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Educational Leadership Graduate Programs with Principal Licensure – Online Program For Rural Leadership

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The online program for rural educators begins each Fall term.

More about the Rural Leadership Delivery Option

This program is designed primarily for, but not limited to, aspiring leaders in rural school districts, and the curriculum has been tailored to address the challenges faced by rural schools. An online delivery and a program design that incorporates interactive learning sessions was chosen so that educators outside of the most populated areas could come together in a highly collaborative, targeted program.

All coursework is completed entirely online in four consecutive terms (Fall, Spring, Summer, Fall). All students will need to complete a comprehensive at-home exam prior to graduation.

To see a typical list of courses per term, visit an example Current Program Students page.

The program coordinators can help you determine which online delivery option best fits your needs.

Synchronous Learning Sessions

Each course will include synchronous learning sessions where the professor and students meet online at the same time. These sessions are tentatively planned for most Mondays and Thursdays from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. MT. Students will have input on session scheduling.

Program Coordinator

Spencer Weiler, PhD

Application Deadline

Applications are accepted until July 1 each year for the Fall start, but this online program is capped at 15-20 students each year and often fills up by mid-summer. Please contact Dr. Weiler about available space.

Applicants for Online Programs: please be sure to check your eligibility by state of residence.

The Application Process

You will apply to the program and then submit additional materials (International students: please read additional instructions further below).

  1. Apply to the UNC Graduate School. On the application, for Academic Program of Interest choose the appropriate option below based on the program you need:
    1. Educational Leadership-MA (Extended Campus)
    2. Educational Leadership-EDS (Extended Campus)
    3. Teacher Licensure: Principal (K-12) (Extended Campus)
  2. The ELPS website has additional information about other required application materials that you will submit in the online application system once you have completed your graduate school application:
    1. On the program page, choose either Master of Arts (MA); Ed. Specialist (EdS); or Principal/Admin
    2. Then on the next page, choose Application Requirements

Once you apply to the UNC Graduate School and the ELPS program and your application packet is complete, your application will be reviewed by the graduate school then sent to the faculty/program for an admission decision. A completed application typically takes four to six weeks to process.

International Students

All international (non-U.S. citizen) applicants should mark Yes for "Are you an international student?" at the beginning of the graduate application process. In addition to any application steps listed above, you will also need to prepare the following for your application:

  • Demonstration of Language proficiency – either a Qualifying test score (TOEFL IBT: 80, IELTS: 6.5, PTE-A: 60) or a petition for exemption. UNC's institutional code for TOEFL is 4074.
  • Copy of passport bio page**
  • Financial Documentation** – we will need to verify that you can financially cover the estimated costs (tuition, fees, room, board, insurance, books, supplies, travel) of the time you will be in the U.S. Those applying to programs that last longer than 1 year will only need to provide proof for the first year at the time of application.

** = Items marked with ** are only required for applicants who will be coming to the United States.

For more information about UNC International Admissions and the UNC Center for International Education, please visit the International Admissions site, email grad.school@unco.edu, or call 970-351-2831.


Credits Required:
Licensure-only: 27
MA or EdS Degree with Licensure: 30
Time to Completion:
15-20 months - Varies by delivery location
$555/credit hour

Delivery Options:

Visit the UNC Online Learning section What is it Like Being a UNC Online Student? Learn More

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What Students Say

"The rural cohort has been an excellent way for me to collaborate with so many other professionals in my field of study. Though our setting is non-traditional, 21st Century technology works seamlessly for all of us to "gather" during a time that works best for us."

– Kimberly Ehnes, Graduate

Lois Oestreich headshot photo
"UNC's ELPS program is one of the best I've seen on many levels and it has been a pleasure to be involved with an amazing group of students and faculty!"

– Lois Oestreich, Graduate

"I was nervous about how the technology would work, and I did have some glitches to start out, but I had excellent support from my professors and extremely helpful technical support from the help-line to solve the problem."

– Jennifer Ellsperman, Graduate

Lois Oestreich headshot photo
"What I appreciate most about the course of study is how relevant I find it. Often, I can take what I'm learning and directly apply it to the work I'm currently doing."

– Katie Baldassar