Top 100 Affordable Early Childhood Education Schools

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Early childhood education is an often-overlooked specialty in the world of education. We tend to focus on high school and college since that bears more apparent and immediate relevance to the lives of most adults. However, the years between birth and around age four are critical for human development. Thus, the need for well-trained, highly qualified early childhood educators is imperative. These professionals must be more than babysitters. It's vital that they provide care and nurturing, but also stimulate each child's mind.

To that end, we have put together this page that helps budding educators find the very best early childhood education degree program for them. While they may not find a school close to them for their degree, the methods we discuss can be applied to any school whatsoever. We hope that this page will help students and their families discover the college or university that is best for them.

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Top 100 Affordable Early Childhood Education College Rankings

Some of the factors we consider in our Rankings include:

  • Retention Rate:
    This figure indicates how many first-time, full-time students return to campus after their first year. A high percentage indicates great satisfaction with the school, its curriculum, and its overall value as an educational institution.
  • Graduation Rate:
    Schools with low attrition and high graduation rates are generally considered to be a great educational value. While a healthy transfer-out percentage isn't necessarily a negative, it's better for a school to maintain its students through graduation.
  • Student-to-faculty Ratio:
    This statistic reflects the ground-level student experience. That is, with a low ratio, it can be assumed that class sizes tend to be small. Even if a larger university must have large lecture hall courses, they may offer students qualified teaching assistants who can work on a one-to-one basis with them.
  • Graduating Salary:
    After all, students want to know how much they might be worth after graduation. It's hoped that those who command higher salaries have received better education. Regardless, they certainly receive a healthier return on their academic investment.
  • Cost of Tuition:
    Naturally, this is a large factor for many students and their families. When weighed against the overall academic value and the long-term salary prospects, this figure helps everyone assess a school's relative affordability.

Florida Gateway College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $3,100
    • Out-of-state: $11,747
  • Net Price: $2,930
  • Retention Rate: N/A
  • Total Enrollment: 3,406
  • Undergrad Students: 3,406
  • Graduate Students:0
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Diplomas Awarded:11
  • Florida Gateway College

Florida State College at Jacksonville

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $2,878
    • Out-of-state: $9,992
  • Net Price: $3,306
  • Retention Rate: N/A
  • Total Enrollment: 24,605
  • Undergrad Students: 24,605
  • Graduate Students: 0
  • Graduation Rate: 37%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 19
  • Florida State College at Jacksonville

California State University-Los Angeles

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $6,781
    • Out-of-state: $18,661
  • Net Price: $3,859
  • Retention Rate: 81%
  • Total Enrollment: 26,671
  • Undergrad Students: 22,797
  • Graduate Students: 3,874
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 385
  • California State University-Los Angeles

CUNY Lehman College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,410
    • Out-of-state: $15,360
  • Net Price: $3,913
  • Retention Rate: 83%
  • Total Enrollment: 15,143
  • Undergrad Students: 13,002
  • Graduate Students: 2,141
  • Graduation Rate:53%
  • Diplomas Awarded:39
  • CUNY Lehman College

Texas A&M International University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,683
    • Out-of-state: $18,983
  • Net Price: $4,165
  • Retention Rate: 79%
  • Total Enrollment: 8,305
  • Undergrad Students: 7,220
  • Graduate Students: 1,085
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Diplomas Awarded: N/A
  • Texas A&M International University

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $8,917
    • Out-of-state: $18,733
  • Net Price: $4,419
  • Retention Rate: 76%
  • Total Enrollment: 29,113
  • Undergrad Students: 24,965
  • Graduate Students: 4,148
  • Graduation Rate: 46%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 14
  • The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

CUNY City College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,340
    • Out-of-state: $15,290
  • Net Price: $4,546
  • Retention Rate: 84%
  • Total Enrollment: 15,816
  • Undergrad Students: 13,030
  • Graduate Students: 2,786
  • Graduation Rate: 56%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 15
  • CUNY City College

CUNY Brooklyn College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,440
    • Out-of-state: $15,390
  • Net Price: $4,736
  • Retention Rate: 80%
  • Total Enrollment: 17,811
  • Undergrad Students: 14,970
  • Graduate Students: 2,841
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 89
  • CUNY Brooklyn College

Miami Dade College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $2,838
    • Out-of-state: $9,661
  • Net Price: $4,998
  • Retention Rate: N/A
  • Total Enrollment: 51,679
  • Undergrad Students: 51,679
  • Graduate Students: 0
  • Graduation Rate: 33%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 43
  • Miami Dade College

North Seattle College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $4,123
    • Out-of-state: $4,123
  • Net Price: $5,132
  • Retention Rate: N/A
  • Total Enrollment: 5,693
  • Undergrad Students: 5,693
  • Graduate Students: 0
  • Graduation Rate: 25%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 12
  • North Seattle College
Full Ranking Report

Why a Degree from an Affordable Early Childhood Education School?

