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Special Education Degree Programs

Article Sources
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed October 2017, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  • School pages, accessed November 21-22, 2017: Special and Elementary Education, Bachelor of Science in Education, Degree Program Student Learning Outcomes, Northern Arizona University, https://catalog.nau.edu/learningoutcomes/details?plan=SPELMBSED&mobile=true; Special Education Major, Southern New Hampshire University, https://www.snhu.edu/campus-majors/undergraduate/ba-special-education; Early Intervention Specialist Certificate, University of Dayton, https://www.udayton.edu/education/learn/graduate/early-childhood-intervention-specialist-cert.php; Early Childhood Education (B.S.), Granite State College, https://www.granite.edu/degree-programs/bachelors-degrees/early-childhood-education/; Chief Sinte Gleska (Spotted Tail) & the Sicangu People, Sinte Gleska University, http://www.sintegleska.edu/sinte-gleska.html; Application for Admission to Teacher Education, K-8 Elementary Education/K-12 Special Education, Sinte Gleska University, http://www.sintegleska.edu/uploads/1/1/3/8/11384118/app_for_admin_-_k-8_k12.pdf; Special Education, St. Cloud State University, https://www.stcloudstate.edu/programs/special-education/default.aspx; Special Education Programs & Courses, Peru State College, http://www.peru.edu/sped/courses; Peru State Online, Peru State College, http://www.peru.edu/online/; Special Education, University of Maine at Farmington, http://www.umf.maine.edu/majors-academics/special-education/; Bachelor's Degrees, Special Education, Ball State University, http://cms.bsu.edu/academics/collegesanddepartments/teachers/departments/specialed/academics/bachdegree; Special Education, Chadron State College, http://catalog.csc.edu/undergraduate/programs/special-education/#endorsementstext; Online Learning, Chadron State College, https://www.csc.edu/online/; Department of Special Education, Bridgewater State University, https://www.bridgew.edu/academics/colleges-departments/department-special-education; Special Education, Teacher of Students with Severe Disabilities (All Levels), Bridgewater State University, http://catalog.bridgew.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=11&poid=3469&returnto=1065; BSED in Special Education, Armstrong State University, https://www.armstrong.edu/academic-departments/bsed-sped-program-overview; BSED in Special Education Curriculum, Armstrong State University, https://www.armstrong.edu/academic-departments/bsed-sped-curriculum; Online Programs, Armstrong State University, https://www.armstrong.edu/degree-programs/online-programs; Teacher Education/Early Childhood Education Degree, White Mountains Community College, http://www.wmcc.edu/academics/degree-programs/teacher-education-degree; Special Education Certificate, White Mountains Community College, http://www.wmcc.edu/academics/certificate-programs/special-education-certificate; Autism Education Certificate, White Mountains Community College, http://www.wmcc.edu/academics/certificate-programs/autism-education-certificate;
  • 21 Liberal Arts Colleges With the Lowest Student-Faculty Ratios, U.S. News and World Report, Jordan Friedman, April 19, 2016, accessed November 21, 2017, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2016-04-19/21-liberal-arts-colleges-with-the-lowest-student-faculty-ratios
  • Special Education Teachers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed November 21, 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm
  • Professional organization pages, accessed November 21, 2017: Join NEA, National Education Association, https://ims.nea.org/JoinNea/; Membership Benefits, National Association of Special Education Teachers, http://www.naset.org/benefits.0.html; Benefits of Membership, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, http://aaidd.org/about-aaidd/membership-join/benefits-of-membership;
  • TEACH Grants, Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education, accessed November 21, 2017, https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/grants-scholarships/teach
  • Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
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Educating special needs children takes a set of skills that goes beyond what's learned in a standard elementary education degree. Bachelor's degree programs in special education are designed to impart valuable lessons about working with these exceptional students individually, in small groups and in a whole classroom setting.

The typical special education curriculum aims to provide a balanced understanding of both the history of the discipline and contemporary approaches to teaching for special needs. Students in these programs learn about language development, instructional planning, professional ethics in special education and more.

If you're thinking about adding special education to your career path but can't take the time necessary to complete a traditional college program, don't overlook the online degrees available for special education students. Online special education programs can often be easier on your schedule than campus-based programs, and many universities offer discounts on tuition for distance education programs.

Best Colleges for Special Education Degree Programs 2017-18

We researched the top schools for special education by digging into data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), scoring the results with our multi-point methodology and ranking the top finishers. Click the button to see how we sorted the data for each school, and read on below to learn about the ten best colleges for special education degree programs.

