MaxwellAlum

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About MaxwellAlum

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    Washington, DC
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  • Program
    MPA/IR
  1. Getting a second masters vs PhD

    What do you want to do for the CDC/HUD/etc? Do you want to do policy analysis? Manage programs? Be a budget analyst? Have you thought about applying to jobs in state or local government health departments? Doing so might give you a better sense of what you want to do with your career, and you might find you don't need another degree to get to where you want to be.
  2. MPAs don't really teach you many hard skills that you can't learn on the job or by taking evening or online classes. Jobs in public policy or public administration are different from jobs in areas like social work of law, where you absolutely need the degree to be allowed to practice in the profession. As you have observed, there aren't too many jobs that actually require MPAs. However, if you want a career in public policy, and you are having trouble breaking into the field, an MPA can give you that leg up. For me, it was helpful for shifting my career trajectory to doing more analytical work, as I was previously stuck in an administrative role. I also met some great people and did learn a lot. I would not, however, go into six-figure debt for such a degree. As suggested above, probably the best way to go is to first try to get an entry-level job in government and work your way up. After a couple of years, if you see that a master's degree can help you advance, try to get it as cheaply as possible.
  3. MIA and MBA - How to go about it

    I totally agree that an individual degree can be worth it. My post was referring specifically to dual degrees. Are you saying that doing a degree in IR and an MBA is better than doing an MBA alone?
  4. MIA and MBA - How to go about it

    As someone who did a dual degree (MPA and MA in IR), I recommend extreme caution. Having an extra degree did not, in and of itself, help me in the job market. Mostly it meant I graduated later and with more debt. Remember that the classroom is not the only place you can learn and it's a fairly expensive one. Don't discount the fact that the extra year(s) you'll spend in school means you'll forgo time learning (and earning) on the job. Unless there is a specific, marketable skill you'll get from the extra time in school, I would not recommend it.
  5. Has HKS Lost Its Way? (Article)

    I read the article again, and I really disagree with the idea that economics and quant skills are superfluous in government work. Yes, you may very well end up in a job where you yourself do not do a lot of quantitative or economic analysis. But you still need to understand stats and econ well enough to be a consumer of it and to understand its limits. You don't want to be that agency/department director who throws around terms like "statistical significance" without really knowing what they mean. The more I think about it, the more the article seems like a hit piece with more innuendo than substantive points.
  6. Has HKS Lost Its Way? (Article)

    I didn't attend HKS, but I know people who did, and I hold a public policy master's (from Syracuse) and now work in government. I disagree with some of the premises of in the article. I don't think it's easy to teach leadership in the classroom, and I personally wouldn't want to attend a master's program that was primarily focused on teaching soft skills. I don't think it's bad to teach economics or quant. You need those skills for many jobs in government, and I think it would be foolish to attend a program that lacked those components. From what I can tell, HKS doesn't require less political science coursework than other public policy programs. Syracuse's MPA had one course in this area, and I thought it was very valuable and just the right amount of political science for the degree program. There's nothing wrong with students going into the private sector if that's what they want. If indeed HKS is actively telling students that "you can make more of a difference in the private sector" - yeah I would find that a bit problematic and simplistic. Public sector jobs have their frustrations, and I can absolutely understand people who choose to go to the private sector, but we as a society need more good people in government, and good people can and do make a difference. On a side note, one of the things I loved about Syracuse was being surrounded by students and faculty who were truly committed to public service. If that's not the case at HKS, that could be a disadvantage - it's nice to be around people with similar goals. The main piece I agree with is that, given how much tuition HKS charges, if you are paying full freight, it's not conducive to building a career in public service. Entering government with $140k in student debt is absurd. So I would say think carefully about what your goals are and your own financial situation before attending (and consider MBAs if you're private sector oriented). I have heard amazing things about HKS's career services, but I also wonder how much of the success of their alumni (and the alumni of any public policy school) is based on who they accept rather than the value they actually add.
  7. Prospective MPP applicant looking for advice

    Also I know that Brown has a Public Humanities masters program - I don't know much about it other than it exists. One thing to bear in mind with a degree like this one is that the more specific the degree, the harder it is to market yourself to a broader range of jobs. So if you end up deciding you want to work in an area other than the arts/cultural policy, you're probably better off with an MPP or an MPA than a degree that's specific to a particular policy area.
  8. Struggling between MPA & Macro MSW

    Just throwing out there that the MPA at the Maxwell School (Syracuse) is a 12-month program, and they have some nonprofit and social policy focused courses, plus the core requirements which focus on management, budgeting and analysis skills you'll need for those administrative roles.
  9. One way to possibly minimize your risk is to go with an MPP, which is a more flexible degree. I did a dual MPA/MAIR at the Maxwell School, and a surprising number of those of us who did the dual degree ended up working in local government, which can end up paying better than a lot of NGO jobs. It's easier to market yourself to a local government or otherwise domestic policy-focused job from an MPP than it is from an IR degree. That can come in handy if, for example, you realize you really don't want to live in DC, New York or abroad. I'd think carefully about specifically what kind of work you want to do. My fellow Maxwell alumni and I have so many different kinds of jobs that require very different types of skills. For example, I do policy research, for which the statistics and economics skills are quite useful, while others are more involved in program coordination and contract management types of work. Some folks work in very finance focused jobs (e.g. bond rating agencies). Maybe neither of these degrees is the right one for you. Not going to grad school now and getting some work experience instead as others have suggested might be a better option. A handful of folks I studied with at Maxwell, mostly those that didn't have a lot of prior work experience, ended up later getting another master's degree in a different field (e.g. finance, or in one case nutrition) when they had a better sense of where they wanted their career to go.
  10. In discussing the various reforms to student loans including the elimination of PSLF, the President's budget proposal states, "All student loan proposals apply to loans originated on or after July 1, 2018, except those provided to borrowers to finish their current course of study." So conceivably if you have already started your master's program by next year, you could still be eligible for forgiveness. However, since the President's proposed budget is really more of a wish list than anything else, we really don't know for sure whether PSLF will be eliminated by Congress and if so, whether existing borrowers will be grandfathered in. Refer to page 20 of: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/budget.pdf
  11. Let's Talk Debt

