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Higher Education, PhD

Study Higher Education at Azusa Pacific University

You’ll graduate prepared for a position as a faculty member, researcher, and academic leader. You’ll be equipped to conduct original research that contributes to higher education policy and practice. You’ll also learn to interpret and communicate the results of your research through writing, teaching, and leadership.

Program at a Glance

The School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences equips students for compassionate leadership in fields like physical therapy, social work, and psychology, guided by experienced faculty and hands-on learning.

Application Deadline

  • Applications for the new doctoral cohort that begins in July are reviewed as received. One cohort per year is admitted.
  • Priority Deadline: January 31
  • Regular Deadline: May 1

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Program Information

  • Program Units: 62
  • Cost per Unit: $1,230
  • Base Cost: $76,260*


  • Online: Low Residence at Azusa (Main Campus)
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Yellow Ribbon and Military Friendly School

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Gain Hands-on Experience

  • Learn from faculty who are professionally active scholars committed to student success.
  • Experience a cohort model designed for working professionals in higher education.
  • Learn with a unique strengths-based approach to teaching, learning, leadership, and research.

By the Numbers

1 of 126 Best Western Colleges according to Princeton Review's 2023 Best Colleges Guide
10 :1 Student-to-faculty ratio
100 % of incoming students receive financial aid


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Program Details

The Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education is a research degree program consisting of 62 units of coursework, inclusive of dissertation. It primarily develops scholars who are able to conduct original research and interpret and communicate the results of that research through their writing, teaching, and leadership. The dissertation for the PhD involves original research that extends the theoretical knowledge base of higher education policy and practice.

Browse the tabs below—if you have questions, visit the Student Services Center page, and we’ll make sure you get the info you need.

Application Deadline

Applications for the new doctoral cohort that begins in July are reviewed as received. One cohort per year is admitted.

Priority Deadline: January 31
Regular Deadline: May 1

Note: Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and are accepted until the new cohort has been finalized.

Admission Requirements—Domestic Applicants

The university graduate and program admission requirements below must be met before an application is considered complete.

Note: Successful applicants to the Department of Higher Education normally have several years of full-time work experience in a college or university setting when applying for the PhD program. The theory-to-practice design across the four years of the program assumes that students are working in a higher education setting throughout their doctoral studies.

Applicants must possess:

  • A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution.
  • A master’s degree, preferably in higher education or a related field, from a regionally accredited institution.
  • A minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale. (Provisional admittance may be granted to individuals who do not meet this criteria if competency can be shown.)

Applicants must submit:

  • Graduate application for admission
  • $45 nonrefundable application fee
  • Official transcripts from all institutions leading to and awarding the applicant’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees from a regionally accredited institution and all postbaccalaureate study

    An official transcript is one that Azusa Pacific University receives unopened in an envelope sealed by the former institution and that bears the official seal of the college or university. A cumulative minimum 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) grade-point average on the posted degree is required for regular admission status. Provisional admittance may be granted to individuals with a lower GPA if competency can be shown through multiple measures.
  • Two recommendation forms. (Additional letters of recommendation on letterhead are also accepted.) One reference letter should address the applicant’s ability to undertake doctoral-level academic work and the other one should serve as a reference of the applicant’s professional abilities and potential.
  • Current résumé
  • Letter of intent: Address the following in no more than 1,000 words, single-spaced: (1) why you are interested in pursuing a PhD in Higher Education, and at APU in particular; (2) your passions, interests, and professional goals; (3) your research interests and how earning a PhD in Higher Education from APU would support those interests; (4) what you would contribute to your cohort—what strengths you would bring and how your cohort would be a better learning environment because of your participation; and (5) your academic journey and what kind of learner you are, explaining what you think has helped you succeed academically thus far.
  • Professional writing sample that cites academic literature and demonstrates your ability to think critically and write cogently. If you do not have a writing sample readily available, you may submit your response to the following prompt:
  • In no more than 1,000 words, identify one critical issue facing U.S. higher education. This issue may be about policy or practice or both. Write about this issue from national and local perspectives. In other words, how is this a critical issue for higher education generally, and how does this issue manifest itself within your specific institution? Cite scholarly sources and write the paper in a scholarly tone.
  • Other evidence of potential for leadership as the applicant desires

Send official transcripts to:

Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions
Azusa Pacific University
PO Box 7000
Azusa, CA 91702-7000
[email protected]

What to Expect

After all admission materials have been received by the Student Services Center, the faculty or department chair reviews the applicant’s file. The applicant is notified in writing of the admission decision.

Admission Requirements—International Applicants

This program is not open to F-1 or J-1 international students, because the low-residency format doesn’t meet the full time face-to-face requirement set by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you are an international student who does not require a F-1 or J-1 visa, you may be considered for this program.

To apply for a graduate program at APU, the following requirements must be fulfilled in addition to meeting the domestic applicant and program-specific admission requirements specified above.

