The mission of the educational policy studies program is to develop critical policymakers and scholars who demonstrate excellence in leading educational institutions, implementing and analyzing policy, and enacting social justice.

The purpose of a degree in educational policy studies is to prepare scholars to understand educational systems and policies and use this knowledge to shape equitable opportunities for quality education. A planned set of courses will provide students with the knowledge, skills and tools to answer difficult policy questions facing our society, for instance: How do we address the rising costs of higher education? Equitable access for students throughout the educational system? Segregated schooling? Undocumented immigrant students? Families who speak languages other than English?

Our graduates are critical thinkers who effectively respond to such changing landscapes in education. They become leaders in educational organizations, college and university faculty, and policy analysts with strong grounding in research methods.

The educational policy studies faculty have expertise in education policy affecting all levels of education. Some of the particular areas of expertise include financial aid policy, higher education appropriations, tuition policy, education policy implementation, politics of language education and immigration policy. They regularly publish in top journals in the field and present their scholarship at national and international conferences, including the American Educational Research Association, the American Educational Studies Association, and the Association for Education Finance and Policy.

Focus Areas

  • PK-12 education policy
  • Higher education policy
  • Education policy (spanning PK-12 and higher education)

Learning Objectives

Through the program, students will gain the knowledge to:

  • Examine the relationship of society and education through a variety of theoretical perspectives and empirical studies;
  • Understand policy processes and their consequences;
  • Gain an understanding of the political context in which educators work and how these relationships play out across local, state and federal levels;
  • Understand issues of diversity, equity and social justice as they apply to their educational context.

Through the program, students will have the skills to:

  • Become critical leaders, policymakers and scholars in the field of educational policy;
  • Apply theory to practice in educational policy;
  • Describe the ways in which leadership roles and processes may be influenced by political ideologies, globalization and cultural diversity;
  • Analyze educational organizations from a variety of perspectives and theories;
  • Conceptualize and complete rigorous research projects as an independent scholar using qualitative, quantitative and/or mixed methods approaches.

Degree Requirements

Doctoral candidates complete a minimum of 60 credit hours by selecting courses with their advisers, which will most fully meet their individual needs. At least 16 hours must be taken at the 8000- or 9000-level or above, exclusive of research and independent study hours.

The degree includes:

Core Courses in ELPA (12 hours):

  • ED LPA 9400: Social Theory in Education
  • ED LPA 9401: Educational Leadership
  • ED LPA 9402: Educational Policy Analysis
  • ED LPA 9403: Organizational Analysis

Core Courses in Research (15 hours minimum):

  • ESC PS 8850: Quantitative Foundations in Educational Research (or its equivalent)
  • ESC PS 8957: Qualitative Methods in Educational Research I (or its equivalent)
  • ED LPA 9409: Introduction to Research Design
  • ED LPA 9404: Inquiry into ELPA (pro-seminar)
  • One advanced research methods course

In addition to the core courses above, students will take additional courses according to a plan that aligns with their area of focus (PK-12, higher education or PK-20 education policy).

Students interested in PK-12 education policy will also take:

Foundations in PK12 (nine hours):

  • ED LPA 7458: Sociology of Education
  • ED LPA 9462: History of U.S. Education Policy
  • ED LPA 9463: Politics of Education

Focus Areas (18 hours minimum):

Each student will design two focus areas, which must include at least nine credit hours each (three courses). Students are strongly encouraged to take some courses or create one focus area outside of ELPA. Focus areas may cover topics such as social justice and equity, immigrants and education, or educational law and reform. Courses taken for graduate certificates, such education policy studies or qualitative research, may be included in a focus area. Other options are described in the ELPA doctoral student handbook.

Students interested in higher education policy will also take:

Higher education course work (18 hours):

  • ED LPA 9449: History of Higher Education in the U.S.
  • ED LPA 9451: Higher Education Finance
  • Four electives

Electives (nine hours minimum):

Student will work with their advisers to identify additional courses to support their programs of study. Students are strongly encouraged to take additional research method courses and courses outside the department related to their research interests. Courses taken for graduate certificates, such education policy studies or qualitative research, or minors, such as college teaching or women’s and gender studies, may be included.

Students interested in PK-20 education policy will work with their advisers to identify the most appropriate courses for their interests.

Dissertation Hours (six hours minimum):

  • ED LPA 9090: Research in ELPA

Learn more about individual courses in ELPA.

Residency and Transfer Credits

Students must complete residency requirements. To do so, they must take either two nine-hour semesters or three six-hour semesters consecutively.

A maximum of six semester hours of graduate level graded course work completed at another accredited college or university offering an equivalent degree may be transferred subject to approval by the adviser, the department director of graduate studies and the Office of Graduate Studies.

Up to 12 hours earned as a post-baccalaureate graduate student at MU may be applied to the degree pending admission to the program and approval of ELPA faculty. Learn more about credit transfer.

Exams and Dissertation

Doctoral students must successfully complete qualifying and comprehensive exams. The format for comprehensive examinations may vary and is determined by students’ committees. A dissertation and a final defense is also required of all candidates.

Assistantships, Scholarships & Fellowships

ELPA will consider applications for departmental graduate assistantships when funding is available.  These positions are intended for full-time students and involve assisting faculty with research and/or teaching. An offer of a graduate assistantship typically comes with an expectation of 20 hours of work a week, a monthly stipend, and tuition remission. Assistantships must be renewed on an annual basis. Some positions may be for a semester and some for the Fall and Spring. For applicants, to receive full consideration, please be sure to submit your ELPA assistantship application by January 15 (e.g., submit by January 15, 2024, for an assistantship in 2024-2025).

The College of Education offers a variety of competitive scholarships for newly admitted and continuing graduate students: Mizzou Ed graduate financial assistance.

Top candidates for admission into ELPA graduate programs may be nominated for Graduate School fellowships.



The deadlines for both the application to the program and the ELPA Assistantship Application are January 15th (by 11:59 Central Time).
Coursework begins the Fall semester of the same year.

Admission Requirements

Beginning January 1, 2020, a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score is not required for admission.

  • GPA of 3.0 (4.0 scale) in the last 60 hours of undergraduate education from a regionally accredited institution
  • GPA of 3.5 (4.0 scale) in graduate studies (master’s degree) from a regionally accredited institution
  • Evidence of consistency between candidate’s and the program’s goals
  • Minimum scores accepted by the MU Graduate School for TOEFL, IELTS, PTE, or the Cambridge C1 Advanced exams for non-native English speakers
  • Three letters of recommendation (at least two of which should be from faculty who instructed or academically advised the applicant). Instructions will be provided through the graduate school application process.

Any exceptions to the above must be justified.

How to Apply

For more information about this program contact us:

Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis