Social Policy specialization

The Social Policy specialization 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. Our required courses (Quantitative Analysis of Policy Issues, Foundations of Social Policy, and Program Evaluation) 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 Specialization Curriculum

In addition to meeting the core requirements of their degree program, students specializing in Social Policy are required to take:

  • Program Evaluation and Cost-Benefit Analysis (PLCY689E) [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.
  • Foundations of Social Policy (PLCY734) 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.
  • Quantitative Analysis of Policy Issues (PLCY611) 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.
  • Social Policy students are also required to take at least one 3-credit Social Policy elective.  Popular social policy electives include:
    • After the Wire: Restoring Baltimore and other Chronically Depressed Cities (PLCY688V)
    • Contested Control - School Choice, Localism, and Centralization (TLPL788#)
    • Economics of Education (TLPL670, formerly EDPS615)
    • Education Policy Analysis (TLPL671)
    • Examining Social Identity and Pluralism in Public Policy (PLCY699D)
    • Health Policy (PLCY735)
    • Human Dignity (PLCY688X)
    • Impact Evaluation for Education and Public Policy (TLPL672)
    • Law, Equity and Diversity in Education (TLPL767)
    • Policy and Politics of Education Reform (TLPL788F, formerly PLCY732)
    • Politics of Education (TLPL687)
    • Poverty Measurement and Alleviation (PLCY698A)
    • Real-Estate Development for Planners (URSP664)
    • Strategies of Equality (PLCY737)
    • U.S. Housing Policy and Planning (URSP688O)

Sample plan of study for the Social Policy (SOC) specialization

Below is an example of how a student in this specialization may progress towards her MPP degree semester by semester. It does not represent the only way to sequence the courses.

Social Policy Town Hall

Each semester, the head 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

For more information, please contact the Social Policy specialization head, Dr. Chris Foreman,