Graduate Certificate in Public Policy

Informing and influencing government action


Our Graduate Certificate in Public Policy equips students interested in public sector work or policy advocacy.  This certificate consists of six 3-credit courses, for a total of 18 credits, and is designed to be completed at a rate of two courses per semester over three semesters. You can start in any semester. If you prefer you may take one course per semester; if relevant to your situation, please note to use federal financial aid (loans) in a given semester at the graduate level, at least two courses in the approved program of study must be taken that semester. NOTE: Certificate-only students will need to file the Special Graduate form, signed by the Department chair, with the Office of Financial Aid prior to the first semester in which they hope to apply federal financial aid to the costs of their coursework.

CURRICULUM : The curriculum follows, please note the indicated semesters when courses are offered:

  • PADM 6210 Seminar in Public Administration (Take in Fall)
  • PADM 6130 Research Methods (Fall only)
  • PADM 6410 Public Policy Analysis (Spring only)
  • PADM 6450 Decision Tools and Project Planning (Spring only)
  • PADM 6430 Contemporary Issues in Public Policy (Summer only)
  • PADM 6390 Ethics and Values in the Public Service (Summer only)

Courses are offered fully online, which helps meet our students' needs as working adults. You can earn this certificate as a stand-alone credential or in combination with the MPA or PhD. This certificate can also be used for our Graduate Certificate Bridge Admission to the MPA, where a student has an undergraduate GPA between 2.5 and 2.69 from an accredited college or university, begins in one of our four graduate certificate programs, completes the selected graduate certificate program with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and then transitions to our fully online MPA degree program.

Seek advising before registration every semester to make sound course choices (Contact your advisor). Students who want to pursue this certificate along with either the MPA or PhD should seek advising before choosing electives to minimize chances of having to take an extra course while satisfying each set of requirements.


HANDBOOK: Graduate Certificate in Public Policy

Point of contact for prospective students: Dr. Meg Streams, Interim Department Chair
Point of contact for admitted students: Advisors

Key guiding documents

The purpose and uses of the Public Policy graduate certificate

  • Individuals seeking this certificate typically have an interest in either the public policy process in a government setting, or in influencing the public policy process from a nonprofit advocacy standpoint. Many students are also enrolled in the MPA degree, or already hold the MPA, and seek to obtain the certificate to develop a more in-depth focus in public policy.

The content areas of the Public Policy graduate certificate at TSU

  • To understand what specific skills, abilities and knowledge areas are included in the public policy certificate at TSU, you may examine the learning outcomes for certificate courses .
  • For more insight, examine sample syllabi (these are past examples provided for prospective students; current students should always ask the instructor for a current syllabus.)
  • Please review this advice about textbooks.

Applying for admission to the Public Policy graduate certificate

  • NO TEST REQUIREMENT: No standardized exams or tests are needed for admission to this graduate certificate program.
  • GPA REQUIREMENTS: Applicants with a GPA above 2.5 from an accredited college or university are eligible for admission to the certificate. Please note that official transcripts must be requested to be sent to GradCAS (not TSU) via the GradCAS application system (instructions).
    • Students with a 2.5 to 2.69 undergraduate GPA who complete the graduate certificate with a 3.0 GPA or higher can be considered for admission to the MPA program -- a separate application is required which can be completed while you are in your last semester of certificate study. Applicants with a GPA of 2.7 or higher from an accredited college or university are eligible for admission to our fully online MPA program, and could earn the graduate certificate alongside the MPA. If you are interested in that option, complete your application for the MPA, not for the certificate.
  • APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS: In addition to submitting official transcripts (request these electronically from within the GradCAS system, and have them sent to GradCAS -- do not send them to TSU or the Graduate School), applicants must submit a current resume and pay the $35 application fee. It is recommended to upload unofficial transcripts as well to speed processing.
  • WHERE TO APPLY: Apply to the Graduate School directly; if you have difficulty with the application system, please contact the Graduate School directly at 615/963.5901 or gradschool@tnstate.edu.

What about cost?

  • PROGRAM LENGTH AND TUITION/FEES:  The certificate is a six-course (18 credit hours) 100% online program, with asynchronous delivery (courses have deadlines throughout the semester but there are no regular required simultaneous class meetings). In-state tuition and fees as well as out-of-state eRate tuition and fees are available at the  Bursar's website. Out-of-state students taking  only  online courses who complete the verification process before each semester may be eligible for the TSU eRate, which is lower than regular out-of-state tuition rates. Please learn more about this rate at the  Bursar's website  and at the  TSU Out Of State eRate  page. Follow any instructions there regarding the eRate and be sure to verify before Day 1 of any semester that the proper rate has been assessed for your residency status -- if not, follow up with the contact at the  TSU Out Of State eRate  page. Tuition, fees, and eRate availability are determined at the University level and may change over time. It is your responsibility to check your student account in myTSU frequently to ensure the proper rate for your situation is applied, balances are paid, the proper rate for your situation is applied, and to avoid balance holds which can affect grades, registration, transcripts, etc. [Out-of-state eRate graphic pdf]. You should budget for textbooks for each class during graduate-level study. FAQ -  Advice about textbook and other required course materials
  • FINANCIAL AID AND PAYMENT:  Please bear in mind, if relevant to your situation, that federal financial aid for graduate education has required that at least two 3-credit graduate courses in the student’s program of study be taken in a given semester to use aid in that semester. A range of policies control student eligibility for financial aid, including but not limited to satisfactory academic progress and taking only classes required for your program. Dropping or withdrawing from a class may affect your financial aid. All federal financial aid or account payment questions must be directed to the Financial Aid office or Bursar’s office as appropriate. Faculty and advisors cannot view student accounts or advise regarding financial aid. To contact Financial Aid,  ook up the graduate student FA counselor at  https://www.tnstate.edu/financial_aid/contact.aspx; the  Financial Aid office website is  https://www.tnstate.edu/financial_aid/. Tuition and fee schedules for the University are available at the   Bursar’s webpage.     Monitor your student account closely throughout each semester to ensure that any issues are taken care of; follow up promptly with the relevant office if you have a question. Please bear in mind you are expected to acquire the required textbooks in time to fully participate on schedule in class and complete assignments on time even if you have not resolved all financial aid matters. Faculty cannot provide textbooks to you.
  • CERTIFICATE- ONLY STUDENTS USING FINANCIAL AID : This section applies only to individuals admitted to the certificate by itself (not in combination with a degree) who would like to take out a federal financial aid loan to apply to the cost of their courses. Because this is a certificate and not a degree, there is a special form required in addition to any other financial aid documentation and signatures required. Certificate-only students must file a "Special Graduate Student" form accompanied by a program of study before their FIRST semester with the Financial Aid office to receive federal financial aid (in addition to any other financial aid-related forms or procedures). This form ensures that the Financial Aid office is aware of what courses are required for your program -- otherwise, financial aid may not be able to be applied. Download and complete the form from https://www.tnstate.edu/financial_aid/forms.aspx and send it to the department chair requesting signature well before the start of classes in your first semester; the chair will send back to you signed with a program of study. You must then send the completed form and program of study to the Financial Aid office at  loans@tnstate.edu, including your name and T-number and the words "Special Graduate Student Form" in the subject line and body of the email. The form should be sent when you register and must be before the start of the semester. You should only need to do this process one time during your certificate studies UNLESS a change is made to your program of study (ex. a course substitution). The maximum loan award for a graduate certificate student is $12,500 per academic year (per TSU Office of Fin. Aid as of Fall 2023); your own financial aid eligibility and situation depends on many factors, contact loans@tnstate.edu with questions. Please bear in mind you are expected to acquire required textbooks in time to fully participate on schedule in class and complete assignments on time even if you have not resolved all financial aid matters. Faculty cannot provide textbooks to you. [Graphic about this process]
