The University of Iowa HESA program has top faculty that are committed to student success. We actively live our mission and values in a collaborative and collegial environment. Students have many opportunities to shape the program to fit their needs, with faculty, peers, and a campus community to support their success.

Prospective M.A. and Ph.D. students are invited to learn about our degree programs using the links below. If you have questions beyond what we cover here, contact us to connect with our Program Assistant.

Note that the HESA program is one of 3 academic programs in the Educational Policy and Leadership Studies (EPLS) department.

Application/Admission Process

  • Admissions Requirements
  • Additional Requirements for International Students
  • Application Process

Application Materials

  • GRE
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Resume/Curriculum Vitae
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Transcripts

General Admissions Information

  • GPA Below 3.0
  • Commitment Deadline
  • Admitted Student Backgrounds
  • Full-time and Part-time (M.A. & Ph.D)
  • Cohort Model
  • Admission Statistics

Campus Visit Day (CVD)

  • Dates
  • Itinerary
  • Costs

Visiting Campus (outside of visit day)

  • Available Dates
  • Itinerary
  • Scheduling a Visit
  • Cost

Financial Support

  • Funding Options
  • Quarter-time and Half-time Assistantships
  • Tuition and Fees

M.A. Assistantships

  • Requirements
  • Types
  • Number Available
  • Interviews
  • Student Contact
  • Research Positions (M.A.)

Ph.D. Assistantships

  • Research Assistantships
  • Pursuing Your Research Interests
  • Administrative Assistantships


  • Health Insurance
  • Professional Development Funds

Academic Notes

  • Residency Requirements
  • Online Options
  • Transfer Credits (Ph.D.)
  • M.A. Concentrations
  • Teaching Opportunities
  • Professional Development Opportunities

Living in Iowa

  • Moving to Iowa City
  • Weather/Seasons
  • Resources for Families
  • Supporting Multiple Identites

Application/Admission Process

Admission Requirements

All applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and the HESA program, including:

  • Minimum GPA of 3.0 (in both undergraduate and graduate work)
  • Completion of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation
  • Resume (or curriculum vitae, if applicable)
  • Personal statement explaining educational and career goals, as well as how your experiences align with the values of the HESA program
  • Evidence of significant leadership or work experience, writing ability, and fit with the program

These are general criteria; the admissions committee considers each applicant's entire portfolio. Applications are considered for fall admission only. Applicants will not be considered until they have submitted a complete application packet. The Office of Admissions maintains a website that details the requirements for admission to both the Graduate College and the EPLS department.

Additional Requirements for International Students

There are English proficiency requirements and a financial statement requirement. Additional details are available through Graduate Admissions.

Application Process

The University of Iowa Office of Admissions utilizes one standard application process for all graduate programs. The process is entirely online. The HESA program does not have a separate application beyond the Graduate Admissions application, although, HESA does have a specific prompt for your personal statement. Below is a step-by-step outline of the process. Additional information is available through Graduate Admissions.

  1. Go to the online application. Once you have created an application account you will be able to access the application.
  2. Create a New Application
  3. Part B. Admission Information
    • Department or Program: Educational Policy and Leadership Studies
    • Area of interest or specialization: Higher Education and Student Affairs
  4. Upon completion of your application sections, you will be required to submit and pay the application fee.
  5. Within 24 hours of completion, you will receive an email with additional information. This email includes instructions for submitting your supplemental materials, including references.
  6. You will also be given a Hawk ID and password. These can be utilized to access the Iowa Student Information System (ISIS). You can upload documents, check the status of application materials and track your application status through the Iowa Student Information System. Additional information is available through Graduate Admissions.
    • You will be asked to provide contact information for your references. Each reference will then be contacted by admissions with the reference form.
    • All documents must be uploaded as .pdf files

Application Materials


Minimum Scores

The GRE is required by the University of Iowa for admission to graduate programs. The HESA program does not have specific minimum scores. Students’ GRE scores are considered along with their other application documents. The range of GRE scores from the previous two years of admitted students includes:

MA 2013 Admitted Students

  • GRE Verbal: 142-169
  • GRE Quantitative: 137-164
  • GRE Writing: 2.5-5.5

MA 2014 Admitted Students

  • GRE Verbal: 141-162
  • GRE Quantitative: 137-162
  • GRE Writing: 3.0-6.0

PhD 2013 Admitted Students

  • GRE Verbal: 143-165
  • GRE Quantitative: 139-166
  • GRE Writing: 3.5-5.0

PhD 2014 Admitted Students

  • GRE Verbal: 146-164
  • GRE Quantitative: 138-161
  • GRE Writing: 3.5-5.5

GRE Influence on Admission

The GRE score is considered along with all other materials. Faculty utilize the GRE in conjunction with GPA, letters of recommendation, resume/curriculum vitae, and the personal statement to evaluate each candidate. Additionally, there are some funding opportunities that take the GRE into consideration.

