A good teacher can understand and apply the basic principles of how children learn. Great teachers, on the other hand, can see what fosters or inhibits the knowledge of each child in particular. In this regard, a degree in special education can give someone the tools they need to be a great teacher. Because children in special education programs, on account of their differences, do not typically thrive in an ordinary classroom environment, the focus of special education is not on the larger classroom but on each individual student and what makes them unique. Among the things you will learn in pursuing a Bachelor’s in special education are a knowledge of childhood development, common learning disorders, behavioral management, cultural differences, individual assessment, and designing Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s). The focus of this list are Bachelor’s degrees that are notable for their affordability and that can be obtained online. Because the requirements and licensure to teach special education vary by state and school system, those hoping to get an online undergraduate in special education should make sure that the program they choose is compatible with their vocational goals.
St. Mary-of-the-Woods College
Location: St. Mary-of-the-Woods, IN
Founded in 1840, St. Mary-of-the-Woods College is the oldest Catholic college in the state of Indiana. It offers a BS in Education with a number of different concentrations, including special education. Its curriculum has been accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the only accreditor that specializes in education programs. Being a liberal arts school, in addition to classes in education and special education, students will take a broad and diverse core curriculum that includes classes in everything from the fine arts to religion and spirituality. Boasting an excellent 8:1 student to faculty ratio, the instructors have more time to give students extra direction and attention. St. Mary-of-the-Woods also has a number of speciality programs, such as a certificate in music therapy, that can enhance a student’s desirability as a special educator. It is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
9. University of Georgia
Location: Athens, GA
For those who live in or near the state of Georgia, the University of Georgia’s online Bachelor of Science in Special Education will be an attractive option. UGA is rated as one of the top public research universities in the country and boasts an online program to match its on-campus reputation, a program that US News and World Report has rated as the fifth best in the country. UGA’s world class reputation and excellent online format comes with a cost. First, Georgia’s admission requirements are much steeper than the other schools on this list, so those interested in this program should read and carefully fulfill them if they want to participate in this degree. Second, UGA’s timeline for enrollment is much less flexible than other schools. It has one application deadline- February 15th- and every student begins the program in the Fall semester. Lastly, Georgia’s BS in Special Education requires two trips to the campus during the course of the degree program, which will be difficult for students who live far from Georgia or who do not have the means to get there. But for those who have completed the requirements for application and do not mind occasionally traveling to campus, UGA offers tremendous value for a very reasonable price. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Location: Prescott Valley, AZ
Founded in 1996 and earning its regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools in 2003, Northcentral University, a for-profit school, is the youngest institution on this list. It is also one of two schools on the list that has an entirely virtual campus. This means that Northcentral University is completely focused on continuously improving its online education experience. Northcentral offers weekly course starts, making it desirable for those who need to build their educational program around a fixed or inflexible schedule. It also has a generous credit transfer program for those that have started their education elsewhere. Northcentral’s faculty have all completed their doctoral degrees in the field of education and work as mentors to assist students in designing and completing their degree. On completion of their Bachelor’s in Special Education, Northcentral University students will also gain their teacher certification for the state of Arizona.
University of Wisconsin, Whitewater
Location: Whitewater, WI
Located in the small town of Whitewater, UW-Whitewater is one of the many colleges in the renowned University of Wisconsin system. Whitewater’s Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education- called the ‘ECE4U’ program- allows students to graduate with dual licences in the state of Wisconsin, one for early childhood education and one for special education. A consideration to keep in mind for this degree is that it will likely only be practical for someone who lives in the state of Wisconsin. This is because the required coursework to apply for the program must be obtained by completing an Associate’s degree in early childhood education at one of sixteen Wisconsin technical colleges. The program also requires six annual face to face Saturday classes at the UW-Whitewater campus. Like UGA, UW-Whitewater’s program starts every student at the same time- in the beginning of the Summer semester- allowing them to study as a cohort and get to know each other during their course of studies. For those to whom the ECE4U program is a possibility, its reputation as a part of the University of Wisconsin system and opportunity for dual licensure in Wisconsin make it a great option. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Location: Lynchburg, VA
Before he became the well known televangelist we are familiar with today, Jerry Falwell founded Liberty University (then known as Lynchburg Baptist College) in 1971. Wearing its conservative Christian values on its sleeve and being named one of the top ten conservative colleges in the country by the Young America’s Foundation, Liberty University’s education program is not going to appeal to everyone. But for those who identify with Liberty College’s mission and who hope to teach special education in a private Christian school, Liberty University has a lot to offer. Those who graduate from Liberty’s BS in Special Education program will be eligible for certification with the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). Moreover, those obtaining a Bachelor’s degree with the hope of going on for further education and certification might appreciate that on completion of their Bachelor’s they only need one additional year to achieve their MAT licensure in special education. Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Granite State College
