, from K-12 to higher education. Students can also prepare for research and policy positions. If you want to drive change in education, an Ed.D. is a terminal degree that can help you reach your goals.

The future for Ed.D. graduates is bright, and many positions in the education field are in demand. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), postsecondary education administrators are projected to see 8% job growth from 2020-2030. And Payscale reports that the average salary for doctors of education is $80,000 (July 2022).

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Ready to start your journey?

Doctoral candidates can earn a degree while balancing other commitments with school. Programs are available on campus or online. Distance learning may offer greater flexibility, faster completion times, and lower tuition rates than on-campus options.

What Is a Doctor of Education Degree (Ed.D.)?

Several distinct factors set the doctorate in education apart from other degrees in the field. Though graduates who earn an education doctorate may pursue teaching jobs, most choose to conduct scholarly research or work in education administration.

While completion times vary, a typical full-time education doctoral program lasts 2-3 years. Graduates possess a unique combination of practical leadership tools and education experience, which may appeal to midcareer professionals looking to level up their skills. Employers often seek to hire doctors of education for positions like principal, dean, or college provost.

Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. vs. Ed.S.

Schools offer several varieties of doctoral degrees in education. The most common are a doctor of education (Ed.D.), doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in education, and education specialist (Ed.S.). Colleges may offer one or more of these options to doctoral candidates, deliverable on campus or online. Students should consider a program based on their career goals.

Directory of Online Doctorate in Education Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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Johns Hopkins University

School Information
Location Baltimore, Maryland
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 93%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,638
Out of State | $1,638

Credits to Graduate
90

Johns Hopkins offers a fully online doctorate in education for working professionals who can study part time and graduate in 3-7 years.

Specializations allow students to focus their studies on entrepreneurial leadership in education; urban leadership; mind, brain, and teaching; instructional design in online teaching and learning; and technology integration in K-16 education. Students must complete a three-day residency every summer.

Applicants need a master's degree from an accredited college with a minimum 3.0 GPA. GRE scores are optional. Classes begin every fall.

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Vanderbilt University

School Information
Location Nashville, Tennessee
Admission Rate 9%
Graduation Rate 93%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $2,096
Out of State | $2,096

Credits to Graduate
54

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Offered through Vanderbilt's Peabody College, the doctorate in education program suits professionals with at least three years of leadership experience. Degree-seekers focus their studies on leadership and organizational development, data and analytics, or learning and design. 

Students take weekly live classes online, plus three meetings on campus in Nashville, Tennessee. The program culminates with a capstone project.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college and 30 graduate-level courses. The program takes 3-4 years to complete.

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

School Information
Location Champaign, Illinois
Admission Rate 59%
Graduation Rate 85%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $490
Out of State | $490

Credits to Graduate
64

U of I features an online doctorate in education that offers 13 concentrations, including bilingual-bicultural education, digital learning, African American studies, and writing studies. Doctoral candidates can earn principal or superintendent endorsements. Courses operate mostly online, with students meeting twice on campus.

The curriculum prepares graduates for careers as college professors, governmental administrators, educational policy analysts, and university administrators. The department accepts new students based on their undergraduate and graduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and statement of purpose.

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Northcentral University

School Information
Location La Jolla, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $976
Out of State | $976

Credits to Graduate
48

NCU's doctorate in education degree allows students to pick from more than 16 specializations, including curriculum and teaching, e-learning, early childhood education, international education, or English language learning. 

The doctorate in education program offers 16 courses. Candidates need a master's degree from an accredited college. Degree-seekers can graduate in less than three years to pursue careers as postsecondary teachers, education administrators, and training and development coordinators.

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Indiana Wesleyan University

School Information
Location Marion, Indiana
Graduation Rate 38%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $595
Out of State | $559

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

IWU offers an online doctorate in education that students can complete within less than two years. The Ed.D. degree does not require any residency hours, and the dissertation research occurs concurrently.

Students complete courses in scholarly research and writing, issues and ethics in education, educational history and law, and learning and change management theories. 

Graduates work in college faculty, educational consulting, and nonprofits. This program only accepts applicants who hold an educational specialist degree or at least 30 doctoral credits.

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Touro University Nevada

School Information
Location Henderson, Nevada
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes and Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $625
Out of State | $625

Credits to Graduate
60

Educators can advance their careers with TUN's doctorate in education degree that focuses on education administration and leadership. Students can graduate in three years by studying mostly online with two summer intensive meetings on campus. 

Required courses cover perspectives and current issues in education, ethics and law, policy and planning, finance and business administration, and community engagement and relations.

