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Public and Social Policy, Ph.D.

Saint Louis University’s public and social policy doctoral program prepares you to work in academic and leadership roles in government, universities, research and public service organizations to tackle some of the biggest problems of our times, including poverty, urban renewal, racial and ethnic inequality, and health disparities.

About the Program

SLU’s Ph.D. in public and social policy provides you with multiple disciplinary perspectives, advanced methodological skills, and the ability to conduct original research in an academic or applied setting. Whether you choose to shape public policy practice, tackle the challenges of cities in crisis or make an impact on international development, the Ph.D. in public and social policy provides the necessary tools to make a real difference.

Six Concentrations

There are six concentrations available within SLU’s doctoral program in public and social policy, each with diverse classes and research opportunities.

Public Administration

Public administration is concerned with how governments are organized, how policies are developed and implemented, and the political reality that citizens encounter daily. This concentration helps students acquire proficiency in management principles and techniques, research and evaluation skills, and the analysis of social, economic and political behavior.

Urban and Community Development Policy

The concentration in urban and community development policy prepares students to address the challenges facing people Western societies and newly developing countries. It focuses on the process of city building and all the economic and political conditions involved in the development of urban areas. This concentration allows students to explore the dimensions of urban and community change and social justice from a diverse set of perspectives, including urban ecology, demography and immigration.

International Development Policy

This concentration addresses the challenges of international development, including persistent poverty, global differences in development, urban growth in the developing world, racial and ethnic inequality, trade and economic development strategies, and political challenges. Students study the development of the state as the dominant form of political organization in the contemporary world and the role it plays in economic development, political competition and international relations.

Health Policy

Students interested in all dimensions of health policy, whether in the United States or internationally, will profit from the health policy concentration. They will explore legislative health policy, health care organization, health economics and health disparities.

Policy and Geospatial Analysis

This concentration prepares you to work with big data and geospatial statistics to address applied social and public policy questions at the local, national and global level. It focuses on three burgeoning areas of knowledge: geographic information science in e-government; accountability, ethics, the law and spatial data; and integrated decision support and spatial science.

Students create spatial data and develop spatial methodologies; interpret advanced spatial statistics; write statistical programs for spatial analysis; create complex and creative visual analytics; and offer scientific spatial analysis for public policy challenges.

Law, Crime, and Policy

This concentration is designed to produce academic scholars and leaders in public policy and applied settings. It combines leading-edge social science methods with the disciplines of political science, sociology, law and criminology.

Students who choose this concentration gain the knowledge and methodological skills to conduct policy-relevant research. They also have the opportunity to work with agencies to address contemporary issues related to law and crime.

Program Highlights

SLU’s public and social policy students engage in community-based projects and interact with faculty and each other through a student planning organization, annual one-day retreat and research colloquia.

Curriculum and Program Details

SLU’s doctoral degree in public and social policy requires 33 hours of graduate courses above previous master's-level work and 12 hours of dissertation credit.

You can choose whether to enroll in the program as a part-time or full-time student. Most courses are offered in the evening to accommodate both the part-time and full-time programs.

All students complete seven courses:

  • Policy Evaluation and Assessment
  • Qualitative Research
  • Regression Analysis and Nonlinear Models
  • Introduction to GIS
  • Policy Process
  • Public Finance Theory
  • A core class specific to the area of concentration

You’ll complete 12 additional hours in your area of concentration, selected in cooperation with your mentor and the program director. You must also register for 12 hours of dissertation research.

From the time you enter the public and social policy program, you’ll participate in a research pro-seminar, which meets monthly. Participation is required throughout your time in the program, and credit will be given once the dissertation is defended.

Other public and social policy program requirements include a written exam after you’ve completed the seven core courses and an oral dissertation defense.

  • J.D. Bowen, Ph.D.
  • Ellen Carnaghan, Ph.D.
  • Richard Colignon, Ph.D.
  • Robert Cropf, Ph.D.
  • James Gilsinan, Ph.D.
  • Hisako Matsuo, Ph.D.
  • Dan Monti, Ph.D.
  • Onésimo Sandoval, Ph.D.
Alumni from SLU’s public and social policy program have gone on to become leaders in the private and public sectors, excelling in such areas as business, commerce, governmental affairs, health and human services, criminal justice and academia.
Tuition and Fees

Saint Louis University takes pride in being one of Barron's Best Buys in College Education and Kiplinger's Best Values in Private Colleges.

For information regarding the upcoming academic year’s tuition rate, fees and financial aid, visit SLU Financial Services.

2018-2019 Tuition and Fees
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Financial Aid

Scholarships and Financial Aid
Graduate students may be eligible for departmental tuition remission grants, or fellowships and research assistantships with tuition remission and stipends. Intra-university research and administrative grants are also available.

Applicant Criteria

To be admitted into the Ph.D. in public and social policy, applicants must already hold a master's degree in the social sciences or a related professional degree. Other requirements for admission include:

  • An undergraduate degree from an accredited institution with a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale
  • An M.A. in a social science or related discipline or a professional degree (M.B.A., M.P.A., J.D., M.S.W., etc.) with a GPA of at least 3.4. (Lower GPAs accepted for law schools where grading is on a forced mean.)
  • A GRE exam (or equivalent) is required but it can be waived under certain circumstances. Please contact the co-directors (

You’ll need the following items to apply:

Application Requirements

Three letters of recommendation (at least two of them from faculty in the applicant's master's program)
GRE G or GMAT or LSAT scores
Writing sample
Personal statement of purpose
In-person or video interview

Requirements for International Students

  • A completed Declaration of Financial Support packet with all accompanying documents
  • Paper-based TOEFL (PBT) score of at least 550, an 80 on the computer-based TOEFL (iBT), a 6.5 on the IELTS, and a 4+ on SLU's own Writing Exam.

Assistantship Application Deadline

Students who want to be considered for an assistantship must submit their application by Jan. 1.


$9 Million in Funded Research

SLU’s faculty and public and social policy students have been involved in more than $9 million in funded research, including projects for the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education, Brookings Institute and a variety of regional, state, and local public and private entities.