PhD in Public Policy

Frequently Asked Questions


What do I need to submit to apply?
Please visit this link for a list of complete admission requirements and instructions:
Admissions Information

What is the direct link to the online USM Application to Graduate Study?
The link to the application can be found here:

What is the application deadline?
The deadline is April 1, 2016
. This means the application and all supporting materials must meet this deadline. 

Do I have to submit all the application materials at once, or can I submit them separately?
You can submit the materials separately, but it is up to you to make sure that everything is submitted  by the application deadline of Friday, April 1, 2016.

If you submit items separately, please be sure that your name is clearly marked on your items.

To what address do I mail the materials?
All application materials must be submitted to:

Application Processing Center
University of Maine System
P.O. Box 412
Bangor, ME 04402-0412

Electronic transcripts and other application materials can be emailed to:

Do I have to submit transcripts from institutions that I did not graduate from?
Yes, you must submit official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended, excluding the seven campuses of the University of Maine system. A transcript is official when it comes directly from the institution. If an applicant is submitting an official transcript, it must be in a sealed envelope from the institution indicating that it is an official document. If the envelope has been opened prior to arriving at the Office of Admissions, it is no longer considered an official transcript.

Any degree awarding transcript not from USM that shows transfer credit, will require you to submit an official transcript from the institution where the transfer credit was initially received.

Do I need to submit my transcripts if I attended a University of Maine System school?
No, Admissions will pull your transcripts from within the UMS campuses if after 1985.

Are there testing requirements?
The GRE is required. Applicants must have earned a score of either 1,000 points or above (for tests taken before 9/1/2011) or 300 or above (for tests taken on or after 9/1/2011) on the combined Verbal and Quantitative subtests of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

If an applicant is an international student whose first language is not English, the following testing is required: Submit official TOEFL scores of 550 or higher on the paper-based test, 79 or higher on the Internet-based test, or 213 or higher on the computer-based test, or official IELTS scores of 6.5 or higher. International students who have received their undergraduate or graduate degree from an English-speaking institution may apply for a waiver of this requirement.

I am an international student. Are there any other items I need to submit?
International students should check this website for additional instructions:

What are the essay questions?
The essay questions are as follows:

1. Describe your professional background and goals. How does the Ph.D. in Public Policy: Concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy fit with these and what makes you a good candidate for this program? (500 words)

2. Identify an education policy and describe it. What research evidence is there related to the policy’s impact, and how might you design further research to investigate the policy’s impact? (750 words)

If you submit your essays separate from your online application, please be sure that your name is clearly stated on the document.

Please clearly state the essay question that you are answering.

The online application says that I am required to submit three letters of reference, but I only need two. Help!?
Only two letters of recommendation are required; however, the online application has space for three letters of recommendation. The program will review three letters of recommendation if you provide three. If you only wish to submit the required two letters of recommendation, you will need to input some information for the third recommender. I suggest you use "Not Applicable" for the name and (a fake email address) for an email address in order to proceed with the online application.

How are letters of reference submitted?
Recommendations are easily submitted using the  online application form. You will need to provide the name and email address for each of your recommenders during the application process. Once you submit your application, an email will be automatically generated to your recommenders directing them to fill out the electronic letter of recommendation.

References should be from individuals who are qualified, through direct experience with your academic or professional work.  One of these individuals should be your supervisor.  Your supervisor and the other person writing a letter of reference on your behalf should comment on your qualities and experience as an educational leader and/or your ability to undertake doctoral level graduate study.

Who else can I use as a reference, if I currently don’t have a supervisor?
If you currently don’t have a supervisor, then we suggest that you use a reference from a previous supervisor or an academic advisor from your previous master’s degree program.

Will I be able to transfer in prior coursework?
No.  Those admitted will be expected to take all courses with the cohort..

What happens after I complete my application? Will there be an interview? How will I know if I am accepted?
Once your application is complete, it will be delivered to the program and prepared for the committee's review. The committee will begin the review process after the April 1 deadline.

