Ed.D. Community College Leadership

Our Ed.D. in Higher Education with a specialization in Community College Leadership is a 54-credit-hour program focused on developing the next generation of leaders in the community college environment. This online degree program is centered around an innovative, practice-based, problem-solving approach to knowledge development and research. A focus on social justice, equity and inclusion are foundational elements infused across our curriculum, which helps prepare you to serve the increasingly diverse community college student population. You'll move through our program as a cohort of fellow practitioners.

Real-world Learning

In our program, you'll enjoy a community of practitioners and scholars actively pursuing educational research. You'll engage in learning opportunities through coursework focused on theory-to-practice and inquiry-based educational practices.

Application Process

Our Higher Education Community College Leadership program admits students for summer only. Completed applications with all supporting credentials (including letters of recommendation) are due no later than March 1.

To apply for the program, you'll need to submit the following:

  • Completed application
  • Written statement of goals
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts
  • Current résumé/CV
  • No GRE required

Please note: Three years of higher education experience related to the community college context is required. Admission interviews may be requested with virtual and in-person options.

Completed applications with all supporting materials, including letters of recommendation, are due March 1.

Acceptance of Admissions

Once you have been admitted to the program you'll need to accept admission via MyNIU as well as respond to the department by the deadline indicated in your acceptance letter.


Due to limited space in all of our programs, applicants may be placed on a waiting list. If admitted students decline and spots open up, students on the waiting list will be offered a spot in the program on a rolling basis. If you have been waitlisted and have questions about the timeline or your prospects of being accepted into the program, please contact HESA academic counselor Danae Miesbauer at dmiesbauer@niu.edu.

Each new cohort begins its educational journey in the summer (only). Online asynchronous courses during the academic year, combined with a one-week, on-site intensive held on the NIU Naperville campus each summer, allow you to complete your coursework in 2 1/2 years. Your final project – a dissertation of practice – focuses on addressing real-world challenges in higher education and complex problems of practice. Your dissertation culminates in a research manuscript, which many of our graduates have published in peer-reviewed journals after graduation.

Future dates for the one-week face-to-face meeting at NIU Naperville:

  • June 10-14, 2024
  • June 9-13, 2025

Designed for higher education professionals seeking career advancement in various administrative positions across community colleges including student affairs, academic administration, enrollment management and operations. Our program is also ideal for those who teach or hold faculty positions at a community college.

Our Ed.D. program utilizes the Carnegie Project on the Educational Doctorate (CPED) framework to design a practitioner preparation program customized for working professionals. You'll move through a class sequence that uses inquiry of practice as a foundational element. Our approach begins with strategic, significant questions about complex problems of practice. You'll use research, the knowledge you've gained in the classroom and your own professional experience to inform the design of innovative solutions. In this model, you'll work in spaces where theory and practice inform and enrich each other, and where persistent problems within higher education are analyzed and addressed.

Our program provides you with opportunities to network, collaborate and learn with a small cohort of fellow practitioners. When you graduate, you'll join our strong alumni network which includes successful community college faculty and administrators throughout the region.

Online asynchronous courses in the Community College Leadership Ed.D. are taught sequentially in two eight-week blocks during fall and spring terms. During the summer, you'll take hybrid coursework that requires one week of face-to-face meetings at NIU Naperville. This week of full-day, in-person classes are typically held the second week of June.

Through the coursework, you'll learn about the administration of higher education; community college student needs and development; pedagogical innovations in student learning; public policy and financing in higher education; and strategic marketing and enrollment management.

Get more information. We encourage you to attend one of our information sessions (advertised on our website) or to set up a meeting with our academic counselor to learn more about our program.

Our faculty bring diverse experiences, backgrounds, scholarship and expertise from a variety of areas across higher education and student affairs.

  • Students will develop a professional knowledge base guided by literature, theories, and research.
  • Students will apply theory-to-practice models to problems of practice.
  • Students will develop collaboration and communication skills to engage with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Students will analyze topics related to social justice, equity, and ethics in post-secondary contexts.
  • Students will utilize inquiry-based practices to explore programs, practices, and/or problems in post-secondary contexts.

Ed.D. in Higher Education Specialization in Community College Leadership
Summer Term Fall Term Spring Term
Year 1
  • HESA 770: The Administration of Higher Education
  • HESA 751: Community College Students
  • HESA 771: Legal Aspects in Higher Education
  • HESA 720- Review of Research in Higher Education (Intro to Ed Research)
  • HESA 772: Financing of Higher Education
  • HESA 757: Seminar in Higher Education Outcomes (Intro to Quant)
Year 2
  • HESA 555: Seminar in Community Colleges 
  • HESA 704: Strategic Marketing and Enrollment Management 
  • HESA 740: Pedagogical Innovations and Student Learning 
  • HESA 700: Seminar in Higher Ed and Student Affairs (Intro to Qual)
  • HESA 575: Public Policy Studies in Higher Education 
  • HESA 710: Evaluating Higher Education Programs
Year 3
  • HESA 721: Applied Research Design in Higher Education 
  • HESA 798: Research Seminar in Higher Education 

HESA 799: Dissertation of Practice

Note: HESA 799 is a variable credit course offered in fall and spring terms. Minimum of 12 credits required to graduate. Dissertations of practice may take two to five terms depending on topic and data collection timeline. Students should be aware that faculty are off contract over the summer; students are encouraged to do independent work to keep their dissertation project moving forward..

Each cohort will move through the program together taking online asynchronous courses which are taught sequentially in two eight-week blocks during fall and spring terms. During the summer, you'll take hybrid coursework that requires one week of face-to-face meetings at NIU Naperville. This week of full-day, in-person classes are typically held the second week of June. Dissertations of practice are the culminating research project for this program.

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"I was looking for a program that worked with adult working students, but provided rigor and a nationally known program with faculty that focused on the student's research interests - including a focus on community college leadership - at a reasonable cost. I kept coming back to NIU as meeting all the criteria, and I loved that there was a residency week to work and learn together with my cohort of classmates." Jenifer Montag, Ed.D., Community College Leadership, '22, Director of Disability Services, Marion Technical College

Contact Us

Danae Miesbauer
Academic Counselor
Department of Counseling and Higher Education

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