Main Navigation
Apply Now Request Info


Higher Education Leadership Ph.D. (Hybrid)

Credits Needed to Graduate
CSU Online Grad Students have Plans Related to their Career
Years to Complete Your Ph.D.
Grad Students would choose CSU Online Again
Degree Overview Open Accordion

Build the advanced knowledge and skills to pursue a career in higher education leadership by earning your degree with CSU Online.

Online Ph.D. in higher education from CSU

Develop the competencies you need to successfully and ethically lead higher education institutions with a Ph.D. in higher education leadership. Send a clear message to your current employer that you are committed to the mission of your institution, and gain skills that can be applied immediately to the challenges you face as a professional through a program that:

  • Instills and reinforces a commitment to crucial engagement of diversity and equity by addressing issues of privilege and oppression.
  • Develops research knowledge and skills that enable students to become scholar-practitioners and expand their knowledge about higher education organizations, practice, and outcomes.
  • Cultivates the key competencies needed to be a successful and ethical higher education leader and change agent.

Prepare to advance as an administrative leader

With a specific focus on universities and colleges, this program provides the practical knowledge needed to advance your administrative career in higher education. Your studies will prepare you to take on leadership roles in:

  • Enrollment management
  • Student services
  • Higher education administration
  • Academic support leadership
  • Housing and auxiliary services

Join a program that fosters success

CSU’s Ph.D. in educational leadership sets itself apart with a 95% retention rate of its students, much higher than the national average of 50%. Here are a few reasons why:

  • The program’s online format allows you to obtain a doctorate while remaining employed full time.
  • With a cohort structure, the same group of students begins, proceeds through, and completes the program together. This fosters support and allows you to network with others across the country who hold similar positions in higher education institutions.
  • Faculty members provide frequent and meaningful opportunities for one-on-one interactions through video conferencing, online discussions, email, and text.

John Carmichael, a graduate of the program, had this to say:

“You hear stories of people who get lost in Ph.D. programs and a decade goes by and they’re still working on their dissertation or taking another course. That has not been at all the experience for me, or I think any of the other people in this program.”

Gain real-world insight from scholar-practitioners

Learn from active scholars who incorporate their experience as administrators and teachers into coursework. The faculty in this online Ph.D. in higher education are skilled educators with industry expertise and extensive careers in higher education, including former vice presidents and college presidents.

Health and Human Science Matters Podcast

Find out how CSU’s research is making an impact by tuning into the Health and Human Science Matters Podcast, a collection of lively, engaging conversations with members of the college community.

Explore Careers Open Accordion

The higher education leadership program equips student affairs administrators and other administrative personnel employed full time at four-year colleges and research universities to advance their careers in administrative leadership positions. You will become a more accomplished leader with the practical knowledge to lead with a commitment to diversity, access, institutional mission, quality, and educational outcomes.

Graduates of this program are prepared to pursue high-level leadership positions in these areas of higher education:

  • Student Services
  • Higher Education Administration
  • Enrollment Management
  • Housing and Auxiliary Services
  • Academic Support Leadership
Learning Experience Open Accordion

The higher education leadership Ph.D. is a distance-delivered program with some unique characteristics. Much of your student work is accomplished online during two weekly sessions of 2.5 hours total using video conferencing. These online interactions, plus face-to-face meetings on the CSU Fort Collins campus once per year, help create a cohesive cohort of students.

The next on-campus meeting dates for the HEL program will be:

July 17-21, 2023

The student-student relationship adds a personal dimension to the small group activities that are an integral part of the program. The student-faculty relationship is enhanced by the small cohort size (10-12 students), the fact that faculty are experienced educators, and the predominate use of papers rather than exams for learning and grading.

The program is very selective and looks for a diverse group of students. Applicants must have experience working in higher education, but that experience can come from a college or university anywhere in the country — or even the world. If you have worked as a student services administrator, or if you are interested in moving toward higher administration in any area of a college or university, this may be the program for you.

