ELPA 822: Introduction to Quantitative Inquiry in Education

The main objective of this course is to apply the concepts and methods of quantitative social science research on education policy issues. A second objective is to help students become knowledgeable, critical consumers of quantitative education research. The course is an introduction to several (yet not exhaustive) core techniques, applications, and concepts useful for framing and evaluating quantitative inquiry.

The course treats statistics as tools researchers use to gain insight into education policy issues through a process that involves the thoughtful and reflective application of logic, theory, prior research, and evidence in our pursuit of new knowledge. Your will learn how to:

  1. Use quantitative data to understand and address policy problems in education
  2. Understand how statistical analysis fits into a larger inquiry process
  3. Perform basic statistical analyses and data displays using statistical software
  4. Use statistics and graphical data displays to communicate key findings and evidence
  5. Use statistics to examine differences between and among groups
  6. Use statistics to examine relationships between variables

Students will develop these skills through reading assignments, lectures, class discussions, in-class activities, and assigned projects. This class can be counted towards the quantitative methods requirement for ELPA doctoral students.

ELPA 831: Financing Postsecondary Education

The purpose of this course is to examine how and why we finance postsecondary education in America. To accomplish this, we will examine the underlying reasons why costs rise, the strategies states and the federal government use to subsidize those costs, and how students pay for college. We will apply various conceptual lenses to help explain the causes and consequences of these trends. We will also discuss how these trends affect educational opportunity and equity, as well as professional practice.

Through this course, students will develop mastery of core finance concepts and research and will gain new awareness of their own dispositions towards various finance topical areas:

Knowledge and Comprehension Application and Analysis Synthesis and
Mastery of core concepts


Generate a deeper understanding of the political, economic, and social concerns related to higher education finance. Demonstrate the capacity to identify, classify, and apply core financial concepts to research/practice. Demonstrate the capacity to critique, question, and propose solutions for finance challenges.
of own dispositions


Develop an intrinsic sense of confidence when describing/debating key financial issues related to higher education. Practice becoming more reflective and inclusive when discussing financial benefits and burdens. Strengthen the creative capacity to weigh the consequences of financing trends and policy proposals.

ELPA 870: Politics of Higher Education

The study of educational policymaking is a multidisciplinary line of inquiry that can be explored from a variety of analytical perspectives. We cannot decouple cultural, social, economic, or political forces from the policymaking process, nor can we critique or recommend new policies without understanding these key features. Engaging in this line of inquiry is not simply academic, it can help students develop and inform professional practice. The primary purpose of this course is twofold: to introduce students to higher education policymaking and to provide a set of skills/paradigms to become critical policy scholars/practitioners. To that end, this course develops students’ capacity to:

  1. Identify key theories and actors involved in policymaking
  2. Weigh the merits of various policy implementation strategies
  3. Apply conceptual frameworks for analyzing policy development and design
  4. Evaluate how political systems and processes affect various stakeholder groups
  5. Develop new ideas and proposals for improving higher education policy

Reading assignments, lectures, reflections, class discussions/activities, and assigned projects are the tools we will use to develop these capacities.

940: Applied Policy Analysis in Postsecondary Education

This course introduces students to useful data sources, analytical techniques, and conceptual frameworks for conducting policy-relevant research in higher education. Students will learn how to apply “traditional” and “expanded” perspectives on higher education policy. In so doing, students will be more equipped to evaluate, recommend, and debate the merits of policy alternatives. This is increasingly important in an era of “evidence-based” policymaking, which is neither immune to the art of political reasoning nor devoid of historical context. While the course focuses primarily on examples and research techniques, it is not without theory. Each week, we will engage with enduring questions regarding theories of the policymaking process, rational versus political decision-making, and the competing goals of American higher education policy.

Through discussions, assignments, readings, and reflections, students will learn:

  • Strategies for accessing and managing publicly available higher education data.
  • Techniques for evaluating the efficacy of a policy alternative.
  • Creative ways of framing and theorizing policy-relevant research.
  • Promises and pitfalls of using research evidence in policymaking.