NOTE: Students can formally be admitted only in Summer session I or II, or fall semester.


Program Contact

Joy Gaston Gayles, Ph.D.
Professor of Higher Education & Program Coordinator

Program Area of Study

Higher Education

Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development (ELPHD)

NC State’s Higher Education program provides exceptional opportunities for students interested in higher education administration to explore a core body of knowledge, gain real-world professional experience, and pursue advanced study. Program content is informed by relevant theory, scholarly research and best practice in the fields of higher education and student affairs. In addition, the program links theoretical foundations of higher education leadership and administration to practical application of skills.

Sign Up to Receive More Info About Our Program
Important Dates
December 1, 2020
Applications are being accepted for Fall 2021. The application deadline is December 1, 2020.

Information Sessions
October 21, 2020
Virtual Open House; Time: TBD

Individual visits available upon request.
Email to schedule a visit.

Program Description

The Higher Education specialization of the Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development (ELPHD) prepares leaders to serve in a variety of roles (e.g., faculty, researchers, policy-makers, administrators) within post-secondary education settings. The curriculum promotes an in-depth understanding of organizational administration, educational policy and rigorous methodological approaches to research and inquiry, and our scholarly community includes faculty who are among the most renowned in the field.

As a student in our program, you will develop the expertise required for advancement in colleges and universities, governmental agencies or public service organizations. In addition, you will benefit from several distinct program characteristics:

  • Diverse students and faculty representing a variety of backgrounds, experiences and research interests
  • A commitment to social justice advocacy in education and society
  • Access to multiple institutional types in the Triangle area that provide diverse contexts for learning and professional development

Admission Requirements

Please note: If you are currently enrolled in a master’s degree program in our College of Education and are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in ELPHD, you must formally apply to the program through the Graduate School.

  • Master’s degree required (in any field)
  • Official GRE scores
  • Personal statement of interest and desired career goals. ​Statement should be written in essay format, be no more than 750 words, and address the following questions:
    • Why do you wish to obtain a Ph.D.?
    • Why do you want to come to NC State?
    • What are your research interests and are there particular faculty with whom you want to work?
    • How is this degree going to help you pursue your career goals now and in the future?
    • What unique contributions or special interests ​do you bring to the field of higher education?
  • Professional resume or CV
  • Transcripts from all institutions attended (except NC State)
  • Three professional/academic recommendations
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students

Course of Study

All doctoral degrees in the College of Education require a minimum of 72 graduate credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree. Most doctoral programs in the College of Education require a minimum of 60 graduate credit hours beyond an approved master’s degree.

Time to degree is typically 4–6 years depending on enrollment status.


Course descriptions can be found in the university course catalog. Please note: The course of study below is for doctoral students entering the Higher Education Program in Fall 2016 or after.

College Core Courses

1. Scholar Leader Courses (6 credit hours)

1a. ED 795: Diversity and Equity in Education

1b. ED 795: Systematic Change in Education and Society

2. Research Methods (15 credit hours)

2a. ED 710: Applied Quantitative Methods in Education I

2b. ED 730: Introduction to Qualitative Research in Education

2c. At least ONE of the following research methods courses:

ED 711: Applied Quantitative Methods in Education II

ED 731: Advanced Qualitative Research and Data Analysis in Education

2d. Two additional advanced research methods courses

Advanced research courses approved by the academic advisor

PhD. Core Courses

3. Scholar Leaders Core Courses (6 credit hours)

3a. EAC 795: Foundations of Higher Education Research and Scholarship

3b. EAC 803: Research Seminar

4. Program Area of Study Courses (24 credit hours)

4a. EAC 749: Finance in Higher Education

4b. EAC 787: Organizational Theories and Concepts in Higher Education

4c. Electives (15 credit hours) in consultation with advisor:

Elective 1: ________________________________

Elective 2: ________________________________

Elective 3: ________________________________

Elective 4: ________________________________

Elective 5: ________________________________

4f. Advanced research course in consultation with advisor:

Dissertation Research

5. EAC 895: Doctoral Dissertation Research (9 credit hours)

*NOTE*: For doctoral students either part-time or full-time who are working on their dissertation.

Writing the dissertation requires a major commitment of time and effort on both the part of the doctoral student and the faculty advisor. There should be consultation between the student and the dissertation chair about what is expected to be accomplished, and how much time is to be invested before the student registers. The College of Education strongly recommends that students who are registering for dissertation research (895) or preparation (899) register for at least 3 semester hours per semester, when appropriate.

Additional Info

More information about our programs and student life in general may be found in our Student Handbook, here.

ACPA Directory of Graduate Programs

NASPA Graduate Program Directory

Graduate Assistantship Information

As a community, we value engaging in effective educational research and practice, and our students enact this value through coursework, graduate assistantships, research projects, and professional development opportunities.

Research, teaching, and practice-based experiences within our Higher Education program take several forms: (1) assistantships, (2) research projects, (3) independent studies, (4) supervised teaching, and other independent projects. Graduate assistantships are paid opportunities for part-time employment (15-20 hours per week) and are generally contracted for a minimum of an academic year. Many of these opportunities are made possible through our strong partnership with the Division of Academic and Student Affairs at NC State.

Students in the Higher Education program are not required to hold a graduate assistantship; however, most of our full-time students are interested and able to secure assistantships to help fund their graduate education while gaining valuable experience. There is not a separate application for obtaining a graduate assistantship; the Higher Education program assists in the matching process for students in the program. Each year, we host an annual spring Recruitment Weekend where students are able to interview for various assistantship that will be available during the following academic year. Assistantship/Employment contracts, tuition remission, and stipend amounts vary based upon the position and institution. In addition to assistantships at NC State, our program has longstanding partnerships with both Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and in the past, we have had assistantships at North Carolina Central University and Meredith College. Below are a sampling of assistantships at NC State held by our students:

Our Faculty

Mary Ann Danowitz
Professor and Dean

David English
Associate Teaching Professor

Joy Gaston Gayles
Program Coordinator & Professor of Higher Education

Alyssa Rockenbach
Professor & Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor

Paul Umbach