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Economics and Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Economics and Education

In the Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis

Degrees > Degree Programs

Degree Programs

Economics is a powerful tool for scholars and educational practitioners who wish to develop a better understanding of educational institutions and decisions. The program in Economics and Education at Teachers College was one of the first of its kind and has maintained its position of leadership in this rapidly growing field.

Graduates hold teaching positions in university and college faculties, and administrative or research positions in a variety of settings, including foundations, government departments, and international agencies. Increasingly, schools and universities are appointing economists with a special appreciation of educational goals and procedures to conduct institutional research. Some have gone into private business.

Students in the program develop an array of skills in the application of economic concepts and theory, in benefit-cost analysis and other evaluative procedures, and in the statistical treatment of mass data. Within broad college and university guidelines, students may pursue individually designed programs that satisfy their unique interests and career objectives.

With the help of an academic advisor, students select courses from those offered within the program of economics and education and supplement these with courses outside the department, including courses offered in other schools of Columbia University.

Master of Arts in Economics and Education (ECON)

The objective of the 32-point Program in Economics and Education is to equip educational professionals and policy-makers with the skills required for the effective design and implementation of educational policy. The program has a strong emphasis on the financial, managerial, and developmental challenges facing educational institutions in developing countries and economies in transition.

The program can be completed within one year and is highly focused to accommodate the demands of promising professionals and policy-makers. The course of study is designed to convey the lessons of educational research and practice as well as management science through the intensive study of actual educational policy successes and failures. The curriculum of the program assumes that students possess some measure of intellectual maturity and exposure to the problems of educational policy-making.

The program begins in September and concludes in August of the following year. It consists of two semesters and a summer session.

The curriculum of the program aims to:

  • build students’ technical competence in the basic tools of educational management and policy making;
  • provide the academic and professional environment for students to apply these skills; and
  • educate students about the global educational landscape, including current thinking on educational reform and the financing of education.

In order to achieve these goals, the program begins in September with an intensive two-semester session in which students are taught skills that are essential building blocks for their career development. The program is skills-oriented and students will be asked to take courses in three topics: economic analysis and research skills, statistical tools for policy-makers, and management skills for educational policy. In addition to these three topics, students, in collaboration with their faculty advisor, will design their own programs of study in five areas of concentration:

Economic and Financial Policy Analysis in Education:

This concentration covers the fundamentals of cost-benefit analysis in education, fiscal accountability, and the principles and practice of financial educational policy.

Human Capital and Labor Markets:

The various impacts of human capital on labor market outcomes are studied in this concentration. Methods of estimating rates of return to education are examined, and case studies on the demand for education are presented. 

Education and Economic Development:

Current trends and challenges facing international educational development are discussed in this concentration. It offers a cross-national, comparative analysis of school finance and the role of education on economic development.

Privatization and the Governance of Educational Systems:

This concentration provides a comprehensive discussion of alternative governance systems in education and their impact on student achievement and other educational outcomes. Decentralization, school choice, and vouchers are discussed, among others.

Economics and Finance of Higher Education:

This concentration focuses on the analysis of higher education institutions and the financing of tertiary education, including coverage of cost recovery in higher education institutions, community colleges, financial aid, and equity issues.

A student may also pursue a Master of Arts program in Economics and Education, without a concentration in Educational Policy. The student will design that program under the guidance of the academic advisor.

MA Worksheet

Master of Education in Economics and Education (ECON)

This 60-point program is intended for individuals interested in the applications and practices in the economics of education. The program is flexible and is designed by the student, under the guidance of the academic advisor.

Please note: It is strongly recommended that applicants have a graduate degree in a related field prior to applying to the Master of Education (M.E./Ed.M.) program.

Doctor of Philosophy in Economics and Education (ECON)

This 75-point program is intended for individuals who want to acquire advanced training in the theory, methods, and practices in the economics of education. It is a selective program to prepare individuals for leadership roles in teaching, research, or administrative settings.

The coursework for this program consists of three parts: core courses, courses in research methods, and courses in a specialized area of study, such as higher education, early childhood education, field experimentation, or a regional focus.

PhD Worksheet