Great Plains IDEA Program

M.A. Degrees Offered

The online degrees and certificates use positive, strength-based approaches when working with individuals.

HDFS offers:

Focus of Programs

These programs address the need for advanced education in early childhood education, youth development and working with families using an ecological approach with a strengths-based curriculum. These programs train students to administer programs which support children, youth and their families across the lifespan.


There is a common tuition rate for these programs, so there are no in-state/out-of-state fees.  Please review the fee schedule.  The tuition rate does not include books and supplies.

Format of Courses

All classes are delivered online and there are no on-campus meetings.  Professors communicate with students via e-mail, phone calls, Skype, Zoom and other technologies using an asynchronous format.  Courses use online lectures, discussion boards, wikis, audio, video and more.  Persons with disabilities are not disadvantaged and are encouraged to participate and seek accommodations through the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities.

Who is in the Programs?

These programs are ideal for working professionals in a variety of fields and organizations, such as preschool teaching, Head Start, 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, non-profit organizations, faith-based groups, military installations, community recreation facilities, correctional professions, middle and high school education and extension educators.

For Military-Affiliates

In collaboration with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Department of Defense the programs provide education for careers on and around military bases that fit the professional development of active duty military, spouses, dependents, retirees, veterans and civilian professionals.  The Great Plains IDEA alliance has worked closely with the Department of Defense to create degree programs to increase professional development and workforce development opportunities, expand and strengthen programs in early childhood education, family readiness and youth development for military affiliated persons.

Cooperating Universities

Michigan State University is a member of the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (Great Plains IDEA).  This multi-state alliance of accredited universities offers fully online undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the human sciences.  Universities share knowledge through a body of faculty with expertise in the fields.  This allows each campus to contribute unique course offerings to the degree programs and students have access to experts in the field regardless of location.  For instance, MSU faculty in the area of early care and education have been awarded grants to study and create innovative online learning strategies to work with children.

The Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance or Great Plains IDEA ( is different than other online universities in that:

  • The curriculum is developed by inter-institutional faculty teams at Research 1 institutions.  The degrees are not just a collection of classes.
  • All courses and programs receive full institutional review prior to implementation and meet the rigorous institutional academic standards of all member schools.  
  • Courses are taught by professors with expertise and research interests in content areas.
  • Students seeking admission must meet institutional admissions standards.  

In addition to Michigan State University, other participating institutions in these programs include:

  • Colorado State University
  • Iowa State University
  • Kansas State University
  • Montana State University
  • North Dakota State University
  • Oklahoma State University
  • South Dakota State University
  • Texas Tech University
  • University of Missouri-Columbia
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Youth Development and Family Community Services applications are accepted three times each year.  Please visit our application page at: 

MSU has not determined whether online or hybrid courses or programs meet the requirements for professional licensure outside the state of Michigan. Applicants or students need to contact the applicable licensing board(s) in the states they wish to purse licensure before seeking admission or beginning study in a course or program.


Michigan State University can not offer online programs to students based on their residency at the time of application for admission and/or graduation, please check your state rules.  The State-By-State Summary is at:

Contact Person

For more information please contact the MSU Great Plains IDEA Campus Coordinator: Meagan Rau, 552 W. Circle Drive, 14 Human Ecology Building, 517-432-2266 or