Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy

Undergraduate Program

Program Overview

The BA in public policy is a liberal arts degree, based in the social sciences, that gives students the substantive knowledge and analytical skills to understand policy problems—and help create solutions.

Students take classes in economics, political science, statistics, and choose from a variety of policy electives. Self-selected focus areas and integrative policy seminars round out this unique, applied social science program.

The small size of the program—only about 55 people per cohort—allows students to work closely with top faculty from a wide range of disciplines and professional schools, building a strong learning community. The Ford School offers its students the opportunity to engage with leading domestic and international policymakers and scholars through lectures, seminars, and special discussion groups. The average class size is 24 students.

Students apply to the program during their sophomore year and are admitted to the Ford School for their final two years.

Please contact us with questions or browse the pages of our printed recruitment undergraduate brochure for more information.

Program Details

Degree Requirements

  • PUBPOL 320: Politics, political institutions, and public policy (4 credits)
  • PUBPOL 330: Microeconomics for public policy (4 credits)
  • STATS 250: Introduction to statistics and data analysis (4 credits)
  • PUBPOL 495: Policy seminar (junior year, 4 credits)
  • PUBPOL 495: Policy seminar (senior year, 4 credits)
  • 6 additional credit hours in PUBPOL at the 300 or 400 level
  • 12 additional credits in student-declared focus area

Focus Areas

The field of public policy touches many academic disciplines and a broad range of policy arenas. Students design focus areas that allow them to develop a deeper understanding of a policy area that interests them.

Focus areas can address an area of public policy, a perspective on public policy, or the policy issues concerning a specific geographic region. Students will take four classes (12 credits) from any school or college at U-M or during a study abroad/study away program.

Examples of past student focus areas:

  • Areas: energy policy (broad), health care policy and infectious disease control/prevention (specific)
  • Perspectives: economic perspectives on public policy, historical perspectives on foreign policy
  • Regions: development policy in Southeast Asia, Middle Eastern policy

Policy Seminars

Policy seminars are small, interdisciplinary courses that focus on specific policy issues—domestic and international. During policy seminars, students have the opportunity to interact with policymakers and other experts on the issue being studied. Students work in groups to produce an extensive policy analysis, written for an audience of public officials. Students will take one policy seminar during both junior and senior year; these seminars fulfill the upper-division writing requirement. Policy seminars are only open to Ford School undergraduates and are limited to 30 students.

Recent policy seminar topics include:

  • U.S. social welfare policy
  • Ethics and international affairs
  • Climate change governance
  • Political advocacy
  • K-12 education policy
  • Human rights
  • Health care reform
  • Apology, reconciliation, reparations, and public policy

Study Abroad/Away

BA students are encouraged to spend a semester studying away from the U-M Ann Arbor campus. Programs such as study abroad, Michigan in Washington, or Semester in Detroit play an important role in developing an understanding of public policy, domestic or international.

What can I do with a degree in public policy?

You can do almost anything with a liberal arts degree in public policy. Some students have used their policy skills to enter the job market, while others have used their academic foundation to pursue a graduate professional degree (in public policy, law, medicine, public health, and more). Other students have gone on to join the Peace Corps, Teach for America, AmeriCorps, or teach English abroad.

When and how do students apply to the program?

  • Application deadline: February 1
  • Students apply for this junior/senior level program during their sophomore year at U-M
  • Prerequisites: Econ 101, Econ 102, and another introductory social science course
  • Learn more about admissions

Contact us!

All of us in the Office of Student and Academic Services are available to talk with you, by email or in person, to answer questions and share information about the Ford School. For further information about our master’s program and to be included on our contact lists, please request more information. More questions? Please email Student Services or contact us by phone: (734) 764-0453.

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