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Heinz vs Wagner vs SIPA

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Hey all! So with about a week to go until decision time, I’ve narrowed myself down to these three options. Since they're are all highly regarded programs, basically the factors that are left are cost and intangibles. For what it’s worth, I graduated two years ago with no student debt lingering over my head. My policy interests intersect between the domestic and international spheres – without giving too much away, I could see my career transitioning into immigration issues or working on international aid. Anyway, I apologize for the length of this post but here’s what I’ve got:

CMU MSPPM 2-Year Track: By far the most funding ($16k/year) and lowest cost of living. The pros for me are that it’s a highly regarded program and less expensive compared to my other options. My biggest con, admittedly, is relatively superficial – I was raised in Pittsburgh and also went to undergrad here. A significant factor in my decision to apply to grad schools was that it would be an opportunity to leave. Prior to application season, I’d spent about a year applying to jobs outside of the area and never received a single response. I’m concerned that I’d graduate from Heinz and then find myself in that same situation. My other cons are more concrete. I just don’t know how good of a fit the program is for me. While I admire how quantitatively focused the school is, I’m really not going to be searching for a job afterwards as a Budget Analyst. I do want to gain some hard skills from my degree, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Also, while other programs seemed to be interested in educating innovators, CMU largely seemed to want its students to go on to be valuable, skilled cogs in a machine.

NYU MPA: ‘Marginally’ more expensive that CMU (at about $16k all together), but the cost of living in NYC would be much higher. I was initially concerned about the curriculum being too soft, but I attended the school’s Admitted Students Day last week and it largely assuaged my concerns. I would be looking at the Policy concentration here and think that this would allow me to cover a lot of the quantitative coursework offered by CMU. The other benefit is that virtually all of the organizations that I’m interested in working with after graduation are located in NYC. Would it be worthwhile to suck up the cost and take the opportunity to intern or possibly work part-time at some of these places?

Columbia MPA: No aid, obviously. Logically I know that I can’t justify the cost based on my other options, but there’s still an emotional part of me that says to go for it (based on IBR, PSLF, etc). I like that it’s somewhat more analytical than NYU, and also that the policy specializations and concentrations would really let me hone in on an area of interest. On the other hand, SIPA is clearly more of an international affairs school and there’s not all that much to separate its MPA from other offerings. The vague notion of second year funding is what’s kept this program around, although even if I received $20k that would really only serve to bring the cost down to NYU’s level.

Anyone care to chime in? Or are in a similar situation?

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It doesn't seem like you think that CMU is that good of fit for you so even though it's the least expensive, if it's not going to give you the skills you want then I would go to NYU or SIPA.


If you want to bring the cost down more for either schools, remember that aside from 2nd year funding (which NYU doesn't really offer) there are outside scholarships that you can apply for, etc.


I will be at SIPA for the MPA so I'm a bit biased, but it just doesn't sound like you like CMU that much.

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