Methodology
1Granite State College+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
37

The statistics suggest that our No. 1 school has a commitment to student success. No other school on our list set aside a larger portion of its annual budget for instructional improvements and academic support expenses, and flexibility measures like accessible online, weekend and evening courses are widely available.

Granite State College offers one of the fully online special education degrees on our list, delivered as part of a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in early childhood education. Coursework includes instruction on child development, special education law and effective use of classroom technology. Students who complete this program become eligible to sit for both early childhood and special education certifications from the New Hampshire Department of Education.

Additional Info
2Sinte Gleska University+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
$74
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
0

Named for Sinte Gleska, a Lakota tribal chief and statesman from the 19th century, this Mission, South Dakota, school ran away with the top spot in our affordability category. The average cost of tuition and fees paid by Sinte Gleska University students in 2015-16 was just $3,154, working out to around $2,200 less than the second-place school in that category.

The special education program here is also bundled with another degree, this time in elementary education. Students declare their intention for the program at the end of or after their sophomore year, once they've completed a list of prerequisites that includes child growth and development, educational psychology, adolescent psychology and Lakota language, history and culture.

Additional Info
3Saint Cloud State University+
ADMISSION RATE
85%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$20
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
9

Only two other schools on our list reserved as large a percentage of their annual budget to spend on instructional expenses like course development and classroom technology as this Minnesota institution. What's more, Saint Cloud State University ranked No. 2 for the total number of degrees awarded in 2015, giving its campus the comfortable feel of a medium-sized university.

St. Cloud State allows its students access to state-of-the-art tools and facilities, including the latest in adaptive technology and a discovery center where they can investigate new equipment, literature and methods. You can also get valuable hands-on experience working with special needs students through a partnership with St. Cloud school district.

Additional Info
4Peru State College+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
7

As well as ranking No. 4 overall, Peru State College took the No. 4 spot on the affordability metric. Students at the Nebraska school paid less than $6,400 on average in 2015, approximately $700 lower than the mean cost of all schools that made our top ten.

Special education degrees at PSC are divided into three grade-level specializations — kindergarten through sixth grade, seventh through twelfth grade and a full K-12 endorsement. Although no fully online special education degrees are available at PSC, you may be able to take some of your general education core courses in the virtual classroom. More than 58 percent of students enrolled in 2015 took at least a portion of their program online.

Additional Info
5University of Maine at Farmington+
ADMISSION RATE
80%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
0

A combination of smaller class sizes and more available time for faculty to work individually with students tends to increase student success, and the numbers show that the University of Maine at Farmington is bringing that concept to life. The 150-year-old school had a student-faculty ratio of 14:1 in 2015 and posted that year's No. 2 graduation rate among schools that made our top ten.

The B.S. in special education at UMF is the only degree of its kind in the state and features a wealth of opportunities to test and refine your skills in real-world classroom settings, thanks to close relationships with local schools and required student-teaching sections in the curriculum.

Additional Info
6Ball State University+
ADMISSION RATE
62%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$55
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
54

Indiana's Ball State University awarded more than 800 special education degrees in 2015 — the most of any school in our top ten — so you're likely to find at least a few kindred spirits among your classmates. It also ranked No. 4 for the proportion of its annual budget that went to support services like academic advising and reported the highest graduation rate of any of the schools on our list.

Special education students at BSU can choose between two undergraduate programs, one in early childhood special education and one dual major in elementary and special education. The bachelor's programs in education here have a strong classroom technology focus, so students are required to have personal laptops on which to work while they learn.

Additional Info
7Chadron State College+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
16

Just two schools in our top ten charged their students lower rates of tuition and fees than Chadron State College, which also took the No. 2 spot in our distance education category for the more than 72 percent of its student body that took at least some of their classes online in 2015. The Nebraska school also offers partially online degrees for special education students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Endorsements for K-12 and birth to third grade learners are available separately at CSC, both of which focus their instruction on program planning and assessment for children with mild to moderate disabilities. Both endorsement plans contain student-teacher internship sections and core courses in educational psychology and classroom tech.

Additional Info
8Bridgewater State University+
ADMISSION RATE
81%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$50
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
1

This Massachusetts school ranked No. 3 among our top ten schools for its graduation rate and placed a higher budgetary priority on academic counseling and other support expenses than all other institutions on our list but two. On-campus flexibility was a bright spot here, also, with certain classes available on weekends or in the evening for students with busy weekday schedules.

