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Higher Education Administration (M.Ed.)

Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

Program Overview

In recent years, colleges and universities have experienced rapid growth in key areas that support their missions and students. Since 1972, the Higher Education Administration master’s degree program at Vanderbilt University has been preparing professionals to be higher education leaders able to respond to changing needs.

This program is designed to prepare you to become leaders within the contemporary higher education system in the U.S. Through coursework and real-world experience, you will learn about the contemporary higher education system and how to lead from within it. Our aim is to prepare you to be professionals who can utilize theoretical perspectives, an understanding of research, and knowledge of data analysis to develop programs, initiatives and policy, and make decisions. Your coursework will be grounded in research, existing higher education policy and forthcoming initiatives, and the use of data. While aspects of the undergraduate student experience informs our program, our 30,000-foot-level lens provides you opportunities to consider how to take this big picture knowledge and apply it “on the ground” within an institution or organization.

Program Specializations 

You will also have the opportunity to focus your educational journey in one of four areas – student affairs, enrollment management, community college, and general administration and policy.

  • Student affairs - For students who aspire to student-facing positions; you will study theoretical grounding and practical implications that shape the work impacting the student experience.
  • Enrollment management - For students who want to understand the tools and techniques of enrollment management in recruitment, admission, and graduation of students that enhance the institutional mission; you will study practical implications and strategic concerns shaping the enrollment management process.
  • General administration and policy - For students interested in administration more broadly or policy related work; you will identify relevent courses that aid in specific career interests.
  • Community college - For students who want the opportunity to explore and understand the two-year and career training marketplace; you will study research and practice on the impact of and opportunity at community colleges.

Program at a Glance

Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Higher Education Administration

Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

Program Director: Brent Evans
Admissions Coordinator: Rosie Moody
Admission Term: Fall
Credit Hours: 36
Priority Application Deadline: December 31* for fall entrance

* We will continue to accept applications after this date, but applications will be evaluated for admission and scholarships on a space-and-funds-available basis.

Our Commitment

Our Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Courses across the HEA curriculum address issues of equity, inclusion, and access through examination of research, policy, and campus practice. Our approach includes, but is not limited to, discussion of social identity, enrollment and financial aid policy impact on access, the role of historical events and legislation on equity in higher education, and critical examination of research and use of data in equity and inclusion efforts.

Selected Courses Related to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

HEA 6030: Post-Secondary Access - This course explores how demographic change, public policy, and law promote or impede access to U.S. higher education, including by students who are low income, racial and ethnic minorities, and/or immigrant students. In addition, the course explores the effects of educational interventions or legislation designed to increase college access.

HEA 6520: Theories of Student Affairs - This course explores the intellectual, moral, and psychosocial development, as well as various aspects of identity, such as race, gender, ability and sexuality, in relation to the college experience. Students will reflect upon their individual development to understand how a student’s identity, background, and experiences can influence their developmental journey and how to apply theory to practice.

Selected Faculty Research Related to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Kelly Slay, assistant professor of higher education and public policy
Professor Slay examines issues of race, diversity, and equity in higher education and is primarily focused on three areas: the factors shaping Black students’ college choice, completion, and career trajectories; the use and implications of enrollment management policies (admissions, recruitment and financial aid) aimed at improving campus diversity, particularly in post-affirmative action contexts; and racial and gender inequities in STEM in undergraduate and graduate education.

Brenda McKenzie, associate professor of the practice of leadership, policy, and organizations
Professor McKenzie has over 20 years of professional experience in higher education/student affairs in areas including leadership development, orientation/new student programs, and residential life. Her current research examines the experiences of female-identified higher education leaders in leading during crisis.

93% of job-seeking Peabody College graduates were employed or attending graduate school within four months of graduation.

Click here to see a list of recent career placements:

Recent graduates with an M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration have gone on to the following positions, among others:
  • Academic Advisors, Northeastern University, Boston, MA
  • Area Coordinator, University of New England, Biddeford, ME
  • Assistant Director of Orientation and Engagement, Otterbein College, Westerville, OH
  • Associate Director of Student Recruitment, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
  • College Advisor, Virginia College Advising Corps, Charlottesville, VA
  • Higher Education Strategy and Operations Consulting Analyst, Huron, Chicago, IL
  • D. Candidate, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
  • Program Coordinator, Housing and Residence Life, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
  • Senior Associate, Education Advisory Board, Washington, D.C.
  • Student Services Specialist, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

Learn more about Peabody Career Services.

Professional Experience

The Higher Education Administration program places a strong emphasis on learning by doing. The program offers you several opportunities to put theory and research into practice.

Graduate Assistantships

Each year, a number of graduate assistantship opportunities are available. These positions typically last for two years, require an average of 20 hours per week, and are available throughout Vanderbilt, at nearby higher education institutions, and state and local government agencies and organizations. In recent years, students like you have been graduate assistants for the Dean of Students, the Provost's Office, and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, to name just a few potential assistantship sites.

