An Online Master's Degree for Higher Education & Student Affairs Leadership /  Administration

This online Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership (HESAL) Master of Arts degree combines collaborative, interactive online learning with practical field experience under the mentorship of experienced higher education and student affairs leaders.

Our faculty promote an educational environment that values diverse perspectives, inclusivity and social justice.

What You Will Learn

This online program features a practitioner-scholar model, individualized mentoring and advising, and coursework that connects theory, research, and practice.

The master's degree will provide you with the student affairs skills to...

  • Apply NASPA/ACPA Professional Competencies and relevant theory 
  • Assess student affairs learning outcomes
  • Incorporate social justice

100% Higher Education Focus

Some programs only incorporate a portion of specialized higher education coursework as part of a broad educational leadership (or organizational leadership) program. The coursework for this master's degree is focused solely on higher education and student affairs.

Career Success for Changing, Diverse Higher Education Environments

Upon completion of this program, you will be prepared for a variety of professional roles in student affairs and college administration, including student support services, academic careers and policy work.

Whether you want to advance your existing career or transition to higher education, you will finish this degree with the skills to be an effective student affairs professional who drives student and institutional success that is rooted in equity and social care.

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You will complete the program in a cohort model, finishing in two years with students who start the program with you.

  • You will take two academic courses each term, including Summer.
  • Each course will feature a synchronous learning session (where the professor and students meet online at the same time) every other week, which means you will meet online once a week.
  • You will take three total credits to facilitate field experiences (completed at your current institution if you are employed in the field, or we will help you arrange opportunities near you). These credits can be spread out over multiple terms.

This program allows for enrollment flexibility. If you have to miss a course or term, you will have options to adapt your course of study to reach graduation.

Coursework (39 Credit Hours)

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

Required Courses (30 Credit Hours)

Required Elective Courses (9 Credit Hours)


Comprehensive Exam

You will complete a comprehensive exam that will be a reflection of your semesters spent in the program and what you would like to achieve professionally after graduation. The exam will be available to you on the first day of the semester you begin and you will be encouraged to work on it throughout your time as a student.


All coursework for the program must be completed with a grade of "B-" or better. Note: the most popular elective courses were selected for delivery in this online program. For full details, see the official program listing in the UNC Graduate Catalog.

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