Every student wants to find the best, most affordable degree program for their college experience. The good news is that a terrific education doesn't have to cost a lot of money and that even the least expensive options can offer top quality instruction. This goes for most any degree, but students of early childhood education can certainly benefit. It's important to determine what makes a degree truly affordable.

An early childhood education degree becomes affordable when the graduate is able to start a career in their chosen field and not spend too long under the burden of their college debt. In the case of ECE, graduates are sure to find an expanding array of opportunities in our current climate. This is because there's a renewed focus on preschools and the benefits of early childhood education.

In fact, an economist from the University of Chicago released a study in 2012 that demonstrated the terrific gains from investment in preschool programs. In particular, the study revealed that investing in underprivileged children from birth to age three helps them gain fundamental skills that they can build on for a lifetime. The resulting financial return is around 15%, according to the study. In the wake of this groundbreaking, if unsurprising, study, federal funds began to flow into preschool programs nationwide.

Nowadays, more funds are proposed for preschool programs. Where the earlier round of funding was in the form of grants, the new programs will likely be funded without the burden of a grant application. Thus, the job opportunities for early childhood education students are continuing to expand.

Choosing an Affordable Early Childhood Education College

When seeking an affordable online early childhood education bachelor's degree, there are more factors in play than mere cost. Other factors can include the overall reputation and quality of education, whether the classes are online or in classrooms, and the academic focus of the program.

As for the reputation and quality of an education, students should research schools based on sources that evaluate the appropriate educational statistics. Some of the key data points to use when assessing an early childhood education program are the retention rate, graduation rate, and student-to-faculty ratio. These objective measures can provide a counterweight to other, more emotional factors.

In fact, one of the most important factors to research is the program's accreditation. Students should only apply to fully accredited programs. That is, programs that have received credentials from CHEA approved accreditation agencies. This will ensure that the level of instruction is adequate to help launch a career and serve the most children possible.

CHEA approved regional accreditation agencies include:

  • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Students may also choose to look for programmatic accreditation that covers teacher education. These include groups such as the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). These days students can also choose whether to pursue an online education or a traditional classroom experience. While research shows that outcomes are the same regardless of how the material is delivered, students will probably have a preference. For those who feel torn, many programs offer hybrid options for students who wish to experiment with online courses.

Finally, another quality to consider is the focus of each program. Some programs may emphasize a specific educational modality, such as Montessori or Reggio Emilia. Others might offer a focus of particular interest, such as special education or gifted education. There may be other educational philosophies that students prefer, and it's important to find a program that can accommodate those views.

Online Options

Online education is a huge part of the academic picture these days. If the COVID pandemic can be said to have had any lasting impact, it certainly changed the face of online education, for better or worse. During the pandemic, nearly every active student in the nation took their courses online for approximately a year and a half. Thus, there are likely to be even more online classes and even whole programs dedicated to early childhood education than there were before these events.

Whether or not this modality is ideal for an education program is debatable. The courses that are heavy on theory and textbook instruction can likely translate easily to the online medium. However, those courses that rely more on group interactions and active, participatory activities, such as mock teaching, might suffer in an online format. However, if this problem can be solved, there is no doubt that an education faculty can arrive at the proper curricular solution.

Online education is surely here to stay and students should consider giving it a shot for at least one course, if only for the experience. After all, online courses certainly provide flexibility in one's schedule and so might be optimal for students who are working or doing an internship. Furthermore, studies show that online education has the same academic outcomes as traditional classroom instruction.

Online universities also open up more opportunities for learning. Since online education is often more affordable than traditional options, students have more options at their fingertips. No longer do students have no options other than to move hundreds of miles away to enroll in the program of their choice. Now, those opportunities are readily available and there's no moving required.

Are Early Childhood Education Programs in High Demand?