GRE Deadlines

According to Education Testing Services (ETS), the GRE test administrator, scores are typically reported to institutions 10-15 days after the test. It is the student’s responsibility to plan adequately for scores to arrive in time. Additional information about GRE score reporting is available from ETS.

Old GRE Scores

The HESA program will accept official reports of GRE scores. ETS will report scores for five years from the test date. Please contact us with questions regarding scores outside of that timeframe.

Letters of Recommendation

Selecting References

Students should have at least one faculty member as a reference who can speak to the student’s academic capabilities. Additional recommendations may come from faculty, supervisors, advisors, or other professionals that are able to speak to your ability to be successful in the HESA program. The best references generally come from individuals that have direct, personal experience with the student. If you are not coming directly from another academic program, you are still encouraged to get a letter from a previous faculty member.

Submission Procedure

Applicants will provide contact information for their references. References will receive an email from admissions with information to submit their electronic references.

Submission Deadline

 It is the applicant’s responsibility to make certain that all of their materials are received by the application deadline. Applicants can track their materials through the Iowa Student Information System. Questions relating to the status of your materials can be directed to College of Education, Education Services Coordinator Sue Cline.

Resume / Curriculum Vitae

Students are encouraged to utilize the format most appropriate to your current experience. If you are uncertain which is best, a mentor or campus career center may be able to provide guidance in developing materials appropriate for graduate applications.

Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose should be 1-3 pages (single spaced) that includes an indication of specialization (PhD applicants) or track (MA applicants), professional and/or research interests, whether you plan to enroll full- or part-time, and how your goals and experiences are consistent with the HESA program’s mission and values.


You will submit official copies of transcripts from all institutions where you have completed courses. This includes two-year institutions, online courses, and any other institutions even if you did not graduate from the institution.

General Admissions Information

GPA Below 3.0

The program has the discretion to conditionally admit students with a previous GPA below 3.0. Additional information about conditional status is available through the Graduate College. Also, please contact Program Coordinator, Jodi Linley, with additional questions.

Commitment Deadline

The HESA program honors the Council of Graduate Schools April 15 common deadline. Students with funding offers (e.g. fellowship, assistantship, research assistantship) have until April 15 to notify graduate programs of their intent. Higher Education and Student Affairs programs across the country collectively agreed to honor the April 15 resolution and you should not receive pressure to accept an offer before that date. A student may choose to accept before April 15, but It is the student’s right to take the time needed to make this important decision.

Admitted Student Backgrounds

The HESA program, both M.A. and Ph.D., are comprised of diverse individuals with a variety of previous experiences. Both the M.A. and Ph.D. programs include full and part time students. The M.A. program includes students coming directly from undergrad, with a variety of majors and experiences; students returning to school after working full time; and students with a prior Master’s degree in another field.

The Ph.D. program has a strong preference for students with full-time work experiences, but it also includes students coming directly from Master’s programs. Students entering the Ph.D. program already have a graduate degree. Many of our students have previous degrees in Student Affairs, Higher Education, or a related field. We also have students with diverse educational backgrounds. It is not a requirement that previous graduate work be in one of these areas.

Full-time and part-time (M.A & Ph.D.)

The M.A. and Ph.D. programs both include full and part-time students. The balance differs from year to year. Typically, the M.A. cohorts are predominantly full-time students with a few part-time students. The balance within the Ph.D. program varies more substantially from year to year.

Cohort Model

The M.A. program, particularly the Student Affairs track, is based around a cohort model. Entering full time students will progress through the program and share classes with the same students for the two years that they are in the program. M.A. students in the Administration and Policy track often have courses with students outside of their entering cohort.

The Ph.D. program does not follow a cohort model. Students work with their advisors to design the academic plan that fits best with the student’s needs.

Admission Statistics

This year, the M.A. program received 80 applications with 33 students invited to Campus Visit Days. The 2015 entering cohort includes 16 students, with 5 students in the Administration and Policy track and 11 students in the Student Affairs track.

This year the Ph.D. program received 30 applications. We invited 18 students to Campus Visit Days, and 9 students make up the 2015 entering class (7 full-time and 2 part-time).

Campus Visit Day (CVD)


The HESA program holds separate Campus Visit Days for Ph.D. and M.A. students. The Ph.D. visit day will be March 3, 2017. The M.A. visit days will be March 2-3, 2017.


Campus Visit Days are students’ chance to get to know the HESA community, the University of Iowa, and the Iowa City community. The Ph.D. and M.A. CVDs are structured differently due to varying goals for CVD. Detailed schedules and additional information will be available for individuals invited to CVD. Invited students are strongly encouraged to attend CVD. If you apply for admission, please hold availability for the dates of CVD in case you receive an invitation.