Location: Concord, NH
In 2014 Granite State College was recognized by the US Department of Education as being the most affordable college in New England, so it should come as no surprise that Granite State’s online BS in Early Childhood Education with Teacher Certification in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education degree is among the cheapest undergraduate online special education degrees available. Granite State College, a member school of the University System of New Hampshire, is located in Concord, New Hampshire, but it has eleven satellite campuses located throughout that state. Their degree program promises to keep their students informed of the latest brain and cognition research, enabling future teachers to understand their student’s conditions and design the most effective education plans for them. It also strives to educate students in the most cutting edge education technology. Not only is Granite State’s credit transfer policy very liberal in accepting classes from other institutions, it also allows credit for relevant work and life experience. Like UW-Whitewater earlier in this list, Granite State’s Bachelor’s program includes dual licensure in early childhood education and in special education, though these licenses are only valid for the state of New Hampshire. It is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
The University of Southern Mississippi
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
The University of Southern Mississippi is a large public university with a main campus in Hattiesburg and an additional campus in Long Beach. It has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for its excellent and well funded research programs, making it an attractive option for those hoping to stay ahead of the most recent developments in the field of education. Like UGA mentioned previously, Southern Miss’ reputation comes at a cost insofar as their BS in Special Education has steeper application requirements than most of the schools on this list. However, the degree is 100% online and every online student, regardless of where they live, pays in-state tuition. Though it does not guarantee to meet the licensure requirements of every state, USM’s degree is not as state-specific as other programs, making it an attractive option for students who live outside of Mississippi. Moreover, the program is designed for those who have already begun working as special education teacher’s assistants and allows students to fulfill their student teaching requirements at the schools where they are already working or volunteering. USM is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Mayville State University
Location: Mayville, ND
Mayville State is a small public college in Mayville, North Dakota. Like a number of other schools on this list, Mayville State’s BSEd in Special Education will appeal primarily, if not exclusively, to people living within the state in which the college resides. However, for residents of North Dakota, this online degree, in addition to its very low price, offers some excellent benefits. For one, it allows students to very easily combine this degree with another in either early childhood education, primary education, or secondary education for a double major. Mayville State calls the conceptual framework of their education program the ‘The Reflective Experiential Teacher’. This model emphasizes supervised field work and the formation and testing of educational hypotheses. In a field where the latest research is constantly driving change, such ability to adapt and innovate are crucial for success. Mayville is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Fort Hays State University
Location: Hays, Kansas
In addition to its remarkable affordability, Fort Hays State University boasts an excellent online format that recently earned it a #16 spot in US News and World Report’s ranking of best online Bachelor’s degrees. Fort Hays State is located in Hays, Kansas, and, with a student population of 14,210, is the second smallest of Kansas’ six public universities. In the past decade, it has built an impressive presence in the world of online education. FHSU’s BS in Elementary Education with a Special Education Minor degree is offered through its College of Education, which promises to prepare future educators through a combination of the best educational theory and hands-on clinical experience. For those living in Kansas, one way the College of Education delivers on this promise is through its teacher residency program. Modeled on medical residencies, Fort Hays’ teacher residency offers students the chance to rotate through different educational experiences such as classroom management, instructional technology, and special education. While working in the classroom, students participate in online classes and are mentored by faculty members of the College of Education. Statistics show that while 50% of teachers leave within the first five years of their teaching career, the percentage drops to 15% for those who have participated in a teaching residency, making this a compelling option for those hoping to spend their life in the field of education. FHSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Western Governor's University
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Coming in at #1 in affordability is Western Governors University, a non-profit online only university headquartered in Salt Lake City. WGU was started in 1997, two years after the Western Governors Association met to discuss education and resolved to found a competency-based university that would rely exclusively on distance education. Since that time WGU has been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and won a number of awards for the excellent value and affordability of their programs. It was also the first online program to be NCATE certified. WGU’s BA in Special Education (K-12) has also been recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children, the premier professional association for teachers working in special education. Another unique part of WGU’s program of study is a final portfolio project in which students will present their own philosophy of education, document the skills they acquired in completing their degree, and put together a professional resume. What better way to prepare to find a job in the world of educating exceptional students?