Explore higher education and be ready to shape university life through administration, leadership, and research. 

In one year, the Higher Education master's program gives people in the early stages of their higher education careers a better understanding of how the enterprise of higher education is structured, governed, financed, and managed. Students shape a plan of study that prepares them for leadership roles in institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies involved in constructing higher education nationally and worldwide. 

What Sets Us Apart

#2 Penn GSE Programs in Higher Education have been highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report for over a decade
  A paid graduate assistantship program gives students work experience in the field
3,000+ Penn GSE alumni have served as higher education administrators

About the Program

Courses are reading and writing intensive and involve discussion-oriented seminars, individual and group projects, interactive case studies, and hands-on, work-based applications of learning.

Application deadline
Rolling admission
Entry term(s)
Course requirements
10 course units
Typical course load

Fall & Spring: 3-5 courses for full-time students, 1-2 courses for part-time students; Summer: optional, up to 4 courses for full or part-time students

Culminating experienceComprehensive paper

  • Full-Time
  • Part-Time
Programs for Working Professionals

The program explores a wide range of topics including access to and equity within higher education, student development, postsecondary administration and management, organizational change, curriculum and pedagogy, economics and financing, and postsecondary policies at federal, state, and global levels. 

Graduate Assistantship
All full-time Higher Education M.S.Ed. students are encouraged to seek graduate assistantships. These positions typically entail 15-20 hours of work per week, and may coincide with Professional Development in Higher Education, though students do not earn course credit for assistantships.


The Higher Education M.S.Ed. curriculum provides a broad, foundational knowledge of the enterprise of higher education. Students may choose from other emphasized areas of knowledge, which include but are not limited to:

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • University Administration
  • Public Policy
  • International Higher Education
  • Research, Methods, and Inquiry
  • Higher Education Foundations

For more information on courses and requirements, visit the Higher Education M.S.Ed. program in the University Catalog.

Courses typically offered by the Higher Education Division include, among others:

  • Diversity in Higher Education
  • History of American Higher Education
  • University Community Partnerships
  • Gender in College
  • Understanding MSIs
  • Building Inclusive Communities
  • Access and Choice
  • Administration of Student Life
  • Enrollment Management
  • Organization & Administration of Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Case Studies in Higher Education Administration
  • Public Policy in Higher Education
  • Advanced Public Policy Seminar
  • Law and Higher Education
  • Globalization and the University
  • Democratizing Higher Education Participation
  • Higher Education Policy: What We Can Learn from Other Countries
  • Introduction to Inquiry in Educational Research
  • Social and Statistical Network Analysis
  • Quasi-Experimental Design
  • Student Development in College Environments
  • College Student Health
  • Faculty and Academic Governance
  • Ethics and Leadership in Higher Education
  • Higher Education Finance
  • Economics of Higher Education
  • Contemporary Issues in Higher Education

Higher Education Required Courses

Students must complete six Higher Education courses, including “Diversity in Higher Education”.

Distribution Requirement

Candidates for the M.S.Ed. degree must demonstrate knowledge of the field of education beyond the area of specialization. This requirement is met by satisfying the distribution requirement. To meet the distribution requirement students must complete one approved graduate level GSE course outside the Higher Education division. 

Elective Courses

Three elective courses may be taken at any school at Penn; however, the majority of Higher Ed students fulfill their electives within the division. Courses must be at the 500 level or above and students must consult their academic advisor before enrolling in any course outside of the Graduate School of Education.

Comprehensive Examination

Higher Education master’s degree candidates must pass a comprehensive exam in order to graduate. The exam requires students to apply their foundational knowledge of higher education. To qualify to take the examination, students must have completed at least six Higher Education course units, or be enrolled in at least the sixth course unit. The exam is given in both the fall and spring terms.

Note: Any substitutions for required courses must be approved by your advisor and/or the Division Chair.

Part-time Master's Students

CU Count

Part-time M.S.Ed. students must be registered for at least 1 CU each fall and spring term, up to 2 CUs per term. Enrolling in coursework during the summer terms is not required.

Most M.S.Ed. courses are offered between 10am and 6:30pm. Some courses are offered from 7pm to 9pm.


Our Faculty

Higher Education faculty are leading the conversation about how to expand college access, equity, and affordability. These experts are routinely sought by university presidents, foundation leaders, journalists, and policymakers seeking to understand the changing landscape of higher education. 

Penn GSE Faculty Ross Aikins
Adjunct Associate Professor
Penn GSE Faculty Rachel B. Baker
Associate Professor
Ph.D., Stanford University
Penn GSE Faculty Amalia Z. Daché
Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Rochester
Penn GSE Faculty Peter Eckel
Senior Fellow
Ph.D., University of Maryland
Penn GSE Faculty Manuel S. González Canché
Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Arizona
Penn GSE Faculty David Grossman
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Matthew Hartley
Professor and Board of Advisors Chair of Education
Ed.D., Harvard University
Penn GSE Faculty Laura W. Perna
Vice Provost for Faculty
Ph.D., University of Michigan
Penn GSE Faculty Alan R. Ruby
Senior Fellow
Associateship, London Institute of Education
Penn GSE Faculty Valarie E. Swain-Cade McCoullum
Provost’s Distinguished Senior Fellow
Ed.D., Temple University
Penn GSE Faculty Ann E. Tiao
Assistant Dean for Student Services
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Karen Weaver
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Damani White-Lewis
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

Affiliated Faculty

Peter Garland
Executive Vice Chancellor, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
Ph.D., Penn State University

Anita Mastroieni
Executive Director for Graduate Education and Initiatives
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania

Leland S. McGee
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania

Jason A. Presley
Vice Dean, Finance and Administration, Penn GSE
Ph.D., New York University

Frank Roth
General Counsel & Secretary, Board of Trustees, Lehigh University

Sean Vereen
President, Steppingstone Scholars, Inc.
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania

Jessica Fry

"The faculty challenged me, but they gave me the feedback and support so that, after my year at Penn GSE, I was ready to start on my path to being a professor."

Jessica Fry

Higher Education M.S.Ed., 2016

Our Graduates

Alumni Careers

  • Admissions and Academic Support Services Officer, Stanford University
  • Admissions Counselor, Vanderbilt University
  • Assistant Director of College Counseling, Germantown Academy
  • Assistant Principal, New York City Department of Education
  • Consulting Associate, AGB Institutional Strategies
  • Financial Aid Advisor, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Higher Education Analyst, Huron Consulting Group
  • Program Manager, Career Services, Yale-NUS, Singapore
  • Ph.D. Student, Harvard University
  • Ph.D. Student, University of Southern California
  • Research Analyst, RAND Corporation 
  • Student Engagement Coordinator, George Mason University

Admissions & Financial Aid

Please visit our Admissions and Financial Aid pages for specific information on the application requirements, as well as information on tuition, fees, financial aid, scholarships, and fellowships.

Contact Information

Contact us if you have any questions about the program.

Office of Admissions and
Financial Aid

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-6415

Program Contact

Ross Aikins
Adjunct Associate Professor, Program Manager
(215) 898-8398

Noel Lipki
Program Assistant
(215) 746-2923

Please view information from our Admissions and Financial Aid Office for specific information on the cost of this program.

Penn GSE is committed to making your graduate education affordable, and we offer generous scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships.