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25 Best Colleges for Special Education 2020

By the GradReports team | Updated 2/21/2020

We ranked the top 25 schools by median salary one year after college for students who graduate with a bachelor's degree in special education. With a median starting salary of $48,800 for special education majors, Kean University outranks the other schools on the list. Florida Atlantic University students with this major graduated with $12,500 of student debt, the lowest median debt out of the top-ranked schools. Median salaries for the top 25 schools range from $40,000-$48,800.

Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education in November 2019. View our methodology for more details about these rankings or read more about the top-ranked schools.

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Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Location Annual Tuition Median Debt Median Salary
#1 #1 Union (NJ) Union (NJ) $19,771 $26,590 $48,800
#2 #2 Towson (MD) Towson (MD) $25,516 $18,527 $45,900
#3 #3 Honolulu (HI) Honolulu (HI) $34,218 $15,000 $44,900
#4 #4 Ellensburg (WA) Ellensburg (WA) $25,213 $23,000 $44,600
#5 #5 Bellingham (WA) Bellingham (WA) $25,930 $25,000 $43,600
#6 #6 New Haven (CT) New Haven (CT) $25,286 $22,500 $43,500
#7 #7 Boca Raton (FL) Boca Raton (FL) $17,324 $12,500 $43,400
#8 #8 Spokane (WA) Spokane (WA) $48,470 $27,000 $43,100
#9 #9 Frederick (MD) Frederick (MD) $43,140 $25,000 $42,700
#10 #10 Normal (IL) Normal (IL) $26,843 $21,500 $42,600
#11 #11 Millersville (PA) Millersville (PA) $22,226 $27,000 $42,500
#12 #12 Tallahassee (FL) Tallahassee (FL) $18,786 $15,000 $42,100
#13 #13 Fort Myers (FL) Fort Myers (FL) $25,162 $18,000 $42,100
#14 #14 Champaign (IL) Champaign (IL) $32,892 $21,499 $42,100
#15 #15 West Chester (PA) West Chester (PA) $22,295 $26,990 $42,100
#16 #16 Cortland (NY) Cortland (NY) $18,725 $23,125 $41,800
#17 #17 Dekalb (IL) Dekalb (IL) $12,478 $26,000 $41,700
#18 #18 York (PA) York (PA) $22,350 $28,500 $41,600
#19 #19 Annville (PA) Annville (PA) $47,180 $27,000 $41,500
#20 #20 Bloomington (IN) Bloomington (IN) $38,352 $23,625 $41,400
#21 #21 Madison (WI) Madison (WI) $38,608 $24,371 $40,900
#22 #22 St. Cloud (MN) St. Cloud (MN) $18,010 $22,475 $40,200
#23 #23 Oshkosh (WI) Oshkosh (WI) $15,306 $25,100 $40,100
#24 #24 Cheney (WA) Cheney (WA) $25,748 $26,896 $40,100
#25 #25 Peoria (IL) Peoria (IL) $36,360 $27,000 $40,000

2020 Best Colleges Highlights

Learn more about the top colleges for a Bachelor's in Special Education degree. You can also read student reviews of each school by clicking on the stars. Although student reviews were not used as a ranking factor in this list, we provide ratings and reviews so students can consider the experience of alumni in their decision-making process.

Union (NJ)
Median Salary $48,800
Median Debt $26,590
Annual Tuition $19,771
Graduation Rate 48%

Kean University offers a B.A. in Elementary Education with two options: K-6/Teacher of Students with Disabilities and K-6/5-8/Teacher of Students with Disabilities. These degrees are offered at Kean's primary campus in Union, New Jersey and at its Ocean campus in Toms River, New Jersey. Within both programs, students must also select an academic area of specialization such as biology, chemistry, English, history, and math, among others. The core classes include Clinical Experience in Diverse Inclusive K-6, Multicultural Learner in Diverse Settings, and Child Psychology.

Kean University's College of Education has been CAEP-accredited since 1955 and alumni have some of the highest salaries in the field.

Visit Kean University's website.

Towson (MD)
Median Salary $45,900
Median Debt $18,527
Annual Tuition $25,516
Graduation Rate 72%

Towson University in Maryland offers a Bachelor's Degree in Special Education. This unique course of study includes a focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as the traditional preparation necessary to work with diverse learners. Aspiring teachers take part in internship programs where they gain instruction and classroom management skills along with specialized Autism Spectrum Disorder experience.

The special education major offers two tracks: elementary/middle, which focuses on certification for teaching grades one through eight, and secondary/adult, which focuses on certification for sixth grade through adulthood. Students in the secondary/adult track also choose a subject area such as math, social science, or English. Required coursework varies by certification level.

Visit Towson University's website.

Median Salary $44,900
Median Debt $15,000
Annual Tuition $34,218
Graduation Rate 59%

University of Hawaii at Manoa offers a blended Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood and Special Education. The degree program is delivered both on-campus and in a hybrid format, with courses primarily offered online with occasional in-person courses on the weekends. The program prepares students to become licensed teachers for students with disabilities in preschool up to third grade. Admitted students are part of a 22-person cohort who work together throughout the four semesters of the program.

Coursework includes Foundations of Inclusive Schooling, Strategies for Reading Difficulties, and Young Children with Communication Needs. In addition to in-class requirements, students will participate weekly in field experiences. Online/hybrid students also participate in these field experiences. In their last semesters, students will work as student teachers in local classrooms.

Visit University of Hawaii at Manoa's website.

Ellensburg (WA)
Median Salary $44,600
Median Debt $23,000
Annual Tuition $25,213
Graduation Rate 54%

Central Washington's Special Education P-12 major prepares students for a special education endorsement in Washington State. The degree plan requires students to select a minor and includes classes such as Collaboration with Parents, Paraprofessionals, and Community Agencies, Behavior Management for Students with Disabilities, and Program Management for Students with Disabilities.

As of Fall 2019, the university's Department of Education, Development, Teaching and Learning also offers a High-Incidence Inclusion Special Education minor and endorsement program. This program prepares students to teach learners with high incidence learning differences and is available at the main campus in Ellensburg, as well as the Des Moines, Pierce, Yakima and Wenatchee extensions via distance learning.

Visit Central Washington University's website.

Bellingham (WA)
Median Salary $43,600
Median Debt $25,000
Annual Tuition $25,930
Graduation Rate 68%

The Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University offers multiple special education degrees: a Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood Special Education, a Bachelor of Education in Exceptionality & Disability, a Bachelor of Education in Special Education P-12 and Elementary Education, and a Bachelor of Education in Special Education—P-12 Plus Content Endorsement.

The Exceptionality & Disability major caters to students interested in working with people with disabilities in a non-school context, such as for a non-profit organization. Graduates are not eligible for teacher licensure. The Early Childhood Special Education major prepares students for two endorsements, one in early childhood special education and one in early childhood education. The Special Education P-12 and Elementary Education is best for students who want to become elementary school teachers or special education teachers. Graduates are eligible for dual endorsements in elementary education and special education. The Bachelor of Education in Special Education—P-12 Plus Content Endorsement is best suited for aspiring middle school and high school teachers or special education teachers with more specialized training. Upon completion of the program, students are eligible for endorsements in special education and in the secondary level content area they selected.

Visit Western Washington University's website.