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Really torn - GWA MPA vs. Evans School MPA... help!


kaban2018
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Hey all, 

I don't know if this should be here or in the Gov't Affairs section, but... here we are. I'm asking for your help in considering these two schools. I'll list below some relevant info, and thanks in advance for your advice!

I'm going back to school after gaining some on-the-ground experience in nonprofit work internationally. I'm interested in understanding the dynamics at work behind funding nonprofit and public sector work, and how to improve philanthropic strategies to have more impact. In my head, this requires a strong quantitative curriculum focusing on program evaluation, with a few classes on nonprofit management and philanthropy. This also might mean getting a doctorate after the MPA degree. Professionally, I want to stay in international development, but working to drive philanthropic strategy to something more effective. I don't know what this would look like but could be research, could be working at a big foundation, could be consulting. 

Now, for my thoughts on the schools: Both offer rigorous programs and I think both can get me where I want to go academically. Both seem to have alumni doing cool things. The differences: 

GWU Pros:

  • Kathryn Newcomer in program evaluation (and many other strong professors).
  • Network, through students, professors, and career services, which are supposed to be top notch.
  • A solid scholarship, which makes going to the school, along with the flexibility to work part time while studying, extremely cost-effective - I'd probably walk out with no more than 10k in debt, if that.
  • DC network, which is great for working in international development, which is my interest.
  • Curriculum is flexible. 

GWU Cons:

  • I would have to  live in DC, which is not appealing.  
  • The cohort strikes me as professionals first, and students second; it seems that many would come part time and are more or less doing the MPA or MPP to check the box and advance in their careers. While I think they will all be smart, capable classmates, I don't get the sense that academics are their first priority. (I know, I know... it's a professional degree. But I'm really hoping to be pushed by my peers, so this is important for me). 

UW Evans School Pros:

  • Much more of an "academic" feel and very supportive of students 
  • I felt like I clicked well with the potential classmates during the open house.
  • Location - I have always been curious to live on the west coast (I am a NYer who has left with no intention of going back, if I can avoid it).
  • Loved the campus
  • Love the curriculum which is also flexible. 

UW Evans Cons:

  • I received no funding, so I'd be between 50k and 90k in debt, depending on my luck with assistantships and second year scholarships. Even the best case scenario of 50k is a lot to swallow.
  • The location - am I locked into Seattle, and is that bad?
  • While most people recognize the DC school names and the fact that they are in DC, I don't know if that's the case with UW. 

In short, it feels like I need to decide whether or not I am willing to take on huge debt in exchange for what I suspect will be a better lifestyle after years of feeling like I am somewhere I am not meant to be. The flip side is that it's hard to turn down access to the DC network, which probably can help me make professional connections faster. 

I appreciate your thoughts, insights, questions... I am really struggling to make this decision! 

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You'd be insane to take out that amount of debt for an MPA from Evans. I also don't see any benefit in going to Oregon if you're interested in working internationally (conversely, there's lots of benefit to being in DC, as odious as it is). I hear you on the cons of GW, but it is solidly the better choice of the two given your professional interests, and if they're giving you this much money, I'm honestly not sure why you're considering Evans at all.

I see your options as going to GW now or, if you hate the idea of GW/DC, deferring the offer for a year and applying again. The pros you list for Evans are that it's a small and supportive program and that it's on the west coast. Any regional MPA program will be small and supportive and there are lots of other programs on the west coast. Apply again, only in places you'd actually want to live/attend, and gun for full tuition+scholarship. Why you'd pay any kind of money to attend anything outside of WWS/HKS/SIPA/SAIS is puzzling to me.

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1 hour ago, ExponentialDecay said:

You'd be insane to take out that amount of debt for an MPA from Evans. I also don't see any benefit in going to Oregon if you're interested in working internationally (conversely, there's lots of benefit to being in DC, as odious as it is). I hear you on the cons of GW, but it is solidly the better choice of the two given your professional interests, and if they're giving you this much money, I'm honestly not sure why you're considering Evans at all.

