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Social/Urban Policy: Cornell CIPA vs. Syracuse Maxwell


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I'm in the process, like many of you, of deciding where I will attend next year. I am interested in how workforce development and planning/housing policy affect education in cities, and would like to work in domestic government, non-profits, and/or think tanks working on policies that affect education. I have narrowed my field down to two: Cornell CIPA and Syracuse Maxwell. Both have offered me pretty equal funding ($16k/yr at CIPA; $20k for the year at Maxwell). From there, things diverge.


I have been an AmeriCorps VISTA working within the education sector for two years. Maxwell's condensed schedule is appealing, because I am tired of barely scraping by. I would be able to start my career a year earlier, with a prestigious degree in hand. However, CIPA's staff has been so supportive and communicative throughout the application process; I feel like I would get personalized attention as I get my degree.


I know that CIPA is flexible and Maxwell is rigid in their respective course structures, but I honestly don't know what would be best for me. Cornell might be overwhelming. I am interested in a lot and how various sectors interact -- I might get muddled by all the options. Maxwell might go by too quickly for my liking. How does one decide between flexibility and rigidity in program structure?


I have other offers from Pitt GSPIA ($17.5k/yr with in-state tuition) and Penn Fels ($8k/year), but am not really considering either for various reasons.


I would greatly appreciate any and all insight! Thanks in advance.

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  • 11 months later...

Hi Jawn, 

Congratulations on your offers. I am going to apply next year, so it's great to hear your experiences. I am also interested in CIPA and Maxwell for their environmental policy focus, do you have any idea about this track? I also like SIPA MPA or Duke MPP but right now I am thinking about MPA because I have to choose only one direction for my scholarship. 

I've heard that CIPA has good connections with UN/ WB and NGOs in NYC or DC, and also seen a Maxwell graduate intern in UN in Geneva. Cornell is an Ivy, so it's a great name when I come back to my country, but Maxwell is not popular to us. All the information I know are from official resources, but I'd love to hear more independent review. 

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I'd go for the two year program--that gives you plenty of time to get a solid grounding in quantitative methods a (very marketable skill set for the type of education work you're describing), and also take interesting electives. If you do a one year program, you'll need to really buckle down and take skills oriented courses only in order to get the most value out of the program, and it may limit your ability to explore content matter courses. You can map your courses out ahead of time if you're worried about getting overwhelmed by too much choice. You'll also have more time to explore different internship opportunities and build relationships with professors in the two year program.

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