Faculty Open Accordion
Susana Muñoz

Susana Muñoz

Currently program co-chair for the Higher Education Leadership Ph.D. program at Colorado State University, Dr. Susana Muñoz is an assistant professor of higher education in the School of Education at CSU. Before accepting a faculty role at CSU, Dr. Muñoz served as a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the administrative leadership department. Her scholarly interests center on the experiences of underserved populations in higher education. Specifically, she focuses her research on issues of access, equity, and college persistence for undocumented Latina/o students, while employing perspectives such as Latino critical race theory, Chicana feminist epistemology, and college persistence theory to identify and deconstruct issues of power and inequities as experienced by these populations.

Sharon Anderson

Sharon Anderson

Currently a professor in CSU's School of Education, Dr. Sharon Anderson previously served as director of graduate programs from 2006-2009. She holds a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Denver, and has been a licensed psychologist in the state of Colorado since 1995. Dr. Anderson has been with Colorado State University since 1994 where her research interests include counseling, career development, counseling for justice, and higher education leadership.

Ryan P. Barone

Ryan P. Barone


Ryan P. Barone, Ph.D., is the Assistant Vice President for Student Success at Colorado State University reporting dually to Academic and Student Affairs, where he is also an affiliated faculty member in the Student Affairs in Higher Education and Higher Education Leadership graduate programs. Dr. Barone received his B.S. from SUNY Fredonia, his M.S. from Colorado State University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Denver in Higher Education with a specialization in Diversity and Higher Learning. He has published or co-published book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles, and presented sessions and delivered keynote addresses at regional and national conferences on topics related to social justice, equity in community colleges, interpersonal violence prevention, and closing achievement gaps.

Kari Dockendorff

Kari Dockendorff


Dr. Kari Dockendorff earned their Ph.D. in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah, where they also completed a Graduate Certificate in Gender Studies. Kari’s research focuses on trans* students in higher education by specifically studying interactions with staff and the institutional environment which all students must navigate. Their research is also concerned with how gender and sexuality are measured and exploring new strategies for disrupting binary measures of gender.

Susan C. Faircloth

Susan C. Faircloth


Dr. Susan C. Faircloth (an enrolled member of the Coharie Tribe of North Carolina) is a professor and Director of the School of Education at CSU. She serves as a senior associate editor of the American Journal of Education, a member of the editorial board of the Journal of American Indian Education, and Chair of the technical review panel for the National Indian Education Study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, the Office of Indian Education, and the Educational Testing Service. Additionally, she serves on the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Minority Fellowship Selection Committee. Faircloth is a former Fulbright Senior Scholar to New Zealand, Ford Foundation Postdoctoral scholar with the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at the University of California Los Angeles, research Fellow with the American Indian/Alaska Native Head Start Research Center at the University of Colorado Denver, and a recent William C. Friday Fellow for Human Relations.

Alex C. Lange

Alex C. Lange


Dr. Alex C. Lange is a coordinator and assistant professor of higher education in the School of Education at CSU. Dr. Lange aims to help higher education professionals and researchers live up to their institutions' missions of quality, inclusiveness, and transformation for all members of campus communities. They study students minoritized by race, gender, sexuality, and ability, as well as the social forces that marginalize them during college. Their largest, ongoing project is a national, longitudinal study of transgender college students' journeys through undergraduate education. This work examines how transgender students enter into, develop within, and exit from higher education. Some of Dr. Lange's recent projects and collaborations include how LGBTQ+ students thrive in college, considerations for critical approaches to college student development, and the in/visibility of race and racism in LGBTQ higher education scholarship.

Hear from Our Students Open Accordion

Fabiola M.

“When I think about how I will use this degree, it will be about creating humanizing experiences and liberatory spaces where students can show up as their full, authentic selves and thrive in higher education. What really spoke to me about the program here at CSU was the faculty and their commitment to equity and justice. They really center our humanity in this experience.”

Robert B.

“The more I got involved on campus and in the community, the more I realized that my real passion was for education. I think this program has empowered me to re-envision how I think about my own possibilities. I’m learning theories and immediately putting them into practice. That has really enriched my learning experience and challenged my thinking in a variety of ways.”

Judy O.