I see your options as going to GW now or, if you hate the idea of GW/DC, deferring the offer for a year and applying again. The pros you list for Evans are that it's a small and supportive program and that it's on the west coast. Any regional MPA program will be small and supportive and there are lots of other programs on the west coast. Apply again, only in places you'd actually want to live/attend, and gun for full tuition+scholarship. Why you'd pay any kind of money to attend anything outside of WWS/HKS/SIPA/SAIS is puzzling to me.

Interested in this take --- I am in the midst of making a similar decision, I see you are located in MA -- I am deciding between SIPA and Fletcher and I noticed you didn't mention Fletcher in the WWS/HKS/SIPA/SAIS, any light to shed on why?  I keep hearing they are up the MALD program is up there with the ones you list, have I been lead astray?

 

Thanks in advance

 

 

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32 minutes ago, Kelly1015 said:

Interested in this take --- I am in the midst of making a similar decision, I see you are located in MA -- I am deciding between SIPA and Fletcher and I noticed you didn't mention Fletcher in the WWS/HKS/SIPA/SAIS, any light to shed on why?  I keep hearing they are up the MALD program is up there with the ones you list, have I been lead astray?

 

Thanks in advance

I'm located in DC. I don't know anything about Fletcher, I haven't met anyone who went to Fletcher, and I've only heard of it because it frequently gets shilled on the government board. I have no idea about its quality as a program, so I suggest you head over there for opinions.

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28 minutes ago, ExponentialDecay said:

I'm located in DC. I don't know anything about Fletcher, I haven't met anyone who went to Fletcher, and I've only heard of it because it frequently gets shilled on the government board. I have no idea about its quality as a program, so I suggest you head over there for opinions.

Thanks!

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On 4/4/2018 at 12:32 PM, ExponentialDecay said:

You'd be insane to take out that amount of debt for an MPA from Evans. I also don't see any benefit in going to Oregon if you're interested in working internationally (conversely, there's lots of benefit to being in DC, as odious as it is). I hear you on the cons of GW, but it is solidly the better choice of the two given your professional interests, and if they're giving you this much money, I'm honestly not sure why you're considering Evans at all.

I see your options as going to GW now or, if you hate the idea of GW/DC, deferring the offer for a year and applying again. The pros you list for Evans are that it's a small and supportive program and that it's on the west coast. Any regional MPA program will be small and supportive and there are lots of other programs on the west coast. Apply again, only in places you'd actually want to live/attend, and gun for full tuition+scholarship. Why you'd pay any kind of money to attend anything outside of WWS/HKS/SIPA/SAIS is puzzling to me.

Hey ExponentialDecay, thanks for your thoughts. Can you elaborate a bit on why you think that level of debt would be "insane"? Is it because it's just a ton of money for an MPA, which isn't leading to a high paying job, or specific to Evans? And if specific to Evans, what are they lacking (besides name - or is that it) that makes that level of debt so unwarranted? What level of debt would you consider ok (or, none, which I would guess is your answer)?

Thanks :)

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10 hours ago, kaban2018 said:

Hey ExponentialDecay, thanks for your thoughts. Can you elaborate a bit on why you think that level of debt would be "insane"? Is it because it's just a ton of money for an MPA, which isn't leading to a high paying job, or specific to Evans? And if specific to Evans, what are they lacking (besides name - or is that it) that makes that level of debt so unwarranted? What level of debt would you consider ok (or, none, which I would guess is your answer)?

Thanks :)

I'd elaborate, but you answered your own question. In international development, prestige matters a lot. If you were getting a technical degree or this degree came at no cost to you it'd be a different conversation, but with these priors you're picking the overall suboptimal choice. That said, you clearly love the program, and whilst I'd say it's irrational to go with what you love in view of the drawbacks (imo you don't need a degree to live on the west coast), fortunately I'm just a person on the internet and you don't need to listen to me.

What I consider an okay level of debt is irrelevant. Because of my personal circumstances, for me that level is 0. You certainly have different personal circumstances, ergo your figure is different. I'd just advise you to arrive at that figure based on facts rather than feelings.

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