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SIPA vs Heinz vs UW Evans vs Syracuse Maxwell - MPA 2019


Pj2401
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Hello to all,

I am beyond confused about the choice to be made and would love for you to weigh in with your opinions and any kind of guidance you could provide me. This is going to be a long one. 

Background - I am international student from India with a strong background in Business and Finance. I have a work experience of 3 years, of running my own social enterprise which tackles the issue of  equal education in India through building skills. It is now extremely self-sustainable and the main reason for me to pursue an MPA is to be able to tackle social issues at a larger scale. I want to work with Governments, Think tanks, foundations etc. I want to potentially work in the field of International Finance as well as Economic & Social Policy.

Admits:

1. Heinz, CMU - 30% Funding 

2. Syracuse Maxwell - 50% Funding 

3. UW Evans - No funding 

4. Columbia SIPA - No Funding 

My Queries: (Please excuse if they sound really dumb. But, I truly believe, I won't learn until I don't ask.) 

1. As per the U.S News Rankings, Syracuse Maxwell is the highest ranked university for the said program. But, I don't see many applicants excited about this program or school. Why so? And do rankings matter? 

2. Columbia is an Ivy League, so does the brand carry you forward for good job opportunities which will warrant the high price? Is this only because of the alumni network?

3. Can International students work in the U.S Government? Are there positions available with visas funded?

4. I see many admitted students backing out from SIPA because they believe the public sector won't be able to give high returns. But, here is my logic. Let's say I take a loan of $150,000 at interest of 7%. I can pay back the loan in 10 years with EMI of $1600 per month. Let's say I only earn 70k per year, is it not possible to live a comfortable life, and do what you love? Why are so many apprehensive?

Please do let me know if I can help you in any way.

Thanks

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16 hours ago, Pj2401 said:

 

4. I see many admitted students backing out from SIPA because they believe the public sector won't be able to give high returns. But, here is my logic. Let's say I take a loan of $150,000 at interest of 7%. I can pay back the loan in 10 years with EMI of $1600 per month. Let's say I only earn 70k per year, is it not possible to live a comfortable life, and do what you love? Why are so many apprehensive?

Please do let me know if I can help you in any way.

Thanks

The apprehension is due to instability in student debt (and the individuals in charge of the Dept of Education @ the federal level) / rising costs of tuition, as well as rising costs of living. Columbia is in a VERY expensive city and taking on six figure debt for a degree that doesn’t hold the same market value as an MBA, JD, or MD is scary for many.

I would create a budget sheet if I were you to see if it really makes sense, keeping in mind the cost of living for where you you will be attending and where you want to end up post grad. I’d factor in healthcare, transportation (will you have a car? Public transit pass? Uber/Lyft?), personal expenditures (movies/concerts/etc), food/groceries, housing (will you rent? Own? Do you want to live downtown or further out from a city?), etc. Liferally anything and everything and see if the $150K is worth it. 

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10 years of your youth paying $1600 per month. That is a massive, MASSIVE, hit to your financial, mental and career well-being. You may think it is doable, but you are one unexpected job loss away from things turning sour quickly. And you are in an even less stable footing being an international student from India which presumably limits your loan options.

While your colleagues are building home equity and investing more into retirement, you are going to be bogged down paying student loans for most of your 30s. 


If you want to live in D.C., New York, or any other major U.S. city, also tack on another $1600 for rent.

At 70k salary, your take home pay is probably around $3,600. That leaves you with $400 discretionary for food, transportation, healthcare, emergency funds, savings/retirement, travel, hobbies, etc.


Suffice it to say $400 is not enough.

So you'd have to find money somewhere else. Are you prepared to be that 38-year old still living with roommates simply for the perk of being able to say you have an Ivy League degree? 

I should also say, for better or worse, Columbia SIPA has developed somewhat of a reputation for being an impersonal cash cow program. Can't speak to how valid that is, but it's been mentioned enough times in casual conversation that I imagine that is also giving some people pause.

And to answer Q3, no, international students on a student visa cannot work for the U.S. Government. Per Sec. 704 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019:

Sec. 704. Unless otherwise specified in law during the current fiscal year, no part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used to pay the compensation of any officer or employee of the Government of the United States (including any agency the majority of the stock of which is owned by the Government of the United States) whose post of duty is in the continental United States unless such person: (1) is a citizen of the United States; (2) is a person who is lawfully admitted for permanent residence and is seeking citizenship as outlined in 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3)(B); (3) is a person who is admitted as a refugee under 8 U.S.C. 1157 or is granted asylum under 8 U.S.C. 1158 and has filed a declaration of intention to become a lawful permanent resident and then a citizen when eligible; or (4) is a person who owes allegiance to the United States: Provided, That for purposes of this section, affidavits signed by any such person shall be considered prima facie evidence that the requirements of this section with respect to his or her status are being complied with: Provided further, That for purposes of subsections (2) and (3) such affidavits shall be submitted prior to employment and updated thereafter as necessary: Provided further, That any person making a false affidavit shall be guilty of a felony, and upon conviction, shall be fined no more than $4,000 or imprisoned for not more than 1 year, or both: Provided further, That the above penal clause shall be in addition to, and not in substitution for, any other provisions of existing law: Provided further, That any payment made to any officer or employee contrary to the provisions of this section shall be recoverable in action by the Federal Government: Provided further, That this section shall not apply to any person who is an officer or employee of the Government of the United States on the date of enactment of this Act, or to international broadcasters employed by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or to temporary employment of translators, or to temporary employment in the field service (not to exceed 60 days) as a result of emergencies: Provided further, That this section does not apply to the employment as Wildland firefighters for not more than 120 days of nonresident aliens employed by the Department of the Interior or the USDA Forest Service pursuant to an agreement with another country.

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Unless your family is uber wealthy, there's no world where an Ivy League MPA is worth another $120,000 in debt over Syracuse (and that's before you factor in the living expenses of NYC vs. Syracuse).

If name is that big of a deal to you (and I get that), look deeper into CMU but for whatever little it's worth Syracuse is the #1 ranked Public Affairs program and #1 specifically in Public Finance

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