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Georgetown MSPP, U-M Ford, or USC Price?

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Hey everyone, 

I'm in need of a bit of help. I was accepted at all the schools I wanted to go to-  McCourt, Ford & Price- and I'm trying to figure out which would be the best program to attend. I'm interested in urban policy, particularly the economic development of cities and communities. I would be doing the MPP at McCourt & Ford or the dual MPA/MPL at Price.

I'm originally from the east coast, but have been living in Detroit the past couple of years. Post-grad school, I would ideally work in the public sector for a few years and then perhaps switch to the private sector, mostly because (from my experience) development of cities seems to be driven mainly by the private sector now or a partnership between the public/private sectors. I'm open to living anywhere... I kind of want to move back to the east coast or somewhere warm (this winter was brutal), but I will go wherever because I think it's more important that I find the best fit. 

Funding is more or less equal at all these schools, so that isn't factoring into my decision too much. 


Which of these schools would give me the best ROI? Is any one of them perceived to be "better" than the others  in terms of job placements? If anyone else last year was making a similar decision, what tipped you one way over another? Which one would prepare me best for a career in urban policy/economic development? 

What's the community like at these schools?


Are there any other things I should be considering when making this decision?


Thanks in advance for any advice!!

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Super-biased Michigan here, but here are two thoughts.


1) Georgetown has a great location if you're interested in federal policy.  If you're more interested in state & local issues, such as economic development of cities, does paying a premium for living in DC make sense?


2) Michigan does a lot of work in Detroit.  Ford has consulting projects there and many university clubs do work on economic development issues in Detroit.  In fact, the Nonprofit and Public Management Center (a joint effort between Ross, Ford, and the School of Social Work) recently teamed with the School of Urban Planning to host a case competition on transit-backed economic development in Detroit.  Last year, Ford's integrated policy exercise was regional transit in southeast Michigan.  This year, Ford's integrated policy exercise was on Great Lakes water issues related to a town that factored in future economic development.  So many economic development opportunities here, it's definitely worth coming to Michigan.

Edited by method
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I'm interested in urban policy as well. I've heard great things about Michigan, and it might make sense if you're already there. Lots of hands on work in Detroit, and they have a great planning program that you can cherry pick classes from.


I'm also considering SC, and there are many better places to study urban policy these days than LA. There's a can-do attitude there, and they're enacting some very ambitious projects. Both SC and UCLA seem to offer tons of internship and research opportunities.

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I visited USC last fall and have also been accepted with a great funding package. I also have many similar interests as yours (primarily urban policy, economic development, education, etc.) My primary impression, which I would be glad to get other peoples' perspectives on, is that USC has quite a heavy private sector focus when it comes to public policy. There is a strong business presence in the Price School and its emphasis on the Schwarzenegger Center. I got a lot of emails lauding the public-private partnerships, and the school of education at USC is also prominent in backing charters and such. A lot of faculty also seem to have their hands in international development, business, real estate, etc. etc. according to their bios.


All this is definitely interesting, but it's decidedly a different focus from the centers on poverty and social work and economic development that Michigan has. Obviously, I'm biased because I'm more interested in one than the other, but it did not seem like the focus was on government and non-profit at USC. I was waitlisted at Michigan so I probably won't end up there, but my impression really pushes me to attend Duke instead, which I also received some funding at.


Finally, about the community there -- I sat in on a class, which was a positive experience, but the population of MPPs seem very overshadowed by the other students doing real estate development, public planning, etc. who were right next door. One MPL student gave me a tour, as well as a bad vibe. The campus and the undergrads are straight out of The O.C. I come from a very nerdy school, and USC kind of seemed far from that. It was okay, but a real culture shock. 

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Thank you all for the input!! It's much appreciated. 


Method- in your experience, do a lot of students do internships during the year? If so, where are they interning? And if they don't, what do they do instead (ie are they doing research)? And do most students live in Ann Arbor? I was thinking of staying in Detroit and commuting (since a big reason to attend U-M would be to get more involved in Detroit), but I'm wondering if it would adversely affect my grad school experience. 


albuhhh- I was in LA recently, and that was my impression of the city & USC as well! Their urban planning program is amazing. My main concern is whether Price is as strongly recognized as Ford & Georgetown are....while they have a really strong alumni network, it seems that most graduates stay in the socal region and that the USC reputation is strongest in California. My impression could be due to the inherent east-coast bias in my network though.


chocolatecheesecake- I would agree that there's a strong business presence and emphasis on public-private partnerships... I would attribute it to the fact that the MPA & real estate programs are also housed at Price, and those programs are where Price seems strongest. That's a really good way to characterize the differences between Michigan and USC, and definitely helps clarify my choice a bit! I actually applied to the MPA/MPL over the MPP because it seemed like Price was better known for MPA/MPL than MPP, but what I liked about Price was that students in all degree programs took their core classes together, so there's an even greater mix of perspectives thrown in. Re: campus life - I would agree on your take of undergraduate life, but I was pleasantly surprised by Price itself - everyone seems low-key and the staff know the students really well. 

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Have you tried looking into the educational backgrounds of people who are currently in the jobs that you eventually want to have?  I did that last week and it gave me a lot more clarity as to which program I should pick--USC is great for SoCal placement (maybe for California in general), but its presence seems a lot more limited elsewhere....

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That's a great suggestion jzhu- I've been talking to a lot of people in the last week and it's help clarified things for me too, but I still have some tough choices. It seems like Ford & Price have the strongest programs for what I want to specialize in...but while in the short-term, I don't mind living anywhere, long-term I think I would like to go back east, so that makes my decision harder (since Georgetown is in DC and is probably best for east-coast job placement). I'm visiting both Ford & Georgetown in the coming weeks, so hopefully that will provide me with additional clarity. I think at this point I'm going to go with what feels best!

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