Northern Michigan University offers one of the nation's best online master's degree programs in early childhood education, according to 2023 rankings released by OnlineMastersDegrees.org (OMD). Northern ranks 36th overall in the category because of its "overall quality, affordability and commitment to student success."
According to a press release, OMD analyzed more than 7,700 accredited universities by using data pulled from the schools themselves and from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. After the data was compiled, OMD's data science team then applied a proprietary algorithm to rank all qualifying schools for each of the different master's degrees specialties.
Primary data points included: academic counseling services; career placement services; student/faculty ratio; tuition; percent of students receiving school-based aid; and amount of school-based aid per student.
To be eligible for ranking, a university must hold active regional accreditation and have at least one partially online master's program in the ranking subject. OMD stated that only 8% of U.S. postsecondary institutions earned a ranking position.
"Professor Cindy Basse of NMU's School of Eduction, Leadership and Public Service leads the program, and collaborates with faculty colleagues and the early childhood community to keep it relevant and functioning at a high standard," said Associate Dean Joe Lubig. "The online program is marketed, advised and coordinated by NMU Global Campus and the Graduate College. NMU has placed workforce development as a priority, and the online graduate program is a key piece in solving that shortage."
Northern's master of arts in early childhood education is designed for the practicing early childhood professional seeking to strengthen the opportunities and experiences all young children and families are afforded. The program description states that it is guided by a constructivist approach to teaching and learning, with emphasis on inclusion and equity. Students examine the complexity of environmental influences on development, including family culture and background, adverse childhood experiences, community, systems and policy, and quality of care and education in group settings.
Kyle Darland, co-founder of OMD, said this year's rankings focused on the schools making it easier for students to compete in today's increasingly difficult job market.
“Each ranked school offers fully or partially online master's degree programs at a time when earning a master's has become a minimum barrier to entry for many.”
Darland is referencing a recent survey from CareerBuilder, which found that “33% of employers are hiring workers with master's degrees for positions that had been primarily held by those with four-year degrees.” These employers cited an evolution of the skills needed to perform the jobs as the cause of the shift, and an increase in work quality, productivity and employee retention as the result.
“Providing students with opportunities to get a master's online is only part of our rankings,” said Darland. “Top-ranked schools also had competitive tuition rates and/or scholarships to help drive costs down. And with grocery, gas and other expenses on everyone's mind right now, an affordable master's is key.”
Read the full OMD rankings here. Learn more about NMU's program here.