  • RISK TO FEDERAL AID ELIGIBILITY - COURSE PROGRAM OF STUDY REQUIREMENT (CPoS): https://www.tnstate.edu/financial_aid/cpos.aspx. Federal financial aid will NOT PAY for any courses not showing as part of your program of study in DegreeWorks (access via DegreeWorks link under Student Services in myTSU; it is farther down than Banner Services link). While some common substitutions an advisor may make have been coded into the system, less common substitutions have not. Additionally, certain courses/scenarios may not be accurately assessed by the system. It is the student's responsibility to check DegreeWorks after registering and after any change in registration to check if any registered courses are showing as "Fall Through" or “Additional Courses” (these are the course(s) that will generate a CPOS alert/flag in the financial aid system) -- those courses will NOT be covered for by financial aid unless proper, prompt action is taken. Furthermore, if a CPOS alert on one course drops your financial aid-eligible enrollment" below 6 credits, NO financial aid can be released even if the second course is in CPOS because Federal financial aid requires graduate students to be taking at least six credits. You must check DegreeWorks after every registration OR change in registration to make sure no current courses are listed under "Fall Through" or "Additional Courses" (look below the Major Requirements section). If you see any courses in those areas, contact Dr. Streams immediately at mstreams@tnstate.edu; she will advise you if it is not the right course to take or else request the Graduate School to code in the substitution in DegreeWorks. Once the change is made in DegreeWorks, it can take up to two full business days for it to reflect in CPoS so do not delay. You should also check your CPoS record in myTSU>Banner Services>Financial Aid [tab]>CPoS - Course program of study [link]. CPoS should show your current registrations – verify that it shows the same total of aid eligible credits as you are enrolled (both must be 6 or more to receive any aid). If there is a difference between the two totals, you need to seek advising right away just like with the Fall-through class in DegreeWorks. All issues must be resolved well before Day 14 into the fall or spring semester (weekends count) because after Day 14, financial aid enrollment is "frozen." The equivalent freeze date comes earlier in summer terms (ask Financial Aid for exact date); yet another reason to get any issues resolved before the first day of classes every time. Costs begin to accrue Day 1 of every semester. 
  • STATE FEE WAIVERS (State of TN Only): Students wishing to use a state fee waiver to pay for a course must email the completed fee waiver with all signatures  directly to  bursar@tnstate.edu  before class start, and never more than 14 days after semester start. Late waivers will not be processed and you will be responsible for your balance. A new waiver must be submitted EVERY semester -- they do not "roll over." Put "State Fee Waiver" in the subject header of your message to the Bursar's office. Include your name and T-number in the message with the attached waiver. Double-check to make sure you sent the waiver attached. Save a copy of your sent message for your records. Waivers sent soon after registration opens should post to your student account in myTSU (myTSU>Student>Student Account) by a few weeks before classes start; if not, follow up promptly with  bursar@tnstate.edu. If you registered and sent a waiver close to the start of classes, check your myTSU student account daily to make sure it posts. It should post within a few days of sending in that case. It is the student's responsibility to send the fee waiver in a timely fashion prior to semester start, and it is the student's responsibility to verify that it posts properly to the student account before Day 1 of the semester. Do not wait till late in a semester or the next to try to resolve an issue -- waiver issues must be resolved promptly in the beginning of the semester of intended use. Questions should be sent to bursar.edu; visit the  Bursar's website. Here is a  graphic pdf version of fee waiver tips.
  • COSTS OF LATE SCHEDULE ADJUSTMENT, LATE REGISTRATION, WITHDRAWING FROM CLASSES: "Late" begins the day classes start (see the relevant Academic Calendar). Late registration/add/drop incurs a fee (see the Academic Calendar for dates of add/drop). Dropping or withdrawing from a class incurs an increasing penalty beginning on the first day of the semester and rising to full cost of the course well before the withdrawal deadline itself -- see the Bursar's webpage for the proration schedule. Impact of retakes, withdrawals, and other issues with course completion or academic progress on financial aid is an individual situation -- any questions about aid must be directed to the Financial Aid Office. Non-financial aid-related questions about your balance and student account should go to the Bursar's Office. Always have your schedule set in place before the first day of classes with appropriate classes for your program of study, and with your balance or payment plan settled, to avoid problems and risk of extra costs. Students using aid of any type must confirm their attendance (review the instructions at the Bursar's Office webpage).   

