PhD in Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies (HELPS)

Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies (HELPS) |

Thank you for your interest in the Ph.D. program in Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies (HELPS) at Howard University.

HELPS is a 72 credit hour program that is designed to prepare the next generation of educational leaders for the staffing, administration, and management positions for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). To this end, one function of the HELPS program is to prepare scholars to serve in capacities of leadership (e.g., college presidents, provosts, and vice presidents) at MSIs. Coursework will cover responsibilities associated with the college and university presidency, fundraising in higher education, board and community relations, accreditation, contemporary issues in higher education, and ethics in decision-making. Course related activities (e.g., guest lectures and workshops from MSI presidents and other administrative leaders) will provide students with salient insight into effective higher education leadership for MSIs in general and HBCUs specifically. Another feature of this program will be the collaborative opportunities with policy and higher education organizations in the Washington, D.C. area. Students will have opportunities to engage policymakers and practitioners while identifying the relationship between education policy and higher education operations. 

The HELPS program will also prepare students to become policy advocates for MSIs. Currently, when critical policy conversations occur in educational contexts, few individuals have a thorough background on MSIs, limiting their ability to discuss how policy impacts these institutions. This was particularly evident after changes were made to the Parent PLUS loan. Once promulgated, many first-generation, low-income students, a population serviced by HBCUs, were forced to drop out of college. Student dropout rates had a devastating impact on the financial stability of many HBCUs, particularly small private HBCUs. In addition to the identification of the two critical foci (i.e., leadership development and policy advocacy), the HELPS program will prepare students for other careers in higher education (i.e., faculty members and researchers). 

The organizations listed below have underscored the need for a Ph.D.  program like HELPS that provides an authentic and intentional focus on the lived realities and complexities of Minority-Serving Institutions:

  •  U.S Department of Education; 
  •  The United Negro College Fund; 
  •  White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities;
  •  American Council on Education; 
  •  American Public-Land Grant Universities; 
  •  National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education
  •  Excelencia

The Inaugural Cohort of the HELPS Program is comprised of the following:

  • 14 students with various academic backgrounds in Higher Education, Student Affairs, Educational Psychology, and other fields
  • These future leaders of higher education in general and Minority-Serving Institutions specifically aim to become college  presidents, executive administrators, students affairs professionals, and faculty members
  • While many of the cohort members are interested in studying HBCUs, several are interested in HSIs, AANAPISIs, TCUs, and PBIs
  • While severval cohort members are working full-time, some have graduate assistantship positions on campus and at one our policy partners- UNCF, ACE, and Excelencia, and Ed Trust


Dr. Robert T. Palmer

Department Chair
(202) 806-7342

Kyndra Middleton

Director of Graduate Studies
(202) 806-7342

Menbere Endale

Administrative Coordinator
(202) 806-7342

Program Details

  • Related Degrees: Ph.D.
  • Program Frequency: Full-Time
  • Format: In Person

Caution to Prospective Students

The Board of Trustees of Howard University on September 24, 1983, adopted the following policy statement regarding applications for admission: "Applicants seeking admission to Howard University are required to submit accurate and complete credentials and accurate and complete information requested by the University. Applicants who fail to do so shall be denied admission. Enrolled students who as applicants failed to submit accurate and complete credentials or accurate and complete information on their application for admission shall be subject to dismissal when the same is made known, regardless of classification."

Flowchart of journey through the HELPS PhD program