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Everything posted by MaxwellAlum

  1. 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 tha
  2. 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 polit
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 w
  6. 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 e
  7. 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 t
  8. 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
  9. 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 t
  10. 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/
  11. 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 pl
  12. Not knowing much about Brown's program, I would venture to guess you'll get a similar education at both programs. I can vouch for Syracuse's program in that the professors are genuinely committed to teaching and the courses are well-designed. But frankly, when it comes to public administration, there is only so much you can learn in a classroom. The field is just so varied in terms of the skills you'll use in any given job. In terms of career placement, Syracuse's network is fantastic. Syracuse alumni definitely helped me get my job. That being said, even though Brown's program is ne
  13. Federal workers I know are all worried about losing their jobs and/or the prospect of being forced to undo all of the work their agencies have done for the past eight years. Many of my friends in nonprofits that rely on federal funds are worried about getting defunded. Definitely look at state and local government (there are actually tens of thousands of counties and municipalities in the US) and private sector (they might benefit from the federal hiring freeze if agencies are forced to outsource). If you are looking to work internationally, seek out an internship at the UN and take the YPP
  14. Syracuse offers several assistantships. If I recall correctly some are "full" meaning they cover 24 credit hours plus I think you get some additional spending money and some are "half" which means they cover 12 credit hours plus additional spending money. Also, housing in Syracuse is very cheap (most people in my class several years ago paid less than $500 a month in rent+utilities, if they shared an apartment/house with other students). Some assistantships are awarded before you enroll, and some assistantships people can compete for during the first summer session. If you are competitive
  15. It helps people who borrow a lot the most (that's why the program is becoming increasingly controversial). For people who have $50k or more in debt, it's pretty easy to go on the income-based plan and not really make much of a dent in your balance over several years, because you end up just barely covering the interest on a public sector salary. Factor in that the money you save on your loan payment, you can put in a retirement fund and get a better return on that, it makes a lot of sense for many people to do income-based repayment and hope for PSLF (caveat - I do NOT recommend borrowing mo
  16. Actually, if they win this could set a precedent that would give the rest of us a lot of peace of mind. If the government can't go back on its promise to these folks, that means it can't go back on its promise to everyone else who has been making payments that are supposed to count towards PSLF. Of course, for those people applying to grad school now, there's no guarantee Congress won't eliminate the program before they take out their loans.
  17. Not sure if this is helpful, but the couple people I know who attended Fletcher absolutely loved it. I was accepted (I was 26 when I applied), but turned down the offer because it would have required me to take on six-figure debt. I ended up at Syracuse because they offered a lot more aid. I do not regret my decision. For what it's worth, I racked up just under $50k of debt from my grad program and have found it to be quite manageable using the income-based repayment options. Of course it'd be ideal not to have debt, but I don't find it to be terribly stressful (although dealing with
  18. Since my previous job was very administrative, compared with my current job which is very analytical, my previous experience was not seen to be relevant. I definitely know people from my program who started at a higher grade in the federal government due to their previous experience. I think it matters what you do before grad school - if you are unfocused like I was, the experience will help you more personal development-wise than resume-wise. But if you know roughly what you want to do and can get a job that is relevant to that, then that will place you a step ahead out of grad school. Th
  19. There are advantages to both. I started grad school four years after finishing undergrad. I was a bit unfocused out of undergrad, and pursuing an MPA did not occur to me at the time. In the meantime I worked for a nonprofit in a mostly administrative position. I learned a lot in that position, including just the basics of how to work in an office environment. That job helped me figure out what I liked and what I didn't like and inspired me to pursue the MPA. I easily got a government job out of grad school, and I do think my work experience before grad school made me a more attractive c
  20. Hi there! Your background seems very similar to mine. I also had a UK master's in the humanities before pursuing a policy degree (MPA) at Syracuse. 1. As far as I am aware, having the MPA did not make me look aimless. The only real downside is the cost and the time spent getting the degree. Otherwise, it really helped to focus my career and qualify me for a research-focused position in local government. The fact that Syracuse has a huge network in the US did help me get my job (I connected with Syracuse alumni in my office when I applied) 2. From what I understand, think tanks d
  21. I think it depends on where you choose to apply. Many reputable but less prestigious schools offer good amounts of aid to attract the types of candidates who might otherwise go to SIPA/HKS etc.
  22. In terms of the amount of debt, $65k is a bit on the high side. It will accrue over $300 in interest every month. A standard payment on a ten-year payment plan is over $700, which is a pretty big chunk out of a $50-$60k salary, especially after taxes, healthcare, retirement savings, etc. Alternatively, assuming an income of $50k (AGI), an income-based payment will be around $270. One option is to stay on income-based repayment until your income grows enough/you get loan forgiveness in 10 or 25 years. Although there are no guarantees that loan forgiveness will occur, I actually don't thi
  23. This was definitely not my experience at Maxwell, and friends with degrees from HKS and Fletcher don't seem to have had this issue. Certainly some people found jobs in other fields (a surprising number of folks who had an international focus in grad school ended up in local government), but it's hard to say how much of that is because they couldn't find a job in IR vs they found a better offer elsewhere. And some people have taken time to find the right position. I do not think MPP/IR grads face the same issues that law school grads do. But I would also not recommend taking on law school d
  24. In order to pay off $100k of student loans in 10 years, you would need to pay $1,100 per month. In order for that to be "affordable" based on the standard of paying no more than 10% of your monthly income (that's what the income-based repayment plans for federal loans is based on), you would need an income of $150,000, excluding contributions to retirement and health insurance premiums. Given entry-level public sector salaries, a common approach is to enroll in an income-based repayment plan. On a $60k income, your payment would be around $352 per month. Bear in mind the calculation f
  25. I am all for ways to help folks in professions like social work, where there is a high need and pay is low. I question whether PSLF specifically is really a good way to allocate funds. Programs like IBR and PAYE already offer debt relief for everyone, you just have to make income-based payments for more years in order to qualify for forgiveness. Is the PSLF definition of "public service" the best way to target a more generous program? I'm not too sure.
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