It’s decision time! What will you choose?

Are you in the process of making your decision about which graduate school to attend? Deciding which program offers the best fit for you is an admittedly difficult decision, and can be a life-changing one. If you’re like me, you may feel as if you are inundated with information as you mull over costs, future career goals, and priorities for what you hope to gain from your public policy degree. Let me see if I can help you simplify this process.

These are the top three considerations for most prospective students: finances, academic rigor, and future career goals. Your degree represents an incredible investment of time, money, and energy and you want to be sure the results are worthwhile.  So, how does an investment at CIPA compare to other institutions?


Financing a post graduate degree can be challenging. Even with financial considerations aside, there is a time commitment inherent in pursuing a degree. This decision is compounded by the fact that many MPA graduates (as opposed to MBA grads) pursue careers in public service.  While these positions are empowering and rewarding, they don’t necessarily represent the most lucrative career path. If you want to minimize school debt in preparation for this, CIPA may be one of your best options.

In 2015, organizational changes at CIPA led to a substantial drop in tuition fees, making  CIPA one of the most affordable MPA degrees compared to peer  institutions. Pursuing additional scholarship opportunities will also help you offset tuition payments and minimize future loan repayment. With good planning and a bit of research, funding your MPA degree may be less of an obstacle than you originally thought.

Academic Engagement

Are you contemplating the options that each graduate program offers for coursework, faculty connections, and experiential opportunities? As you know, not every MPP and MPA program is the same. Each one offers different opportunities for developing your public policy tool kit. The Cornell MPA offers you an ivy league education, one that is known primarily for its multidisciplinary (and flexible) nature. It allows you to develop specific expertise in a concentration area of your choice–one that dovetails with your particular passion for policy.

As with many programs, CIPA offers core coursework in the following areas: Administrative, Political and Policy Processes; Economic Analysis and Public Sector Economics; and Quantitative Methods and Analytics. However, even within the realm of required coursework, students are given options and are allowed to choose which courses fit best. Outside of the core coursework, the opportunities are endless.

CIPA offers eight concentrations to chose from, and the ability to register for courses across the University.  Students can pursue coursework that is informed by past work experience, interest areas, geographic focus, and more. Past students have focused on anything from Arts Management to Food Security to Health Care Policy. Those without much prior work experience may chose a more hands-on approach to their degree by doing a semester abroad, an externship, or a capstone project.  The flexibility of this degree is certainly something to take into account when deciding whether CIPA is the right fit for you.

Future Career

What are you hoping to get from your MPA degree? What possibilities are out there? This depends greatly on the institution you choose and the networks they represent. At CIPA, our student body and alumni network encompasses the public, private, and non-profit arenas; spans a myriad of different industries; and represent local, national, and international bodies. Indeed, CIPA students have access not just to the network of current MPA students and alumni, but to the expansive network of students and alumni from across Cornell University as a whole, as well as the greater ivy league network.

Our advice? Consider what alumni are doing in different programs, where they work, and how they are enjoying their careers. Take it to LinkedIn. Message alumni. To get started, check out posts from these recent CIPA alumni:  Caroline Butler, Khalium Bat-Orig, and Gil Naor – and consider some of the other innovative alumni from Cornell University.

Good luck!  And I hope to see you at CIPA this coming fall!


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