The program offers one start date every year. Candidates must have a master's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. They need to submit three letters of recommendation, a personal essay, transcripts, and a resume.

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Baylor University

School Information
Location Waco, Texas
Admission Rate 45%
Graduation Rate 78%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,785
Out of State | $1,785

Credits to Graduate
54

Baylor's fully online doctorate in education, which focuses on learning and organizational change, allows working professionals to graduate in three years. Degree-seekers explore the psychology of learning, educational evaluation, instructional design, trends in leadership, and organizational change in technological society. The program culminates with research methods and capstone experiences.  

Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores. Application requirements include a resume, official transcripts, three letters or recommendation, a personal statement, and a video interview. New cohorts start in January, May, and August.

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University of Dayton

School Information
Location Dayton, Ohio
Admission Rate 72%
Graduation Rate 82%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,390
Out of State | $1,390

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

UD's doctorate of education offers mostly online courses and two immersions at the Dayton, Ohio campus. The curriculum comprises hands-on practical experiences, collaboration, social justice, and research. 

Students take weekly live classes and interact with classmates in online breakout rooms. Instruction covers organizational theory, ethics in education leadership, law and public policy, finance, leadership theory, and intercultural proficiency. Degree-seekers can graduate in three years.

Graduates secure careers as public policy leaders, health services executives, and postsecondary education administrators.

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Nova Southeastern University

School Information
Location Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Admission Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 58%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes and Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,460
Out of State | $1,460

Credits to Graduate
55

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

NSU's online doctorate in education degree appeals to current superintendents, principals, and lead teachers through eight concentrations. Ed.D. candidates can specialize in curriculum and teaching, educational leadership, higher education leadership, or human services administration. 

Students graduate within three years. The program covers organizational behavior and human development, change management, critical thinking for decision-making, and emerging theories of organizational leadership. NSU's admissions office accepts applications on a rolling basis.

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Azusa Pacific University

School Information
Location Azusa, California
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 68%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,140
Out of State | $1,140

Credits to Graduate
51

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

APU features a residency doctorate in education — with a learning experience in London — that suits working professionals in student affairs. While overseas, students can network with international faculty.

This program offers mostly online courses with in-person classes held at the Azusa, California campus for one week every June and a monthly in-person session for nine months. The curriculum combines spirituality of leadership, campus ecology, and law and policy. Cohorts, which include 15-20 students, graduate within three years. 

Applicants must hold a master's degree with at least a 3.5 GPA. GRE scores are optional.

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Marshall University

School Information
Location Huntington, West Virginia
Admission Rate 87%
Graduation Rate 49%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 37% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,100
Out of State | $420

Credits to Graduate
45

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

MU offers an Ed.D. in leadership studies with courses that cover the principles of leadership, organizational analysis, financial models in leadership, and advanced research. Students must complete nine credits for their dissertation research. Graduates can find leadership positions in schools, universities, and nonprofits. 

Faculty admits students based on their work experiences, career goals, GPAs, and GRE or MAT scores. Doctorate in education candidates also must complete an online interview. Admitted students begin in the fall.

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The University of Findlay

School Information
Location Findlay, Ohio
Admission Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 65%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 33% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes and Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $490-$540
Out of State | $490-$540

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Findlay's online doctorate in education prepares students to become superintendents or teachers by offering two concentrations. The superintendent and teaching concentrations require 15 additional credits to gain practical skills in collective bargaining, grant writing, and networking. 

Students complete courses mostly online, except for the three-day summer institute. They can graduate within three years. Findlay also offers students the chance to present their research at the Mid-Western Educational Research Association.

Applicants need a master's degree from an accredited college with a minimum 3.0 GPA, GRE or MAT scores, and supplemental materials. The College of Education faculty also requires in-person or virtual interviews.

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Marymount University

School Information
Location Arlington, Virginia
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 58%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 19% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,140
Out of State | $1,140

Credits to Graduate
48

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Marymount's fully online doctorate in education program prepares students for higher education faculty positions in three years. The curriculum covers theory and practice, ethical leadership and social justice, and transformative leadership. Students must complete their degree in five years. 

Eligible applicants need a master's degree in education from an accredited college, with a minimum 2.75 GPA. Applicants also need three years of work experience, official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and a virtual interview. The program does not require GRE scores.

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University of Southern Mississippi

School Information
Location Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Admission Rate 97%
Graduation Rate 49%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 70% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $510
Out of State | $510

Credits to Graduate
54

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Southern Miss's doctorate in education emphasizes practical experiences with a capstone project. Over three years, students complete courses in public school finance, school law, administrative approaches to technology, and advanced instructional supervision. Classes are held weekly in the evenings. 

