NACOGDOCHES, Texas - College Choice, an independent online publication dedicated to helping students find the right college, recently ranked Stephen F. Austin State University eighth among the best 15 schools in the nation for its online bachelor's degree in special education.

College Choice used several factors to rate the schools, including academic quality, return of investment, academic reputation, tuition, acceptance rates and early-career salaries. Additionally, in order to qualify, institutions were required to hold local accreditation, and SFA's online program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Dr. Frank Mullins, director of SFA's special education bachelor's completion program, credits the program's faculty members with this accomplishment.

"Our faculty members are dedicated and committed to ensuring continuous program improvement, which is the hallmark of our online programming," Mullins said. "We produce graduates who are ready from the first day of their careers to teach and improve learning experiences for students with disabilities." 

SFA's Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in special education and early childhood through 12th grade special education teacher certification allows students to complete a degree online. Through this program, students also engage in extracurricular activities and research related to meeting the needs of students with disabilities. The program maintains a low student-to-teacher ratio, ensuring students receive attention and support from experienced faculty members who are certified to teach online.

As part of SFA's robust distance-learning program, the bachelor's degree in special education allows paraprofessionals working in Texas public schools and other qualified individuals who have completed at least 45 hours at community colleges to transfer to SFA and complete their degree online. Paraprofessionals can earn a Texas teaching certificate while remaining in the schools and classrooms where they work. Students in this program also will spend one semester student teaching full time.

"I feel these non-traditional, pre-service teacher candidates have the best of both worlds: full-time jobs in our field where they are supported by their principals and special education directors in tandem with their online coursework with our faculty members here at SFA," said Dr. Kathleen Sheriff, online program coordinator at SFA. "They graduate with three certifications, which makes them highly qualified."

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