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The program prepares students for positions in higher education administration, student development, non-profit higher education associations, and government organizations. Today's higher education professionals are required to address both the needs of incoming traditionally aged students, as well as those of older students returning for a degree and special populations. The wide range of student backgrounds in the current complex context requires a holistic approach to college student development.

This master of arts degree in Higher Education and Student Development will prepare future higher education leaders who understand higher education in the digital age, student development, multicultural and diverse populations, program development, professionalism, and learning assessment. This multidisciplinary program offers both thesis and project capstone options and is full and part-time student friendly. Alumni hold positions in areas such as career development, academic advising, assessment, facilities management, admissions, and residence life.


Applicants to all graduate programs at George Mason University must meet the admission standards and application requirements for graduate study as specified in Graduate Admissions. For specific information, see Application Requirements and Deadlines on the departmental website.


For policies governing all graduate degrees, see AP.6 Graduate Policies.

Transfer Credit

Courses applied to the degree are subject to the following restrictions: a maximum of 6 credits may be taken through the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area; a maximum of 15 credits may be transfer credits; a maximum of 6 of the transfer credits may be from other accredited institutions.

Transfer credits include credits taken before first enrolling as an admitted degree-seeking student (at another institution, in another Mason graduate program, or in Mason non-degree status) or credits taken at another institution after admission to the degree program through study abroad or study elsewhere (which requires prior written approval of the director and the dean). Additional information may be found in AP.6.5.3 Transfer of Credit.

Banner Code: LA-MA-HESD

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 36

Core Courses

HE 605Learning Assessment3
HE 606Diversity in Higher Education3
HE 610Research Designs in Higher Education3
HE 621Higher Education in the United States3
HE 644Management and Administration of Student Services in Higher Education3
HE 646Student Development Theory3
HE 685Practicum3
HE 703Higher Education in the Digital Age3
Total Credits24

Capstone Requirement

Students may choose a thesis option or portfolio option as described below. Electives can be taken outside of HE courses and should be selected in consultation with the advisor.

Thesis Option

Students selecting the thesis option will complete the course work below. In addition to HE 799 Higher Education Thesis, students will take an additional research methods course, a research apprenticeship, and one elective.

One additional research methods course offered at Mason with approval of an advisor.3
HE 785Research Apprentice3
Select 3 credits of electives3
HE 799Higher Education Thesis (3 credits required) 13
Total Credits12

Portfolio Option

Students who select the portfolio option will also complete three electives (9 credits) approved by the advisor.

Select 9 credits of electives9
HE 797Higher Education Portfolio3
Total Credits12