Selected applicants will be invited for an interview. The program will contact these applicants to schedule an interview.

All applicants will be notified of their status in writing by Graduate Admissions when the final selections have been made. We expect to notify candidates by June 30, 2016.

I was recently accepted into a Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) program, but I want to transfer into the Ph.D. program. What do I do?
You cannot transfer into the Ph.D. program. You will need to apply to the Ph.D. program. Your acceptance into a CAS program at USM does not mean that you will be automatically accepted into the Ph.D. program.

You will need to submit a new online application. You cannot use the "Re-application" form found on the Office of Admissions website.

You should contact the Office of Admissions to see if they still have your transcripts on file. If they do, then you do not have to resubmit your transcripts.

How do I contact Admissions?
Admissions can be reached at 207-780-4386 or

General Program Questions

Would this Ph.D. be a good fit for me?
The Ph.D. in Public Policy with a concentration in educational leadership and policy is designed for working professionals with experience and interest in educational leadership who wish to attain a doctorate.

Is there going to be a focus on K-12 educators or will higher education also be included?
We are looking for a diverse cross-section of applicants across the spectrum of K-12 and higher education.

Will this program lead to teaching/principal/superintendent certification?
The Ph.D. program will not give you the course work that you need to become certified as a teacher, principal, superintendent or any other school administrator in the state of Maine.

What is a “cohort-based program model”?
Only a small group of candidates will be selected to begin the program this fall. Those students will progress through the program and take all courses together over the next three years and will aim to complete the program at the same time.

Who will be on the dissertation committees? Will outside professionals be invited to participate?
The dissertation committees will consist of a combination of University of Southern Maine faculty members affiliated with the School of Education and the Muskie School of Public Service. Outside professionals will be considered as appropriate.

Curriculum & Enrollment Questions

What is the program of study?
See the link “About the concentration” for the three-year schedule of courses.

How/when will the courses be offered?
Students will take two courses each semester for a total of four courses during the school year (September - May) and two courses during the summer for a total of 18 credits per year. The final course schedule will be developed after students have been admitted, so the program can be best designed to fit the students’ needs.  However, students can expect to have class one evening per week and approximately one Saturday per month throughout the academic year.  During the summer, courses will be compressed with one or two weeks of intensive study.

See the link “About the concentration” for the three-year schedule of courses.

What is the mode of delivery for courses?
This is a face-to-face program.  There are no online courses in the program.  At their own discretion, individual instructors may include online components, including the option to attend class a distance.

Who will be teaching the courses?
The courses will be taught by a combination of University of Southern Maine faculty members affiliated with the School of Education and the Muskie School of Public Service.

Can I take a course before applying to the program?
Sadly, no. You need to be accepted into the program in order to enroll in a course.

Financial Questions

Where can I find the most up-to-date tuition rates and fees information?
Student Financial Services lists the current tuition and fees on their website.

What is the estimated cost of one course in the program?
Currently, the cost of tuition is $380.00 per credit hour for in-state graduate level courses. Each course is typically 3 graduate credits. Therefore, the cost of tuition for one course is approximately $1,140.00. Additional fees will apply, including transportation and unified fees. Please note that tuition has remained the same for 2015-2016, but may increase in later years.

What is the estimated total cost of the program?
The program will consist of 45 graduate credit hours. The rough estimate of the total tuition cost for the program is around $17,000.00 for in-state students. Typically, tuition costs are adjusted every year. Additional fees will apply, including transportation and unified fees.

Will there be assistantships and/or scholarships available?
Currently, there are no scholarship funds or assistantships specifically designated for this Ph.D. program concentration;.

Will I be able to finance my education with student loans?
Graduate students commonly obtain unsubsidized loans to assist with their expenses. Half-time students (those taking at least six graduate credit hours per semester) are usually eligible for loans to cover tuition, books, and assist with living expenses.

Who do I contact for more information about the program?

Kimberly Warren, Director of Academic Administration
School of Education and Human Development
College of Management and Human Service


(REV 11.23.2015)