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MPP MPA Decisions - Ford, Heller, Evans, GSPP


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Crunch time for MPP decisions. I thought campus visits would help me but I am even more conflicted.

Me: I am a graduate of a small liberal arts school in Baltimore where I studied Peace Studies, Political Science and Africana Studies. Major involvement in environmental and social justice student organizations.  GPA 3.71. GRE 154Q, 160 V, 5.5 AW. Two years work experience, 1 year Americorps exp before that.  Interested in policy work surrounding immigration and/or the domestic movement of people due to climate change and natural disasters.  Looking for career opportunities in state or federal government, or a research institute.  I am NOT interested in the nonprofit sector. I am from the Pacific Northwest and would like to land in California (or greater west coast) or DC area long term. 

Acceptances and tuition costs for 2 years after financial aid: Ford (99k), Brandeis- Heller (26k), Washington-Evans (33k). Waitlisted for Berkeley GSPP, but would be full tuition (77k). 

While Ford seems like an excellent school with a cheaper cost of living- I don't know if it is worth a difference of 99,000.  My main dilemma is between Heller and the Evans School, but should I consider full-tuition GSPP if space opens up?  What degree will best position me for my career after graduation assuming I maximize my personal networks and internship opportunities? 

Any advice from former, current or prospective students? 


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I attended Heller. Do you have specific questions?

I don't know anything about the program at Ford but 100K in out-of-pocket costs is entirely too much for an MPP. If you need to take out loans, you will be miserable after graduation with 100K in debt and your future will be almost wholly determined by the need to repay the loans instead of mission. Best advice - don't do it! You will have a better quality of life pursuing jobs on the career ladder you want with just your bachelors degree, if it came to that.

Did you happen to go to Goucher for undergrad?  A recent Heller grad attended the Peace Studies program there.

Heller is a good fit for someone who wants to work for an environmental or social justice organization; however, it's the best fit for people who want to work for nonprofits and it's generally a terrible choice for people who want to work for government IMO. Brandeis has strong neo-liberal associations and government should be nonpartisan. Also, government work tends to be frowned upon at Heller like it's beneath its students. That said, Heller does appear to have ties with the DOL and EPA - the latter is mostly re: a unit that "negotiates" with Native American tribes for land and mineral rights. (How the job aligns with the Heller mission is beyond me, but if you met the students who took it, they seemed privileged and phony.) Great paying job but it's the EPA. The current dean of the school previously worked for DOL.

Heller's MPP program is meh IMO.  The faculty are mostly people who sound like they would be good to study with although good instructors at Heller are unfortunately few and far between at this point. Stuart Altman is a fantastic professor, especially if you are interested in healthcare. I didn't take any classes with Robert Kuttner, so I can't say how he is, but he is still teaching there. Anita Hill rarely teaches and isn't the best lecturer or class facilitator. Much of the time I got the feeling that she was BSing and unprepared in class although the class readings and assignments are worthwhile. Tannenwald is an awful lecturer but very knowledgeable regarding taxation. Overall, the privileged students are buying masters degrees and many of the scholarship folks are there to balance the admittedly loose curves. 

When considering Brandeis, please consider what your living arrangements would be. If you are white, you will have an easier time but the university offers little to no assistance with graduate student housing. Unless you have nice parents or a trust fund, you will be sharing a house or apartment with a lot of other people. The whiter you are, the more likely the conditions will be decent. If you don't bring a car, you will probably be living close to campus, and some of the neighborhoods near the university are marginally safe at best. Affordable rental housing within a 50-mile radius of Boston is highly competitive. A decent studio apartment in Waltham now goes for about 2K a month, which is not affordable for most students.

Also, if you are a person of color, google "Brandeis Ford Hall 2015" and "Brandeis racism" to get a sense of what you are stepping into. There aren't enough American students of color at Heller and those in attendance can be treated poorly. I witnessed students racially harassed in classes. I will say that the school and college administrators at least listen to student feedback regarding race relations on campus. The conversation was constantly happening at Brandeis, whereas more things were happening but people were pretty silent at my undergrad institution.



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