Available programs include a Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.Ed.) degree plan in special education, two special education minors and a five-year dual licensure program that leads to a B.S.Ed. in elementary education and a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree in special education. BSU was also one of the few schools on our list to offer a dedicated study track for aspiring teachers of severely disabled students.

Additional Info
9Armstrong State University+
ADMISSION RATE
80%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$25
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
13

The B.S.Ed. program in special education at Armstrong State University has two tiers of assessment requirements for students. First, you must apply for admission to the special education track after having successfully completed an initial Georgia Assessment for the Certification of Educators (GACE) exam and a list of lower-division education and math courses. Once you're ready to begin into your internship, you'll take a second GACE exam and submit a second application packet.

Students here paid the second-lowest average tuition and fees amount of any school on our list — just $5,730 for the year. ASU also had a healthy 28 percent enrollment in distance education courses and offers fully online master's degrees for special education students.

Additional Info
10White Mountains Community College+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
$20
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
10

This small two-year school in Berlin, New Hampshire, earned a unique distinction among our top ten schools, and students who like one-on-one time with their professors should take note: the student-faculty ratio at White Mountains Community College was just 8:1 in 2015. To put that in perspective, U.S. News and World report calculates the national average student-faculty ratio as 16:1, fully double the number of students per faculty member at WMCC.

Special education students here earn an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree in early childhood education with a special education study track. A standalone special education certificate is also available, as well as a certificate in autism education that can be completed entirely online.

Additional Info

Special Education Degree Programs and Common Career Paths

Some special education teachers may have advanced credentials like Master of Education (M.Ed.) or Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degrees, but a large percentage of those working in public schools start out with a bachelor's degree. Here's some general info on undergraduate study plans and the careers where your skills can be most useful.

Bachelor's degree in special education
Most four-year degree programs in special education aim to teach important skills like classroom leadership, student evaluation and learning environment design. Public school special education teachers in all 50 states must pass a state licensing exam for the specific grade range they teach, and most programs work to give students the skills they need to take and pass the state exam after graduation.
Special education teachers
help mentally, emotionally, physically and learning disabled students of all ages gain academic knowledge and learn important life skills
Early intervention specialists
work with very young children who have special needs, typically between birth and age two or three, to help support early development

Career Outlook for Special Education Majors

Jobs for special education teachers are on the rise, and knowing just what you can expect from the job market might help you make the transition from student to teacher a little more easily. Check out these employment projection numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

JOB TITLE
AVERAGE SALARY($)
EMPLOYMENT
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
Special Education Teachers, Preschool$56,99028,14011.2%
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School$60,090190,5307.4%
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School$64,020132,4907.4%
Special Education Teachers, Middle School$61,91090,2507.1%
Source: 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.
NOT WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR?

Financial Aid and Scholarships in Special Education

Students studying to enter high-need fields like special education often receive special consideration for the federal TEACH Grant, which provides up to about $3,700 per year to help future teachers pay for their schooling. Many other scholarships and grants also exist at the state or institutional level. Here's some info on special education scholarships and other financial aid options.

Mary Kate Carney Scholarship
Applicant must be a resident of Arenac or Bay County, MI who will pursue a degree in speech/language pathology or special education. Minimum 2.5 GPA required. More

AWARD AMOUNT

$5,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

March 1

 

 

Luckday Teacher/Loan Scholarship
Applicant must have a minimum of 60 transferable credits More

AWARD AMOUNT

$4,600

APPLICATION DEADLINE

February 1 (Priority)

RENEWAL CRITERIA

Renewable for two years

J.W. Martin and A.M. Martin Phillips Scholarship
Applicant must be enrolled full time in PROTEACH program. Those applying for awards of more than $2,000 must demonstrate financial need. More

AWARD AMOUNT

$4,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

November 1 (fall); May 1 (spring)

 

 

Virginia Teaching Scholarship/Loan
Applicant must be a male, preparing to teach in elementary and middle school, be a minority student, or be preparing to teach in chemistry, earth sciences, foreign language, mathematics, physics, special education, or technology education. All applicants must be a resident of Virginia, have a recommendation from the school, and have a minimum 2.7 GPA. Award may be used at Virginia colleges or universities with state approved teacher preparation programs only. More

AWARD AMOUNT

$3,720

APPLICATION DEADLINE

Not Available

RENEWAL CRITERIA

Reapplication is required for renewal.