Practicum Experiences

You are required to complete one 3-credit practicum to gain additional professional experience. The practicum coordinator assists you to find the best practicum to meet your individual aspirations and interests. You will also take a monthly class designed to aid with processing your experiences.


You may also complete internships in the summer between year one and two of the program. Internships are a great way for you to gain additional work experience and to develop new professional knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Program Curriculum

The M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration is a 2-year, full-time program that requires you to complete a minimum of 36 credit hours of coursework. The courses are firmly grounded in the bodies of theory, research, and conceptual understandings that scholars of higher education and other academic disciplines have produced.

These courses also stress the application of theory, conceptual understandings, and research to issues of policy and practice embedded in both the external and internal environments of higher education.

Core Courses

You will be required to complete 9 credit hours composed of the following courses:
  • HEA 6010 College and University Management
  • HEA 6020 Nature and Function of American Higher Education
  • HEA 6040 State and Federal Government in Higher Education

Methods Core

You will be required to complete six credit hours composed of the following courses:
  • LPO 7860 Research Design and Data Analysis I
  • LPO 7870 Research Design and Data Analysis II


You will be required to complete a three-hour practicum:
  • HEA 7950 Practicum in Higher Education Administration

Concentration Area

You will be required to complete a minimum of six credit hours within your chosen degree concentration:

Student Affairs

  • HEA 6500 Practice of Student Affairs
  • HEA 6520 Theory of Student Affairs

Enrollment Management

  • HEA 6110 Introduction to Enrollment Management
  • HEA 6100 Practice of Enrollment Management

General Administration and Policy

  • Two courses selected with the assistance of the advisor

Community College

  • HEA 6030 Post Secondary Access
  • HEA 6220 Community Colleges, Credentialing, and Vocationalism in Higher Education

Elective Courses

You will be required to complete twelve hours of elective courses. These courses may be taken across Peabody College, as well as in other disciplines offered across Vanderbilt University upon consultation with your faculty advisor. Below are some elective options you might choose; note this is not an exhaustive list.

  • College and University Finance
  • Education Law
  • Grants Policy and Administration
  • Ed Policy and Program Evaluation
  • Comparative Issues in Higher Education
  • Executive Coaching
  • Learning Organizations

Cohort Model

The Higher Education Administration program utilizes a cohort model that encourages students to build meaningful, lasting connections with each other, both in the classroom and out of it. All of your core classes (including all first-semester courses) will be taken together, ensuring a shared academic experience that allows for deep discourse and engagement with the most pressing issues in education. For many students, the cohort also functions as a social outlet, with members often meeting up to explore the city of Nashville together. In addition, interaction between the first-year and second-year cohorts creates opportunities for formal and informal mentorship that allow students to take full advantage of the resources of the program.

Why a 2-year program?

Our goal is to prepare you for your career aspirations. Part of enrolling in a professional program is having an opportunity to explore your interests and find the ways you can make an impact on higher education. Being in a two-year program affords you the time to explore options for career interests, engage more deeply around what it means to work in higher education, and to build your professional network.

Program Curriculum


Our renowned faculty conduct research in higher education history, governance, finance, economics, policy and politics, race and ethnic relations, fundraising, college student departure, college student success, student affairs, the academic profession, service learning, and international comparisons.

Brent Joseph Evans
  • Associate Professor of Public Policy and Higher Education, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
  • Program Director, Higher Education Administration
Doug Christiansen
  • Associate Professor of Public Policy and Higher Education (Secondary Appointment), Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
  • Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid.
  • Vice Provost for University Enrollment Affairs.
William Doyle
  • Chair, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Christopher P. Loss
  • Associate Professor of History.
  • Associate Professor of Public Policy and Higher Education, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
  • Chancellor Faculty Fellow (2016–18).
Brenda McKenzie
  • Associate Professor of the Practice, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
  • Practicum Coordinator, Higher Education Administration
Matthew Patrick Shaw
  • Assistant Professor of Law, Vanderbilt Law School.
  • Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education, Secondary Appointment, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Kelly E. Slay
  • Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Public Policy, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Adela Soliz
  • Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Public Policy, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

Emeritus and Courtesy Appointed Faculty

John M. Braxton
  • Professor of Higher Education, Emeritus, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

Program Highlights

Vanderbilt Magazine

August 20, 2019
Education Evolution
Vanderbilt scholars are working to align higher ed policy with 21st century needs. Christopher Loss and Brent Evans are featured.

In the Media

February 23, 2020
How 'The Gift' 40 years ago transformed Emory University
Will Doyle is quoted on disparities in the sizes of university endowments. Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

February 20, 2020
Can you get rid of your student loans by filing for bankruptcy?
Paying back student loans is not an easy thing to do. One out of every 5 borrowers with outstanding student loan debt has fallen behind their payments. This piece was co-authored by Brent Evans and Matthew Shaw in The Conversation.


Adela Soliz, assistant professor of public policy and higher education, was named a 2019 William T. Grant Scholar. The award program supports the professional development of promising early career researchers in the social, behavioral and health sciences and provides $350,000 in research funding over five years.