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Social Policy

The Social Policy program acquaints students with the relevant history and institutions of social policy, develops their quantitative skills for program evaluation and the analysis of large data sets, and helps them grapple with the moral issues raised by inequality. Four required courses (Quantitative Analysis of Policy Issues, Foundations of Social Policy, Introduction to Policy Analysis and Evaluation, and the Project Course) anchor flexible master's degree programs for pre-career and mid-career students who may select courses in health, education, poverty, criminal justice, housing, and social services management, among others. A resident faculty with nationally-renowned expertise in various fields is complemented by a broader menu of relevant course offerings across other units of the College Park campus.

 Social Policy Alumni Jobs 

  • Asst . Director, Resource Management, Office of CFO, US Dept of Homeland Security
  • Assistant Director, U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • Program Examiner, Office of Management and Budget
  • Manager, Performance Assurance, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board
  • Vice-President, IBM
  • Chief Government Affairs Officer, Investment Corporation Institute
  • Policy Analyst, New York Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform
  • Program Officer Chief, U.S. Agency for International Development - Mali
  • Director, Charter School Leadership Council
  • International Programs Specialist, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • Director, Environmental and Policy Education, Urban Land Institute
  • Vice-president, Policy and Strategic Partnerships, LRG, Inc.
  • Deputy Executive Director, Housing Authority of Monterrey County
  • Director, Finance and Administration, BWI Airport
  • Chief, Food Protection Program, Prince George's County Health Department


Social Policy Program Curriculum

In addition to meeting the overall requirements of their degree program, ALL students electing to specialize in social policy take the following courses:

Foundations of Social Policy (PUAF 734) gives an overview of government's role in social policy and the development of federal and state policies with respect to welfare, aging, education and housing. Analyzes current federal institutions and legislation in these policy areas and the demographic history of the U.S. and its influence on social policy. Develops skills in analytic writing and presentation of descriptive data.

Program Evaluation and Cost-Benefit Analysis (PUAF 689E) [For students entering Fall 2012 or later] provides an overview of the process of policy analysis. It covers the major stages of policy analysis: specifying the policy or programmatic problem, collecting and assessing data, identifying possible courses of action, designing programs, determining a suitable methodology to evaluate a program, performing a benefit-cost analysis, and developing a performance management system.

Quantitative Analysis of Policy Issues (PUAF 611) provides a grounding in a variety of statistical methods used in the analysis of social policy and programs, including techniques for survey data, in both cross-sectional and panel form; multiple regression for both continuous response and binary data; demographic models and analytic techniques; project evaluation and survey data collection methods; and instrumental variable estimation, time series analysis and simultaneous equations techniques.

All MPP students are required to take the year-long Project Course in their final year. The Project Course is the capstone of a student’s experience at the School. Students in the Social Policy specialization are assigned a real-world client for whom they prepare a policy analysis of a social policy issue of the client’s choosing. Past clients have included, among others, the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, Montgomery County Public Schools, the State of Maryland Department of Human Resources, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Social Policy students are also required to take at least one Social Policy elective.  Popular social policy electives include:

Crime Control (PUAF 698F)

Demography (PUAF 699Q)

Education Reform (PUAF 732)

Health Economics & Analysis (PUAF 798G)

Health Policy (PUAF 735)

Housing Policy (PUAF 770)

Managing Social Services (PUAF 698V)

Poverty Measurement and Alleviation (PUAF 698x)

Strategies of Equality (PUAF 737)

Urban Policy (PUAF 698D)

Social Policy MPP/MPM Program Specializations in Health and Education

Social Policy Program students wishing to focus intensively on health or education may do so via the Focused Specialization plans of study described below.

General SOC Specialization (available to any student wishing a broad Social Policy focus)

  • PUAF 611 “Quantitative Analysis of Policy Issues”
  • PUAF 734 “Foundations of Social Policy”
  • PUAF 689E “Program Evaluation and Cost-Benefit Analysis” (taken in the first year)
  • One other SOC elective

Focused Specialization in Education Policy

  • Same four required courses as for General SOC above plus two additional courses:
  • PUAF 732 “Policy and Politics of Education Reform”
  • EDPL 615 “Economics of Education”

Focused Specialization in Health Policy

  • Same four required courses as for General SOC above plus two additional courses:
  • PUAF 735 “Health Policy”
  • One other health policy course, including (for example):
    • PUAF 698K “Comparative Health Policy”
    • PUAF 699D “Disease, Disasters & Development”

Social Policy Town Hall

Each semester, the chairperson of each specialization holds a Town Hall. At this event, students and faculty discuss course offerings for the upcoming semesters, changes to the specialization and solicit feedback for improvements. Suggestions from previous Town Halls have resulted in new courses. Student led specialization councils also describe their current activities and efforts for student advocacy and engagement. These events are the best way for students to get a comprehensive overview of the specialization and to shape its future direction.

Centers Conducting Social Policy Research

Center for International Policy Exchanges (CIPE)

National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education

UMD Health Collaboration

Welfare Reform Academy

Social Policy Specialization Director

For more information on the social policy specialization, contact: Professor Chris Foreman