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International Affairs Masters: Prestige v. Funding


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Hello! I have about a week to decide on the masters program that I will attend for the Fall. I have been accepted to the following programs:


-American University SIS (Global Environmental Policy)- 10,000/yr funding

-Johns Hopkins SAIS (Energy and Environment)- no funding

-Columbia University SIPA (Environmental focus)- no funding

-Boston University Pardee (International Relations and Environmental Policy)- 30,000/yr funding


I would like to focus on environmental policy, and pursue employment in the government with the State Dept. or a non-profit such as World Wildlife Fund. I know that Johns Hopkins SAIS has a great reputation and accomplished alums. Columbia SIPA also has a strong alumni base and great ranking. American SIS is also ranked very well and one of the larger IR programs. BU is a newer program but seems to have a very strong faculty. I also got a graduate assistantship at BU so this would give me a chance to work directly with a professor. 


I am currently living in Rhode Island so BU would be the easiest move and I already have a community of friends and peers in the area. My family is all from NY so Columbia would be most convenient for family visits. Washington DC is an amazing city with so many opportunities in the field and an endless array of attractions and activities. 


I am trying to figure out whether the prestige of a program like Johns Hopkins or Columbia would be worth the 80,000-100,000 in debt, as opposed to a maximum of 30,000-40,000 that I would need to take out for either American or BU. 


Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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I can tell you this at least: the Foreign Service, and the federal government in general (excluding politicians/political positions), does not care at all where your degrees are from.

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Have you tried negotiating with the schools? I know SIPA and SAIS are notorious for not giving out funding, but I have a friend who successfully got an extra 5K a year out of American after asking them to match another school's offer. Also, many folks at American work full time while attending school, which is tiring but also minimizes debt. Regardless, those are all great choices to have. Congratulations on your acceptances!

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First of all, congratulations! 


While prestige can help you in expanding your network and landing "better" jobs, debt can limit your desire to work in the public sector. 100k in debt might be too much if you intend to work in the public or non-profit sectors. 


You should do some extensive research on BUs program! Will it be worth it? alumni networks? what types of jobs have alumni taken? coursework, of course. 


Good luck! 

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  • 1 year later...

Hey! I'm currently trying to decide between BU and American for the same programs. I want to concentrate on wildlife conservation since I also want to work for something like the World Wildlife Fund. What did you decide/any advice? BU gave me just a tiny bit of money and AU I didn't get anything.

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