Applicants who do not have a master's degree must submit GRE scores. Admissions also requires candidates to submit resumes, letters of interest, transcripts, and three letters of recommendation. Graduates become principals, assistant principals, curriculum coordinators, and superintendents.

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How We Selected These Schools

In order to create our directory list of online doctorate in education programs, the BestColleges Rankings Team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. To be considered for the list, each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution offering an online doctorate degree in education program.

Popular Online Doctorate in Education Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Curriculum

Courses

The exact curriculum for an Ed.D. program varies by school, although most programs cover similar core concepts. Generally, students pursuing an education doctorate sharpen their research, writing, and critical-thinking skills, though specific courses often vary by specialization or concentration.

Examples of common courses include qualitative and quantitative research, educational leadership and management, and diversity. Programs may culminate in a capstone or traditional dissertation.

Specializations

Some schools are known for offering a particular Ed.D. specialization. Others offer a variety of choices for students looking to tailor their concentration to their career goals.

For example, doctorate in education programs with specializations in adult education, curriculum studies, or urban and multicultural education may suit aspiring college professors. Other common specializations include educational leadership, organizational leadership, and global executive.

Internships

Many doctoral programs include an internship requirement. While the majority of Ed.D. candidates already hold field experience in education, doctoral internships help prepare students for high-level leadership roles in education research or administration.

Students may find opportunities through their university, such as professor internships. Some programs offer paid internships through university partners, stipends for fellowships, or work-to-hire positions through organizations in the student's specialization.

Dissertation in Practice (DIP) or Capstone

Doctor of education programs typically culminate in a DIP or capstone requirement. While they may differ in structure and delivery, dissertations and capstones allow students to demonstrate the full breadth of knowledge they learned in a program, as well as their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Both dissertations and capstones require extensive research and preparation over multiple semesters. A dissertation most commonly results in a written research paper, which students must defend by giving a presentation to a panel of advisors. A capstone typically includes a final project designed to highlight the student's practical skills in their specialization.

What Programs Are Similar to Education?

Admission Requirements

The admission requirements for doctorate in education programs may vary slightly depending on the school. However, requirements for in-person and online programs are typically similar. Some schools may help Ed.D. candidates seek financial aid through a separate process. Students should always consult with their target schools directly to make sure they fully understand admissions criteria.

Application

All Ed.D. candidates must submit a formal admissions application. Graduate applications ask for a candidate's personal information and a summary of their academic experience, providing a quick reference for admissions officers. Students should always submit applications on time with all of the supplemental materials requested by the school.

Test Scores

Graduate programs in subjects like business and law commonly require standardized tests, such as the GRE or GMAT, as part of the application process. Doctor of education programs that require test scores typically prefer the GRE. Other programs may maintain test-optional policies.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation speak to the academic performance, professionalism, and ambition of an Ed.D. candidate. Admission into most doctoral programs requires multiple letters of recommendation. Admissions officers prefer recommendations from sources who have first-hand, personal knowledge of the applicant, such as a professor, employer, or mentor.

Relevant Master's Degree

As a terminal degree, an education doctorate requires extensive academic experience. Most programs require applicants to hold a master's degree in a relevant subject, such as elementary education, curriculum and instruction, or educational leadership. While rare, some doctorate in education programs may accept applicants with only a bachelor's degree.

Essays

Application essays provide a space for students to express their personality and personal goals, describing why they want to enroll in an Ed.D. program. Applicants can also highlight their advanced writing skills. Unlike undergraduate applicants, which often include a prompt, doctorate in education programs may welcome open-ended essays or personal statements.

Official Transcripts

Official transcripts are another universal admission requirement. Students typically make requests to have these documents sent directly between schools. Official transcripts verify an applicant's previous academic experience. Most doctorate in education programs require a minimum 3.0-3.5 GPA for admission.

Resume and Work Experience

Doctorate in education programs tend to attract midcareer or advanced-career applicants looking to develop senior leadership skills or switch areas of expertise. Most Ed.D. pathways require applicants to hold at least five years of work experience in their specialization or a related field of education. Schools may request a resume including all relevant work experience or a curriculum vitae (CV) that highlights teaching, volunteer, and research experience. In some cases, resumes may also be used to determine potential transfer credits for life, military, or work experience.

Admissions Interview

An admissions interview may hold a lot of weight for candidates applying to a doctorate in education program. Applicants should approach this process like a job interview, taking the time to review sample questions and prepare for the admissions interview thoroughly. Advisors look for focused, dedicated students with a keen understanding of what they hope to get from and contribute to an Ed.D. program.