    Yes, this is so important. Before grad school I used to feel likeI had so much extra money I could save on a very low salary living in a tiny room in a shared house with four other people and not going out much and rarely to restaurants. Now I am 32 and my sigificantly higher salary feels much more constrained. I spend more money for all the reasons you mentioned and I'm more aware of how much I need to set aside for retirement and for a down payment for a house. Don't make the mistake I did of thinking that you'll be able to pay off your $50k in loans in 3 years by throwing half of your take home into your loans. Unless you are getting help from other sources, you're going to want that money for something else.
  12. Let's Talk Debt

    Agreed. Taking out much more than $100k is a big risk in this respect. At $100-$120k in loans, a person's income-based payments will probably at least cover the interest or most of it after 5-7 years of salary growth in a good government job. If you're anywhere near $200k in total student loan debt, you're really looking at a balance that will grow significantly over 25 years on a public sector salary and an income-based plan, and that's going to result in a massive tax hit in the absence of public service loan forgiveness. The interest will make it really tough to make a dent in a balance like that. There are options for dealing with tax hits (installment plans, a personal loan/home equity loan) but it's still a huge cost, for a degree that probably didn't increase your income much.
  13. Let's Talk Debt

    I agree with most of what you said in your post, kb6. I don't think taking on six-figure debt for an MPP is a smart idea. However, for the sake of those folks with six-figure debt, I will say I personally know several people in this situation who are definitely not living with roommates in their mid-30s or racking up credit card debt. They are on income-based repayment plans, which allows them a lot of flexibility in terms of saving, career choices, etc. Yes, they run the risk of making payments for 25 years/forever, but that basically means they are 10% poorer than they would be without the debt (current income-based plans allow you to pay a maximum of 10% of your income above poverty level). Not the best outcome, especially for a degree that you could get for much less money at a different school or with aid, but hardly the nightmare situation that some describe. Folks, if you are racking up credit card debt because of your federal student loans you need to get on an income-based repayment plan immediately. It makes zero sense to pay 15% to 20% interest on a credit card to pay down loans with a 7% rate.
  14. Let's Talk Debt

    This is definitely an option. However, from a financial perspective I do not think it is the right one. Given the benefits of student loans (income-based repayment, potential forgiveness in 10 or 25 years) and the fact that you can reasonably expect to get a better return from your IRA investments in the market compared with current student loan interest rates, you are potentially throwing away a lot of money. The way I thought about it is, if I save money in my retirement fund, I will still have that money regardless of whether I get loan forgiveness or not, but if I use it to pay tuition/loans, that money is gone, regardless of whether I would be eligible for forgiveness or not. If you draw down your retirement savings now, you'll have to build them back up later and make up for lost gains. If you take out loans, the worst scenario is you'll have to pay them all back with interest (likely less interest than you are gaining in the market). It is unwise to take loans out with the expectation of them being forgiven. However, it is also unwise to make financial decisions that totally ignore the likelihood you'd be eligible for forgiveness eventually, either in 10 or 25 years. Yes, there might be a tax hit in 25 years, but you can take out a much smaller loan to pay the taxes - it can still be a massive benefit depending on how much gets forgiven. The bottom line is, whether you take out loans or draw down your IRA, it is still going to cost you down the road. The best option financially is to pay as little as possible for your degree in the first place.
  15. Let's Talk Debt

    Many people spend $50k or less on their public policy degrees - they can do this through merit aid (which is more common than you may think) and/or paying in-state tuition at a public university. 5 years ago, I ended up taking out just under $50k in loans for a dual degree (two years) at the Maxwell School with the help of significant merit aid. Given the existing income-based repayment programs, theoretically you can take out any amount of federal loans (up to the cost of attendance), get a government job, and still not be destitute. While I can't guarantee these programs will be in place or unchanged when you graduate, there hasn't been much talk of getting rid of them (Public Service Loan Forgiveness is another story). I know several people who took out $100k+ in loans for their public policy degrees, and they are generally fine financially. They make their income-based payments every month, so even though they are not necessarily making a dent in their loan balances (their balances may even be increasing as the interest accrues), they are not at risk of defaulting on their loans. But one thing I think a lot of us realized after we graduated is that public sector and nonprofit employers generally do not pay people more money because they attended Harvard instead of the University of Maryland or SUNY Albany. You are very likely to start your job out of grad school and find yourself working with people from all types of academic backgrounds, and the high performers succeed and get promoted because of how they work, not where they studied. Of the people I know with $100k+ in loans, I think they could easily be making the same amount of money without the six-figure degree. Some of their peers did end up in high-paying consulting gigs, and that may very well be worth the cost of the degree. However, I am of the mind that, if you want to go into consulting, you should just get an MBA. If you want to go into government, you are not going to make substantially more money because you went to Harvard. Bottom line is that if you really, really want to, you're not going to completely ruin your life by taking out $140-$150k in loans. But it very likely will not be worth the investment, given that it is possible to spend a lot less on the same degree somewhere else.