What classes should I take?   How do I obtain advising? What grades do I need?

  • CURRICULUM:  Courses required and the semester you should take them are listed in the  upper part of this webpage. Be careful to take courses in the proper semester, as listed as not every course is offered every semester. The curriculum is also included in the relevant section of the  Graduate Catalog.
  • ADVISING:  Who's my advisor?  Speak to your advisor before your first semester to make sure you know your course requirements. If a course you need is full or unavailable, contact your advisor promptly to make the right choice. Courses are not offered every semester, so timing is important. This is especially important for students seeking the certificate along with a second degree (MPA, MPS, or PhD).
  • HOW TO REGISTER:  Registration instructions
  • GOOD STANDING AND GRADES NEEDED:    All TSU graduate students must maintain a cumulative TSU graduate-level GPA of 3.0 or above to remain in good standing and to complete a program (degree or certificate; see  Retention  policy in TSU  Graduate Catalog   ). D's and F's count towards the cumulative GPA but cannot count towards graduate program completion (see  Graduate Catalog   ); such grades in required courses will necessitate a course retake. There are limits on how many times a course can be taken to improve a grade and how many retaken courses can be counted towards program requirements, see  Retaking a Course   policy in TSU  Graduate Catalog   . Make sure any Incomplete grades outstanding from a previous semester are fully resolved with the instructor well in advance of the end of the next semester to allow for evaluation and the paperwork to change the grade. If Incompletes are not resolved on schedule, they automatically turn to an F at the end of the next regular semester (see  Graduate Catalog   ).
  • FAQ -  Taking graduate courses and maintaining good standing

How do I get ready to complete my program? 

  • APPLY TO GRADUATE    for your graduate certificate in mytsu.tnstate.edu>Banner Services>Student>Student Records>Apply to Graduate by the    Registrar's deadline. This is a University-level requirement for all program completers– it is the official notification to the Graduate School that you are planning to finish your programs and kicks off their process of checking and verifications. If you don’t do this step by the Registrar’s deadline, it can prevent your program completion from posting for this semester.  If you cannot find the right curriculum to apply for your certificate, that is an issue that requires resolution quickly – email your advisor right away, so we can get it resolved with the Graduate School. Please note that students completing a certificate only do not "walk" at Commencement exercises.
  • KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK IN CURRENT CLASSES:    All TSU graduate students must maintain a cumulative TSU graduate-level GPA of 3.0 or above to remain in good standing and to complete a program (degree or certificate; see Retention policy in TSU Graduate Catalog). D's and F's count towards the cumulative GPA but cannot count towards graduate program completion (see Graduate Catalog); such grades in required courses will necessitate a course retake. Make sure any Incomplete grades outstanding from a previous semester are fully resolved with the instructor well in advance of the end of the next semester to allow for evaluation and the paperwork to change the grade. If Incompletes are not resolved on schedule, they automatically turn to an F at the end of the next regular semester (see Graduate Catalog). There are limits on how many times a course can be taken to improve a grade and how many retaken courses can be counted towards program requirements, see Retaking a Course policy in TSU Graduate Catalog. 
  • WATCH FOR ANY HOLDS ON YOUR ACCOUNT: Items like balance or other types of holds or outstanding fines can affect your access to grades, transcripts, registration, etc. Please keep an eye on your account in myTSU and resolve any such issues as they arise. Check your student email address regularly to stay current on any messages from the University. 
  • RECEIPT OF CERTIFICATE: The certificate completion should post to your transcript within a month of the end of semester. The certificate itself is mailed by the Records Office and should arrive within approximately six weeks of end of semester. When referring to your completed certificate on your resume or LinkedIn profile, please bear in mind it is a "graduate certificate," not a "certification."

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Department of Public Administration