Since most children these days takes part in some form of preschool or other early childhood education, it would seem that the growth rate for these programs tracks well with population growth. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the profession is in a period of slow growth and, indeed, population growth has slowed somewhat recently. Their research shows that the profession will grow by 2% through 2029. However, these numbers may change if certain legislation were to pass. If that law provides more funding for preschools, the demand for teachers could rise.z

Nevertheless, there is always a need for early childhood specialists who can provide stimulation and instruction for very young children. Those who hone their craft and specialize in a specific modality such as Montessori or Reggio Emilia may find that their work is highly valued and rewarded.

For those who decide to pursue a teaching certificate to work with older children, kindergarten and elementary school teachers are reported to be growing as a profession. The BLS reports that this employment sector is slated to grow by 4% through 2029. They also earn up to twice as much as those who teach preschool and younger age groups.

One key advantage preschool specialists have over their licensed colleagues is the ability to open their own early childhood education program. This entrepreneurial option has turned many early childhood educators into small businesspeople who make a healthy living. Those who are able to manage centers that span birth through around age four are able to not only enrich the lives of many children, but they can also apply their knowledge of early childhood development.

What Can You Do with a Degree in Early Childhood Education?

A degree in early childhood education can lead to a number of possible jobs and careers. The most obvious choice is to work in a community preschool. This work can be enormously enriching and can provide many opportunities for teachers to express their creativity and innovative approaches to early childhood education.

Not only are there opportunities in private preschools, but degree holders might look for a position with Head Start. This is a government program that provides early childhood education for underprivileged youth and their families. These jobs provide an opportunity for teachers to have a great, positive impact on their students and the entire community.

In either a private or public setting, early childhood educators can move up into a supervisory or even administrative position in their school. They might first achieve the status of lead teacher and then become a program director. There may be more such opportunities in Head Start, but private preschools offer other opportunities.

Specifically, preschool teachers can branch out and open schools of their own. This brings non-educational challenges in the form of business loans, licensing, and the other vagaries of business ownership. However, the experience can be both rewarding and lucrative for the right person.

Another way for early childhood educators to achieve more autonomy is to work with families as an in-home caregiver for their children. These professionals, often called au pairs, are tasked with carting children to activities, teaching them basic preschool curriculum, and more, depending on the family.

Others can seek out specialty fields within early childhood education. For instance, some may achieve special certifications to work with special education children. Others might delve into child psychology and work as social workers with an early childhood focus. With more training, an early childhood educator might open a private practice and practice child psychology.

Early Childhood Education Graduates Earn More After College

Across the board, those with a bachelor’s degree tend to make more than those who don't graduate from college. According to, those with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education earn an average of $55,000. Their salary can go even higher if they become a curriculum director, as Payscale's research indicates that their average salary is around $63,000. At the top end, executive directors in early childhood programs can make an average of $94,000.

Meanwhile, those who start their careers with an associate degree in early childhood education make a little less, on average. Payscale reports that two-year degree holders average just over $35,000 as early childhood educators. At the high end, this degree level averages $44,000 in the position of preschool director.

Finally, those who take their personal education to the next level and earn an MEd in early childhood education earn a reported average salary of $50,000. They are also able to land positions such as assistant principal, which brings their average pay up above $90,000. Those with this level of education might also be able to work as counselors for troubled or traumatized youth. Their graduate degree may also open up opportunities to work as consultants to public and private schools.


  • What qualities do I need to become an effective educator upon earning my early childhood education degree?
    Early childhood education professionals need to have many strong personal qualities in order to truly succeed. They need to have a firm grounding in early childhood education by way of a two- or four-year degree, endless patience, and a love of children, among other qualities.
  • What are the highest paying jobs with a bachelor’s or master’s in early childhood education?
    The top paying jobs for a professional with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in early childhood education is as an executive director in a preschool. However, those with an MEd in early childhood education might become assistant principal (or principal) of a public school and thus earn an average of around $90,000, depending on the school district.
  • How much does it cost to get a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education?
    This depends on whether the school is a public, in-state institution, private, or an out-of-state college or university. For a public, in-state university, tuition tends to run around $10,000 per year. Private schools can cost $50,000 per year for tuition alone, though some schools are significantly more expensive. Keep in mind that these are the gross costs; financial aid can reduce these figures significantly.
  • What are the goals of a bachelor’s program in early childhood education?
    Most colleges that offer ECE as a major tend to craft a curriculum that will lead to state licensure as a public-school teacher. Typically, an ECE graduate would enter the working world as a kindergarten teacher.

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