International Student Admissions

The admissions process and requirements for a doctorate in education program may differ slightly for international students. Generally, international applicants must meet many of the same criteria, including holding a master's degree, submitting letters of recommendation, and having 3-5 years of work experience. However, they may also have additional requirements.

Schools may require some international applicants to submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test. Programs may favor the TOEFL or IELTS or let students choose which test scores to share.

Admissions Checklist

  • Completed application packet
  • GRE scores (if applicable)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Relevant master's degree
  • Essays/personal statement
  • Official transcripts
  • Resume or CV
  • Admissions interview

How to Choose a Program

Online vs. On-Campus Options

On-campus and online programs include much of the same coursework and requirements. The primary difference between an in-person and online Ed.D. program is the delivery method. An online doctorate in education may offer more flexible scheduling, accelerated completion times, and more affordable per-credit tuition rates than a campus-based degree.

Students should consider whether they prefer to learn in person or online before enrolling. While some students prefer the setting of a physical classroom, an online program allows learners to attend an out-of-state institution without needing to relocate.

Accreditation

Whether a student enrolls in an in-person or online Ed.D. program, the school offering the degree must hold institutional accreditation. The accreditation process verifies that a school meets standards related to instruction and performance, as determined by a third-party accrediting agency. These organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

In addition to institutional accreditation, some doctorate in education programs receive specialized programmatic accreditation, such as through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Some programs may also hold approval from agencies in their state that award certification or licensure to educators and education administrators.

How Do I Pay for a Doctorate Degree in Education?

What Can I Do with a Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.)?

Job Outlook

Unlike a Ph.D. in education or an Ed.S. degree, an Ed.D. focuses on building practical skills for aspiring education administrators in nonteaching roles. Though some Ed.D. graduates become college professors, many graduates pursue executive roles in academia or research.

Graduates commonly find advanced administrator positions, such as college provost or school district superintendent. Other job options include university president or education director for a nonprofit organization.

As shown in the table below, Ed.D.-holders who pursue postsecondary teaching positions can expect to earn average salaries ranging from $60,000-$77,000. Academic deans and school superintendents have salaries closer to $90,000. Provosts are among the highest-paid education administrators, earning an annual average salary of more than $160,000.

See where a doctorate in education can take you. Learn more about educational leadership careers.

Career Paths
Career Average Annual Salary
Senior Lecturer $60,720
Postsecondary Teacher, Education $76,990
School Superintendent $86,190
Academic Dean $93,120
Provost $169,940

Education Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Education Programs

Is an Ed.D. the same as a Ph.D.?

No. Although an Ed.D. and a Ph.D. in education are both terminal degrees in the field, each is suited to a different career path for graduates. Aspiring education administrators and executives tend to pursue an Ed.D. In contrast, a Ph.D. is more suitable for aspiring college professors or academic researchers.

Both of these terminal degrees require a significant commitment of time and tuition, though an Ed.D. tends to take less time to complete. Generally, an Ed.D. emphasizes practical applications of advanced concepts in educational leadership. A typical Ph.D. program features intensive, high-level research and culminates in a dissertation.

How long is an educational doctorate program?

Most educational doctorate programs take 2-3 years to complete, though completion times vary depending on whether a student has any transfer credits or enrolls full time vs. part time. Some schools offer accelerated paths to graduation for students who enroll in online doctoral programs in education.

Like any terminal degree, a doctorate in education is known for being customizable. Students completing an Ed.D. or Ph.D. in education may opt to complete an extended dissertation or research project, which may delay their graduation timeline.

How much does it cost to get your Ed.D.?

The cost of earning a doctorate in education varies by program. Factors affecting the cost include whether a student enrolls in full- or part-time study, qualifies for financial aid and/or college loans, and attends classes on campus or online.

What is an affordable Ed.D. program?

The notion of affordability is relative. However, students may enjoy lower tuition if they enroll in an online Ed.D. program than a traditional program held on campus.

Perks of an affordable online Ed.D. program may include the option to take accelerated coursework, generous transfer policies, and set tuition rates that ignore state residency. Some programs offer increased affordability through financial aid, such as grants, scholarships, fellowships, or low-interest-rate loans.

Is a doctorate of education (Ed.D.) worth it?

A doctorate in education can help students advance their careers in educational leadership. Students can pursue an Ed.D. — typically in less time and at a more affordable cost than a Ph.D. — to prepare for a lucrative career in education administration.

An Ed.D. prepares students for many careers beyond teaching. Graduates of a doctorate in education program may meet the education requirements for jobs like college provost or dean, education director, college professor, school principal, and school district superintendent.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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