Washington State University: WSU special education online master’s ranks top in the Pacific Northwest

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The WSU College of Education’s special education program has been ranked by University HQ as the best in the Pacific Northwest.

Based on a methodology that includes cost, competitive admission, retention, graduation time frame, and expected salary, among other categories, the special education program at WSU came in at 22nd nationally. Among Pac-12 institutions, WSU trailed only the University of Arizona and Arizona State University.

With a focus on renowned faculty, course offerings, and adaptability, the program does a good job of accommodating students wherever they’re located while still offering top-flight faculty, according to Marcus Poppen, an associate professor of special education at WSU

“Students can expect to be paired with one of our many nationally recognized faculty for advising, mentoring, and professional opportunities,” said Poppen. “Additionally, all of our courses are offered at least once a year and are available online through WSU Global Campus, which makes our program flexible and accessible to full-time professionals who want to earn an endorsement and an advanced degree.”

“…all of our courses are offered at least once a year and are available online through WSU Global Campus, which makes our program flexible and accessible to full‑time professionals…”

Marcus Poppen, associate professor of special education
Washington State University
Poppen said while the program includes traditional educational and research foundations, it has more modern specialized courses that align with the diverse roles and responsibilities of today’s special educators.

“We are a diversity and equity-focused program, and students can be expected to reflect deeply on their beliefs and attitudes about education and opportunities for people with disabilities,” he said. “They can also expect to be guided to question the status quo so as to advance equity, access, and inclusion for all.”

A key component of the online program is the capstone that Poppen said could include developing a student or family resource guide, researching informed intervention or curriculum, or a professional development package for current or future colleagues.

“I’ve found this to really be a highlight of our students experience in our program, which allows them to dive a little deeper into a content area they think will be relevant for their future work,” he said. “There have been times these capstone projects have been published and led to a passion for research and scholarship in the field.”

Poppen said this process prepares educators to quickly make a difference, especially sinceschools throughout the region are experiencing unprecedented labor shortages. He said specialized positions are disproportionately affected, precipitating the need to develop a stronger special education workforce.

This is a particularly salient issue among those providing services to students eligible for special education, according to Poppen.

“While people working in schools are doing everything, they can do to provide a quality educational experience for our students, these staffing shortages are making it increasingly difficult to do so,” he said. “Now more than ever, we need to invest in and develop a strong workforce of educators who can support all students, including those who are eligible to receive special education services.”

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