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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

M.A. Program

M.A. Program

Program Objectives

The main objective of the Program in Economics and Education, with a specialization in Educational Policy 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 policy challenges facing educational institutions.

The Program is relatively brief and highly focused to accommodate the demands of promising professionals and policymakers. 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 assumes that students possess some measure of intellectual maturity and exposure to the problems of educational policy making.

The Curriculum

The Economics and Education program with a specialization in Educational Policy is a 32-credit program and it 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
  • educate students about the latest thinking on educational reform policies 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 basic skills and design an individualized study program on the basis of their career plans and interests. This is followed by a summer session in which students will apply the knowledge acquired during the academic year in a master's project.

The program is skills-oriented and students will be asked to take courses in:

Economic Analysis and Research Skills. A course on microeconomic analysis and a second one on research design are required. On the basis of these courses, the student will design and write his or her own project (called integrative project), a requirement of the master's program.

Statistical Tools for Policymakers. One course will be required to develop skills in data analysis and measurement in education.

Management Skills for Educational Policy. A course will be required on the basic skills and tools used for the effective management of public and private-sector institutions and the efficient implementation of educational policy, including management information systems.

In addition to these four courses, students -in collaboration with their faculty advisor-- will design their own programs of study in five areas of concentration.

Concentration Areas

At the core of the program curriculum is a set of five concentrations. Students can choose one of these concentrations as their plan for study and research.

1. Economic and Financial Policy Analysis in Education

This concentration covers the fundamentals of economic and financial analysis in education. Relying heavily upon concrete examples and practices, it provides a comprehensive discussion of the basic economic theory as well as the practice of financial educational policy. Applications are based on both the experience of the United States and that of various countries in the world. The following topics are covered in this concentration:

  • Alternative Approaches to Financing Education
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis of Education Projects
  • The Economics of Taxation and Public Finance in Education
  • Fiscal Accountability in Educational Institutions
  • Equity in the Financing of Schools and Higher Education

2. Human Capital and Labor Markets

The various impacts of human capital on labor market outcomes are studied in this concentration. Employment and income effects of education are discussed. Methods of estimating rates of return to education are examined, and differences in rates of return by educational level (elementary, secondary and higher education), area of study, gender, race and ethnicity, etc. are discussed. Case studies and the latest empirical research on the connections between technological changes and the demand for human capital are presented. The following topics are examined:

  • The Economics of Human Capital Accumulation
  • Estimating Rates of Return to Education
  • The Teacher Labor Market and Compensation Analysis in Education
  • On-the-Job Training and Workforce Development
  • Technology, the New Knowledge Economy and Its Labor Market Impact

3. Education and Economic Development

This concentration focuses on current trends and challenges facing international educational development. It offers a cross-national, comparative analysis of educational finance policies in the world. Case studies and research from high-income as well as developing nations is used to specify the role of education in the process of economic growth and development. The following topics are examined:

  • The Effects of Human Capital on the Economic Growth of Nations
  • Education and its Impact on Income Inequality
  • The Social and Private Returns to Education
  • The Role of the World Bank and Multilateral Organizations
  • Alternative Policies for Financing Education in Developing Countries

4. Privatization and the Governance of Educational Systems

Privatization and decentralization of school systems have been on the agenda of many school systems all over the world. This concentration provides a comprehensive discussion of alternative governance systems in education and their impact on student achievement and other educational outcomes. Using case studies of the United States and other countries, the following topics are emphasized:

Private versus Public Roles in Educational Policy Reforms

  • Comparative Costs and Performance of Private versus Public Schools and Universities
  • Alternative Management Systems and Their Effects
  • School Choice, Vouchers and their Impact on Student Performance
  • Decentralization and School Governance Policies

5. Economics and Finance of Higher Education

This concentration focuses on the analysis of higher education institutions and the financing of tertiary education. It offers a state-of-the-art coverage of trends and challenges in the economics and finance of higher education policy. The following topics are considered:

  • Cost Analysis of Higher Education Institutions
  • Community Colleges and Access to Higher Education
  • Tuition, Fees and Cost Recovery in Colleges and Universities
  • Financial Aid and Equity Issues
  • Higher Education Policies and the Impact of Research and Development on Economic Growth