International applicants must also:

  • Demonstrate proficiency in English through a TOEFL/IELTS score that meets program-specific requirements. Refer to APU’s English proficiency requirements to learn more. Request that official test scores be sent to APU. All other forms of proof indicated in the English proficiency requirements must be submitted directly to the International Services.
  • Submit a copy of a valid passport showing biographical data, including your name, country of citizenship, date of birth, and other legal information.

International applicants send official transcripts to:

International Center
Azusa Pacific University
901 E. Alosta Ave.
PO Box 7000
Azusa, CA 91702-7000, USA
[email protected]

What to Expect

After the International Center receives all transcripts, a committee of department faculty reviews the applicant’s file. The applicant is then notified of the committee’s decision within approximately two weeks.

Delivering high-quality graduate programs takes a comprehensive support system. Your investment in an advanced degree includes those services and personnel that partner with you in pursuit of higher education. Below is a detailed breakdown of the fees associated with the benefits and services included in your degree program.

Tuition and Fees
EdD in Higher Education Leadership, 2022 cohort (per unit) $1,140
PhD in Higher Education, 2022 cohort (per unit) $1,230

View a complete list of university fees.

All stated financial information is subject to change. Contact the Student Services Center at (626) 815-2020 for more information.

Guaranteed Tuition Plan

Doctoral education is expensive nationwide, and annual tuition increases make it difficult to plan financially. The Guaranteed Tuition Plan addresses this issue by guaranteeing that your tuition rate will not increase as long as you follow the prescribed sequence of courses each year with your cohort. The plan provides a great incentive to finish the program on time.

How the plan works

Those students who complete the required number of units expected annually of their cohort pay the same tuition rate each year they are enrolled in the program. Their tuition rate is frozen at the guaranteed rate as long as they complete the required number of units annually (typically 16–20 units, as outlined in the Graduate Catalog).

Additional Costs

  • Travel to Southern California twice a year for four years
  • Housing, transportation, and meal costs during intensives for four years (housing at the Best Western Glendora is $600 per person (double occupancy) each intensive; students may also make their own housing arrangements)
  • Students travel internationally the second year. All in-country costs of this trip are included in the program tuition, but students are responsible for their international airfare.

Financial Aid

Several types of financial aid are available to graduate students. The resources range from federal loans and state grants to, for some graduate programs, fellowships and scholarships. For details about financial aid available for your program, please contact the Student Services Center at (626) 815-2020.

Military Benefits

Military members—and in some cases their spouses and dependents—qualify for financial assistance covering tuition, housing, and books. Azusa Pacific is a Yellow Ribbon University and Military Friendly School, so you can be confident that you’ll receive the benefits and flexibility you need to complete your education.

PhD Program Scholarships

The Department of Higher Education at APU offers scholarship opportunities of $3,500 per year for PhD program students in the following categories: Student Success Scholars, Leadership Scholars, and Social Justice Scholars. Recipients are expected to conduct research in the priority area of their scholarship and must apply to the program by the January 31 priority deadline, as well as complete a scholarship application. Contact the Department of Higher Education at [email protected] for more information and to request a scholarship application.

CCCU Employees Tuition Discount

In support of institutions affiliated with the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), APU offers a 10 percent tuition discount for the EdD in Higher Education Leadership or the PhD in Higher Education program to any full-time faculty member or administrator of any CCCU-affiliated institution. The amount of institutional aid is subject to coordination with federal, state, and institutional regulations, which may result in a reduction of this benefit. For more information, contact the department at [email protected].

Plus One Discount

If two or more students from the same institution enroll in the same higher education cohort in the same year, each one is eligible to receive a 10% tuition discount. For more information, contact the department at [email protected].


To view specific requirements and coursework information, visit the current academic catalog:

If you have questions, we’re here to help! Connect with a representative who can walk you through the program details and application process.

Contact Your Admissions Representative

Additional Program Contact

Karen Longman, PhD, program director, [email protected], (626) 815-5706

Department of Higher Education


(626) 815-5349



Department of Higher Education
Azusa Pacific University
PO Box 7000
Azusa, CA 91702-7000

Student Services Center

Contact (626) 812-3016 or [email protected], and visit for details on the admissions process, financial aid, and class registration.

International Services

International students should contact +1-626-812-3055 or [email protected], and visit

Azusa Pacific University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Featured Faculty

Alexander Jun

Alexander Jun

Professor, Department of Higher Education

Christopher B. Newman

Christopher B. Newman

Associate Professor, Department of Higher Education

Laurie Schreiner

Laurie Schreiner

Professor, Department of Higher Education

Career Outlook and Outcomes

Azusa Pacific campus

Karen Longman Receives Prestigious Fulbright Award

Karen Longman, PhD, recently received a prestigious Fulbright award for the 2023-24 academic year where she will share her expertise on higher education leadership at LCC International University in Lithuania.

Note: This information is current for the 2024-25 academic year; however, all stated academic information is subject to change. Refer to the current Academic Catalog for more information.
*Base Cost (cost per unit x program units) is provided to aid in program comparison only.
All stated financial information is subject to change. View Tuition tab above.