There is no fee to attend Campus Visit Day. We will provide transportation from the Cedar Rapids Airport (code: CID) and have made arrangements for a discounted block of rooms at the on-campus hotel, the Iowa House Hotel. Students are responsible for the cost of traveling to Iowa City as well as the hotel cost and any meals outside the formal Campus Visit Day. Some current students open their homes to host new students, and each year there are a limited number of travel scholarships available.

Visiting Campus (outside of visit day)

We are happy to work with prospective students to arrange visits to campus throughout the year. We ask that students contact us a minimum of two weeks in advance for scheduling purposes.

Available Dates

During the summer months (May-August), visits will be scheduled on Fridays. During the academic year, visits can be scheduled Monday-Friday. A typical visit lasts approximately 2-3 hours.


When students do an individual campus visit, their schedule typically includes a program overview meeting, one or two faculty meetings, and an opportunity to meet with current students.

Scheduling a Visit

Please email us ( with the following information: name, degree of interest (PhD or MA), and your preferred date and time for visit. Please also share a bit about yourself (e.g. why you are interested in the program, academic background, research interests, MA track preference, related experience). Finally, please let us know if there are any additional offices or other information that we can provide beyond what’s included in a typical visit.


Prospective students are responsible for their own expenses during a campus visit. Typical expenses include parking, meals, and hotel accommodations. Prospective students that drive to campus are encouraged to park in the parking garage directly across from the Lindquist Center.

Financial Support

Funding Options

There are several funding options for graduate students, including: assistantships, scholarships, fellowships, personal funding, and student loans. There are a limited number of scholarships and fellowships available to students. Entering and current students might be eligible for university fellowships coordinated by the Graduate College. Consult with your advisor if you wish to be nominated for one of these fellowships. Students might also be eligible for nationally competitive fellowships. Each year, the Iowa Testing Programs award a limited number of full-ride fellowships to students with outstanding academic credentials in the College of Education. For information about these special graduate assistantships (SGA), contact the Iowa Testing Program early in the application process.

Most HESA M.A.* and Ph.D. students fund their education through graduate assistantships. Graduate assistantships at The University of Iowa are designed to provide students with work experience and the means to finance their education, while providing the University with the benefit of an innovative work force. Assistantships are closely related to specific departments or fields, and all require specific skills or aptitudes. Responsibilities often include student services, advising, programming, teaching, or administrative duties. In addition to assistantships in student affairs areas, students might be eligible to work for faculty members as research assistants if funds are available, or as teaching assistants in the department.

Additional information can also be found through the Graduate College.

*M.A. students in the Student Affairs track are required to hold an approved graduate assistantship. These graduate assistantships are not part of the COGS union collective bargaining agreement, and assistantship remuneration varies. Students admitted to the Student Affairs track work closely with the program to identify assistantships at approved sites.

Quarter-time and Half-time Assistantships

Assistantships provide valuable experience, open new career paths, and help finance your graduate education. Students may have a cumulative total of a half-time (20 hours per week) assistantship. Positions vary from quarter-time (10 hours per week) to half-time (20 hours per week) and may be appointed on a semester, academic-year (9 months), or fiscal year (12 months) basis. Students with a half-time appointment should not seek additional assistantships. Current rates (salary and tuition and fee scholarships) for graduate assistantships that honor the COGS union collective bargaining agreement* are available on the Office of the Dean's Finance Page.

*M.A. students in the Student Affairs track are exempt from the COGS union collective bargaining agreement and assistantship remuneration varies.

Tuition and Fees

Accurate information about tuition and fee rates can be found on the Office of the Registrar Tuition and Fees page. Select the appropriate session and select the Graduate College. Then under “Filter by Curricular College,” select the College of Education. Assistantship rates (salary and tuition scholarships) for graduate assistantships that honor the COGS union collective bargaining agreement are available on the Office of the Dean's Finance page.

All contract-covered employees appointed at quarter-time or more will receive one hundred percent (100%) tuition scholarship each semester based upon the Board of Regents resident graduate student tuition rate for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). All contract-covered employees appointed at quarter-time or more and assessed the College of Education tuition supplement will also receive a tuition scholarship for one hundred percent (100%) of the College of Education tuition supplement for fall and spring semesters. M.A. students in the Student Affairs track are exempt from the COGS union collective bargaining agreement and should review assistantship position descriptions for accurate information about remuneration.

M.A. Assistantships

Assistantship Requirements

Students in the Student Affairs track are required to have an approved assistantship or work at an approved site. Admission to the Student Affairs track is contingent upon securing an approved assistantship. Students in the Administration & Policy track are not required to have an assistantship.