Professional Organizations

(NEA) has five membership types, including a student membership designed for future teachers who are still working on their education degrees
(NASET) offers continuing education courses, professional resources and ready-made classroom handouts, among other benefits.
(AAIDD) publishes contemporary research and scholarly journals and offers them to members at a discount
Article Sources
Methodology

To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.

  1. Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
  2. Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.

Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.

  1. In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  2. Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  3. Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  4. Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
    • Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
    • Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
  5. Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  6. Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
    • Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
    • Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
    • Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
    • Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
    • Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
  7. Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  8. Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
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Armstrong State University
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
11935 Abercorn St
City
Savannah
State
GA
Zip Code
31419
Website
www.armstrong.edu
Test Scores
Required
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
450-550
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
440-530
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
19-23
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
City: Midsize
School Type
Public
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
6,397
UnderGraduate Application Fee
$25
Admission Rate
80%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$5,360
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
16
Number of Online Programs Offered
13
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
30%
Ball State University
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
2000 University Ave
City
Muncie
State
IN
Zip Code
47306
Website
www.bsu.edu
Test Scores
Required
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
500-590
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
490-580
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
20-24
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Small
School Type
Public
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
17,011
UnderGraduate Application Fee
$55
Admission Rate
62%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$9,654
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
14
Number of Online Programs Offered
54
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
43%
University of Maine at Farmington
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
224 Main St.
City
Farmington
State
ME
Zip Code
04938
Website
www.umf.maine.edu
Test Scores
N/A
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Town: Remote
School Type
Public
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
1,782
UnderGraduate Application Fee
N/A
Admission Rate
80%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$9,217
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
13
Number of Online Programs Offered
0
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
4%
Bridgewater State University
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
131 Summer Street
City
Bridgewater
State
MA
Zip Code
02325
Website
www.bridgew.edu
Test Scores
Required
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
440-550
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
450-540
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
19-24
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Suburb: Large
School Type
Public
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
9,562
UnderGraduate Application Fee
$50
Admission Rate
81%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$9,603
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
19
Number of Online Programs Offered
1
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
27%
Saint Cloud State University
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
720 Fourth Ave. South
City
Saint Cloud
State
MN
Zip Code
56301
Website
www.stcloudstate.edu
Test Scores
Required
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
440-530
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
490-640
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
18-24
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Small
School Type
Public
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
13,878
UnderGraduate Application Fee
$20
Admission Rate
85%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$7,910
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
22
Number of Online Programs Offered
9
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
24%
Chadron State College
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
1000 Main St
City
Chadron
State
NE
Zip Code
69337
Website
www.csc.edu
Test Scores
N/A
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Town: Remote
School Type
Public
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
2,334
UnderGraduate Application Fee
N/A
Admission Rate
Open
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$6,252
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
19
Number of Online Programs Offered
16
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
73%
Peru State College
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
600 Hoyt Street
City
Peru
State
NE
Zip Code
68421
Website
www.peru.edu
Test Scores
N/A
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Rural: Distant
School Type
Public
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
2,215
UnderGraduate Application Fee
N/A
Admission Rate
Open
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$6,790
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
22
Number of Online Programs Offered
7
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
58%
White Mountains Community College
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
2020 Riverside Drive
City
Berlin
State
NH
Zip Code
03570
Website
www.wmcc.edu
Test Scores
N/A
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Town: Remote
School Type
Public
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
802
UnderGraduate Application Fee
$20
Admission Rate
Open
Offers On-Campus Housing
No
In-State Tution & Fees
$7,344
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
8
Number of Online Programs Offered
10
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
45%
Granite State College
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
25 Hall Street
City
Concord
State
NH
Zip Code
03301
Website
www.granite.edu
Test Scores
N/A
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Town: Fringe
School Type
Public
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
1,854
UnderGraduate Application Fee
N/A
Admission Rate
Open
Offers On-Campus Housing
No
In-State Tution & Fees
$7,425
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
13
Number of Online Programs Offered
37
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
83%
Sinte Gleska University
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
E. Highway 18, 101 Antelope Lake Circle
City
Mission
State
SD
Zip Code
57555
Website
www.sintegleska.edu
Test Scores
N/A
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Rural: Remote
School Type
Private not-for-profit
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
531
UnderGraduate Application Fee
$74
Admission Rate
Open
Offers On-Campus Housing
No
In-State Tution & Fees
$3,154
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
12
Number of Online Programs Offered
0
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
N/A
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