"There’s value in seeing that I can get my Ph.D. while I still have a full-time job. One reason I chose this CSU program is that it provides synchronous learning, and everybody would be online together. We’ve been a cohort together since the very beginning, and there’s a lot of power in that.”

Higher Education Leadership Ph.D. Student Panel - Fall 2022

In this panel, hosted by HEL student Eduardo Díaz, current HEL Ph.D. students discuss the intricacies of the program, why they chose it, how students engage with faculty in and outside of class, program structure, and more.

Why Choose CSU? Open Accordion

As a student in CSU’s distance Ph.D. in higher education leadership, you will receive a doctoral degree from a regionally accredited, renowned research institution while taking courses at times and locations that fit your busy life. Additionally, you can expect:

  • A Leading Program in Distance Delivery: The success of our Ph.D. distance delivery method, designed for mid-level higher education professionals wishing to maintain full-time employment, can be seen in our 95% retention rate, compared to the 50% national average.
  • Instruction from Expert Faculty: Learn from active scholars who incorporate their experience as administrators and teachers into coursework. Our faculty are skilled educators with industry expertise and extensive careers in higher education, including former vice presidents and college presidents. Gain practical day-to-day knowledge of what it takes to lead higher education institutions successfully and ethically.
  • A Cohort Model: The same group of students goes through the program together, offering a cohesive support structure and built-in professional network.
  • A Quality Learning Experience: Due to the highly competitive nature of this program, we only accept a small percentage of students each semester. To achieve our goal of ensuring a superior learning experience with a diverse group of students, we limit cohort size to 10-12 students.
  • Individualized Faculty-Student Engagement: In addition to the in-person class sessions, our program provides opportunities for frequent and meaningful one-on-one interactions with faculty through a variety of mediums, including: video conferencing, online discussions, email, text, and more.
  • A Focus on Universities and Colleges: Advance your career in a higher education administrative leadership position through our university- and college-focused curriculum. Our program prepares leaders in areas such as enrollment management, student services, higher education administration, academic support leadership, housing and auxiliary services, and more.

Learn more about CSU's rankings and accolades.

Curriculum Open Accordion


  • A minimum of 30 credits of higher education administrative curriculum
  • A minimum of 30 credits of research
  • Comprehensive exams, both written and oral
  • Juried publication submission or presentation
  • Dissertation


With an emphasis on applied knowledge and a specific focus on universities and colleges, you learn from renowned faculty and experienced higher education administration professionals.


  • Provides a comprehensive doctoral curriculum that develops the competencies needed to successfully and ethically lead higher education institutions
  • Develops research knowledge and skills to enable practitioners and administrators to become scholars/practitioners who expand the knowledge base related to higher education organizations, practice, and outcomes
  • Instills and/or reinforces a commitment to the crucial engagement of diversity
  • Explores ways to strengthen a commitment to access, learning, institutional mission, quality, and educational outcomes

Year One

Year Two

Additional research course, if required:
EDRM 606 – Principles: Quantitative Data Analysis (3 cr.).

Year Three

Year Four

You may work on your dissertation in the Fall and Spring as required. Work can continue in Summer and Fall if you are not finished.

How to Apply Open Accordion

Application Deadlines

Students may be admitted for the summer semester. Fall and spring admission is not available.

Summer semester December 1

Start your application online and upload materials directly into the online system. You can save your progress and return any time.

Apply Now

1Review Admission Requirements

The higher education leadership (Ph.D.) degree requires applicants to have the following:

  • Master's degree from a regionally accredited postsecondary institution or a CSU-recognized international institution is required
  • A minimum of two years of post-master’s professional work experience related to higher education, prior to applying to the program, is required for admission
  • A minimum 3.00 GPA from master's level coursework is required
  • GRE scores are not required

Meeting the minimum requirements does not ensure admission. Admission will be primarily guided by the evaluation of each applicant's fit with the program mission and within the context of developing each incoming cohort's teaching and learning community, based on application materials (i.e., personal statement, professional experiences, recommendation letters, academic transcripts, and interviews with finalists.)

