Masters in Higher Education Administration and Policy Gene Lowe

The Higher Education Administration and Policy Program's curriculum is designed to expose students to the full institutional and social context of the American higher education system. This broad course of study helps students consider the important factors and stakeholders that will impact their professional practice. Exposure to a wide range of careers and functions within higher education gives alumni career flexibility and helps them discover what types of positions most closely fit their interests.

The master's degree requires fifteen courses: eight core courses, three courses taken for the master's research project, the internship course (unless waived) and three electives.

While Higher Education Administration and Policy offers elective courses each year, students also may take any graduate-level course at Northwestern University as an elective, provided they can explain the relevance of the course to their studies. Many students study topics such as athletics administration, organizational development, non-profit management, counseling, sociology, psychology and statistics.

MSHE Core Courses 

MS_HE 460: Proseminar in Higher Education 

This introductory course focuses on current and ongoing issues in the American higher education system. Students are introduced to a variety of areas of professional endeavor, such as enrollment management, student affairs, athletics administration and others. They explore major issues and policies, including affirmative action, college access, and governance and mission of different institutional types. They also have the opportunity to meet senior-level professionals in a variety of higher education positions.

MS_HE 462: The College Student

This introductory course explores the characteristics of today’s college students and reviews the literature on student development theory, which describes the developmental challenges (e.g., cognitive, psychosocial and identity) facing college students and how students change while in college. A secondary focus looks at how multiple identities influence student development. Students have opportunities to apply theory to practice.

MS_HE 464: Learning and Teaching in Higher Education 

Students explore current issues of learning and teaching in higher education, enabling them to analyze and critique applicable concepts, policies and practices. How college students learn is examined, along with strategies faculty can employ to maximize learning. Students apply models and theories of learning and teaching to real environments. Students also discuss contemporary issues related to faculty, including tension between teaching and research.

MS_HE 465: Law and Ethics in Higher Education

Legal professionals guide students through legal and ethical issues of higher education administration. Topics include the framework of federal, state and local laws that apply to higher education institutions; the legal difference between public and private institutions; tort liability and negligence; constitutional rights; civil rights; discrimination and harassment; FERPA and student privacy; discipline; affirmative action; athletics and Title IX; student disability accommodations; campus crime; homeland security issues; and off-campus study programs. 

MS_HE 466:  Budgeting and Finance in Higher Education 

The budget process in colleges and universities is addressed comprehensively, along with the impact of budget activities on all areas of institutional planning and operations. Students enhance their ability to write and speak effectively about budget- and finance-related issues.

MS_HE 467: History and Philosophy of Higher Education

This introductory course surveys and assesses the evolution of American higher education from the founding of Harvard College to present patterns of virtual and distance learning. It takes into consideration historical and institutional contexts, including the role of religion, government and the private sector in shaping both elite and accessible forms of higher education opportunity.

MS_HE 468:  Higher Education Policy 

This course examines theories about the public policy process and their applications in analyzing policy areas of major importance to higher education (e.g., student aid, tax incentives for charitable giving, scientific research and affirmative action). It provides future higher education administrators with a basic understanding of higher education policy and its impact on the institutional policies and operations of colleges and universities in the United States.

MS_HE 473: Structure, Governance and Leadership in Higher Education

This course provides students an opportunity to understand the structure and governance of colleges and universities and the characteristics of leadership in these institutions. Students explore the potential and limits of presidential leadership as well as competing and complementary forces, both internal and external.

MS_HE 477: Developing & Coaching Leadership: Fundamentals of Learning Strategies

The objective of this course is to learn how to develop leadership for students and with others, especially in the context of higher education. It is organized to allow students to answer three questions: (1) What are the fundamentals of effective leadership development? (2) What learning strategies work best for my own leadership development? (3) How can I effectively coach and develop leadership in others?

Higher Education Elective Courses

Students take three electives (or four, if the internship is waived). Students may choose from higher education elective courses offered in spring and summer terms or electives in other Northwestern programs throughout the year. Not all elective courses are offered every year, and new special topics courses may be offered.

MS_HE 471 The Comprehensive Community College

This thorough overview of the American community college covers mission and functions, students and personnel, finance, governance and administration, instructional programs and outcomes. Students examine policy issues including the educational, economic, political and social forces shaping the role of the community college in American education.

MS_HE 474 Comparative Higher Education: Impact of Globalization

Students explore higher education systems of other countries and regions with an emphasis on how each system is confronting the rapid changes of globalization. Particular focus is on the European community, India, China and selected countries in South America and Africa.

MS_HE 475 Crisis Management & Mental Health Issues

This course addresses different crises and mental health issues on university campuses. Students examine the concept of crisis (types and stages), the relationship to legal obligations, communication, and the prevalent mental health issues on U.S. campuses. Real case studies will be discussed using a crisis response model.

MS_HE 476 Enrollment Management Theory and Practice

Students are introduced to enrollment management as it is practiced in institutions of higher learning in the U.S., with a special emphasis on the admissions process at selective schools. While providing a broad overview, this course will engage students in a “deep-dive” of contemporary and controversial topics including access and equity, college rankings, bias and discrimination, standardized tests and “non-cognitive” variables, race and ethnicity in selective admission, financial aid and enrollment management tools.

Sample Curriculum Tracks

Full-Time Options

  • 1


    4 quarters

  • 1


    5 quarters

  • 1.5


    5 quarters

Part-Time Options

  • 2


    8 quarters

  • 3


    12 quarters

Contact Us

MS in Higher Education Administration and Policy Program

2120 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/491-7526