Types of Available Assistantships

The availability of assistantships varies each year. Some common areas include: Residence Life, Fraternity and Sorority Life, Health and Wellness, and Center for Student Involvement and Leadership. This list is not all-inclusive, and is not a guarantee of particular availability. While additional positions sometimes become available later in the process, a list of available positions will be provided to individuals invited for Campus Visit Days.

Number of Available Assistantships

The number of available positions varies each year and will not be solidified until Campus Visit Days. Typically, the university has 10-12 available assistantships at approved sites.

Assistantship Interviews (M.A.)

During Campus Visit Days students will have the opportunity to interview for available assistantships. Following CVD, the program completes a matching process based upon student preference and supervisor rankings. Students will be offered one assistantship and have until April 15 to provide their acceptance.

Student Contact During Assistantships

The assistantships are intended to allow students to apply theory to practice. While there are not a required number of contact hours, most assistantships do involve substantive direct student interaction. Position descriptions will be provided with the list of available positions.

Research Positions (M.A.)

M.A. students may have the opportunity to join existing research teams. Typically, these are volunteer opportunities.

Ph.D. Assistantships

Students in the Ph.D. program obtain funding from a variety of sources. Ph.D. students have options for research assistantships, administrative assistantships, and some practitioner assistantships.

Research Assistantships

The program typically has several available research positions, however, position availability varies by year. Each of the program faculty is actively working on their research agenda and may have funding during any given year. Students can contact specific faculty to learn about opportunities.

Pursuing Your Research Interests

Students have many research opportunities. Some research assistantships may provide opportunities for students to explore their own interests. Additionally, students are invited to participate in other research teams of interest. Many class assignments and projects are also designed to become research papers or presentations. HESA students have a collaborative environment and often work together on research projects. Faculty within the HESA program has access to several data sources, which further enable students to explore research of interest.

Administrative Assistantships

There are several options for administrative positions including: HESA Program Assistant and EPLS Assistant. These individuals help with planning and coordinating events, communications, and the other tasks to help the program and department to run effectively.


Health Insurance

Students with at least a quarter-time assistantship receive graduate health insurance. Students have two options for their health care. Information about both plans is available through Human Resources.

Professional Development Funds

There are multiple avenues for professional development funding. The HESA program returns of a portion of student fees back to students in the form of professional development funds. In the spring, students apply for reimbursement of a portion of their expenses. Students also have access to funding through the College of Education, Graduate Student Senate, and the Graduate and Professional Student Government.

Academic Notes

Residency Requirement

Students must be enrolled as a full time student (9 semester hours minimum) in each of two semesters, or enroll for a minimum of 6 semester hours in each of three semesters.

Online Options

The HESA program is intended as an in-person program. Students will need to be present in Iowa City for completion of courses for both the M.A. and Ph.D. programs.

Transfer Credits (Ph.D.)

Students may transfer in 24 credit hours. Students will work with their advisors to identify, which courses will transfer to fill the 24 hours. Students with a Masters outside of student affairs/higher education may contact Program Coordinator, Jodi Linley, to discuss transferability of courses. 

M.A. Concentrations

The two M.A. concentrations share a common core of courses. Beyond the common core, the Administration and Policy students take: Finance in Higher Education, Organizational Theory & Administrative Behavior, Introduction to Public Policymaking, and an MA Project. Students in the Student Affairs concentration take: Introduction to Student Affairs; Helping Skills in Student Affairs; College Student Psychosocial & Identity Development; College Student Learning, Cognitive and Moral Development, and four one-credit professional seminars. Students in both concentrations then complete their required hours with elective courses.

Teaching Opportunities

There are opportunities for interested students to teach courses. Students in the M.A. program have opportunities to serve as teaching assistants for undergraduate courses with faculty in the program. Students in the Ph.D. program may serve as teaching assistants for undergraduate, M.A. and Ph.D. courses. These are generally not paid positions, but may count for teaching assistantship credit.

Professional Development Opportunities

Students in the HESA program have many opportunities for professional development. HESA students frequently present at state, regional, national, and international conventions and conferences. Several students also hold leadership positions in professional associations.

Living in Iowa

Iowa City is located near Coralville and North Liberty, Iowa. Students frequent all three areas for shopping, entertainment, and as living options. The Convention and Visitors Bureau has detailed information about shopping, attractions, events, etc.

Moving to Iowa City

The University provides a comprehensive guide to moving to Iowa City. The guide includes: maps, transportation information, housing resources, information about neighboring communities, and community services and organizations.


Iowa City gets all four seasons. During the winter it is common to get cold temperatures and snow. The summer, however, brings great warm weather.

Resources for Families

University Human Resources provides several options to support student parents including a childcare subsidy, exams childcare, and back-up childcare.

Supporting Multiple Identities

Information about identity-based communities and resources can be found on the Center for Diversity & Enrichment website and in the Office of Graduate Inclusion.