2 Prepare Application Materials

Prepare the following materials and upload them when you apply online:

Statement of purpose:
Write a two- to three-page statement of purpose regarding your personal and professional interests and goals in higher education. Your statement should address the following questions:

  • What personal and professional factors or experiences have led you to seek a Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership at Colorado State University?
  • How will this Ph.D. program advance your professional aspirations and personal goals? What do you hope to get out of your program experience?
  • How have your experiences influenced your views of equity and justice in higher education?
  • What are your research interests? How are they connected to principles of equity and justice? How might your interests be compatible with our Higher Education Leadership and School of Education faculty?

Your statement should be double-spaced, with 1-inch margins, and written in 11- or 12-point Times New Roman font. If your statement goes beyond the three-page limit, the admissions committee will only read the first three pages.

Resume or vita:
Please include:

  • Record of collegiate work, including names of institutions, periods of attendance, and degrees earned.
  • Record of all professional employment including dates of service (including military).
  • List of publications, exhibitions, awards, or other recognitions.
  • List of service activities, including professional, community, and charitable activities.

Three letters of recommendation:
Recommenders should be able to speak to your current leadership ability and your ability to complete doctoral work, research and writing, and potential as a research scholar and/or scholar-practitioner. You will provide information about your recommenders in the online application. CSU will contact them with instructions and a link to a secure form they will submit on your behalf.

3 Complete Online Application

Complete the online graduate application and pay the nonrefundable application processing fee (payable online). As soon as you have completed the required information, please submit your application. Your application will not be reviewed until it is complete and all required materials have been received.

  • Select "Education and Human Resource Studies / Higher Education Leadership (Ph.D). - Distance" when choosing the program of study.

4 Request Transcripts

Request one official transcript of all collegiate work completed from all institutions attended. Transcripts from Colorado State University are not required. Transcripts must be received directly from the originating institution to be considered official.

Please Note: Students may be unconditionally admitted and registered in their first semester of courses with an unofficial transcript. Official transcripts must be submitted, prior to or during your first semester, before you can register for your second semester of graduate work. Failure to meet this condition will result in your dismissal from the Graduate School.

Electronic (preferred):
Digital Transcripts must be submitted by the originating institution using a secure service such as parchment, eScrip-Safe, the National Student Clearinghouse, or e-Quals. Transcripts received via emails are considered unofficial.

Use institution code 4075 for Colorado State University or if the secure service requires an email address.

Mail (if necessary)
Graduate Admissions
Colorado State University – Office of Admissions
1062 Campus Delivery
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1062

5 Interviews and Writing Sample


  • The admission committee may request an interview. Interviews are by invitation only and will be conducted using video conference technology.
  • Faculty will select applicants to advance to the interview state around mid-January.

Writing Sample

  • If invited to interview, applicants will be required to submit a research or scholarly paper. They will have two weeks to write and electronically submit the paper. This requirement is intended to provide the faculty with critical information on the applicants' ability to frame, research/engage in inquiry, analyze, and offer a persuasive and cohesive written account on a current higher education issue of each applicant's choosing.

Check Your Application Status

View your application status at any time to ensure your application checklist is complete or to check on updates.

Selection Timeline
Application review begins after the December 1 deadline. Admit decisions will be made by mid-May. Summer courses will begin in mid-July.

For International Applicants

Proof of English language proficiency is required for applicants from countries or United States territories where there are official languages other than (or in addition to) English. This includes the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about English language proficiency requirements.


We love learning about your goals and answering any questions you have.

Alex Broz
Prospective Student Support Coach
Schedule Time to Talk

Program Details

Online with in-person components at Fort Collins campus
$945 per credit
Same in-state tuition for all.
Learn more about financial aid and scholarships Tuition/fees are just part of the cost to attend CSU. Learn more about the full Cost of Attendance
Degree Awarded
Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Human Resource Studies; transcript reflects the higher education leadership specialization
Time Frame
Can be completed in 5 years
Admission Reqs.
  • Master's degree from a regionally accredited postsecondary institution

Application Dates

Summer semester
December 1

Request Information

By providing your information, you consent to receive calls, emails, and/or text messages from CSU Online. Consent not required to purchase goods or services. For more info, call 1-970-491-5288. We respect your privacy. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.