Author Topic: Columbia MPA Worth the Money?  (Read 4267 times)

tk2356

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Columbia MPA Worth the Money?
« on: August 10, 2017, 11:45:14 AM »
I'm going back to school next year for a Masters in Public Administration with the goal of breaking into the nonprofit world (from the military). Needless to say this is not a particularly high-paying career, so I want to be extra careful not to waste my hard-earned savings (400k), and am in need of some Mustachian advice regarding program choice.

NYU Wagner would be free with the GI Bill/Yellow Ribbon Program, while Columbia SIPA would cost approx 35-37k out of pocket. From what I've read, SIPA is recognized as a top program while Wagner is a tier lower (though still solid) with graduates who tend to remain in the NYC area.

On government affairs-specific boards, the advice tends to be to pay the extra money for the superior program if not going into debt. I'm not convinced, but would hate to have trouble finding that first new-career job because I skimped on the program. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
« Last Edit: August 10, 2017, 02:18:36 PM by Robear »

koshtra

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Re: Columbia Masters Worth the Money?
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2017, 12:04:11 PM »
Wow, now that's a hard one. It kinda depends on what you want to do, I think. If you have your sights on "be president of Mercy Corps" then the value-added of Columbia is worth it. If you want to run the local food bank, it's overkill.

The other question is, how much of a working life do you see yourself having in front of you? I got a degree from Yale a bazillion years ago, in Medieval English, and the brand name travels with you and opens doors, even when the degree's irrelevant, forever. (Kinda stupidly. We weren't that much smarter than the kids at Pittsville Community College.)

But if you just want something useful and rewarding to do for a decade or two before you go hang on the beach -- "free" is an awfully good price for a master's.

tk2356

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Re: Columbia Masters Worth the Money?
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2017, 02:17:58 PM »
Thanks for the reply, koshtra. My long term goal is to be financially independent in 10 years with an early-ish retirement in 25 years, so there's definitely time to get some use out of the brand name. I am not an inherently ambitious person, however, and would be perfectly content being a mid-level nonprofit/NGO worker for the duration of my career. Another added factor is my wife is European, and we might decide to settle in her country down the road. Most employers there equate NYU with any other state school but hold Columbia in quite high regard.

I know it will be a gut call, but spending an extra 37k on POSSIBLE advantages down the road just really goes against the "smart-spending" habit this board helped cultivate. That is good to know you received tangible benefits from your degree name for years to come -- I kind of assumed people stopped caring about that stuff after the first job or two. Thanks again for the feedback.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2017, 02:25:38 PM by Robear »

koshtra

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Re: Columbia MPA Worth the Money?
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2017, 02:30:41 PM »
Nah, not with a name like Columbia. You'd *always* be "that guy with a degree from Columbia." Forty years from now.

affordablehousing

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Re: Columbia MPA Worth the Money?
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2017, 02:42:17 PM »
Putting it out there but Columbia can usually negotiate. Have you tried calling admissions, saying, "I want to go to Columbia, but it's hard as NYU is making it free, so can you help me out?" That might at least get you some of the way to more equal terms. I didn't realize it as much with undergrad, but grad school tuition is definitely negotiable.

tk2356

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Re: Columbia MPA Worth the Money?
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2017, 03:58:05 PM »
Unfortunately very few first year SIPA students receive funding, and the admissions office already knows I'm lucky enough to have the GI Bill covering 38k of the 55k (I know, crazy) yearly tuition. It's definitely worth a shot though!

CrispySub

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Re: Columbia MPA Worth the Money?
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2017, 05:55:33 PM »
I am also military, getting out in a year with the intention of using Yellow ribbon for Law/MBA with a similar amount you have saved.

I honestly don't feel like reading through all of Columbia's handbooks, but I may have a "loophole".

Some of the schools I was looking into have a limited Yellow Ribbon (either students, financially, or both) for some programs, but higher amounts for others.

For example, one of my MBA/Law school combos has unlimited for Law school and a finite amount for the MBA.  The law school dual degree handbook states law school tuition applies for dual degrees except in semesters where no law classes are taken, then tuition resorts to that particular school/programs tuition.  That means if I take a law class every semester, then I can get a full ride for the MBA using the Law School Yellow Ribbon.  I see that Columbia has a 10k MBA unlimited yellow ribbon.  If you do a dual degree, that is 10k Columbia and 10k yellow ribbon, or 15k a year more tuition assistance to even the playing field.

That, mixed with the MHA and dividend/passive income would mean you could still increase your net worth and cover all expenses. And it may take a year longer, but you would use your full 36 months with no summer programs and get an MBA out of it possibly.

Any thoughts?

spjulep

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Re: Columbia MPA Worth the Money?
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2017, 06:16:01 PM »
Experience and accomplishments matter so much more than the name brand. Get a great part-time job or internship and *do something*, that's what you will be talking about in your interviews. The networking of a name brand can be good too, for example if you're doing an MBA, but for jobs in the non-profit sector? Plus the career services of these schools is completely overrated.

Admittedly I say this as someone with a few name brands on my resume, but these decisions were made pre-MMM. There are people who care about what school I went to, and they are jerks and I don't want to work too closely with them anyways.

lhamo

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Re: Columbia MPA Worth the Money?
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2017, 01:26:35 AM »
SIPA's international networks are extensive. If you are likely to be seeking work internationally down the road, that may be a better choice than NYU if the latter is more domestically focused.

MommyCake

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Re: Columbia MPA Worth the Money?
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2017, 05:58:32 AM »
I'm also ex-military and finishing up my MPA this December.  I'm going to University of North Carolina, because I started while stationed at Fort Bragg.  The program has been wonderful and is incredibly cheap (My full-time fall semester is costing me just over $1200, which will be more than covered by my GI bill).  They have a completely online version of the MPA.  I agree that experience is worth more than the degree.  Having worked for many years in nonprofits prior to the military, I would definitely hire a grad from an unknown school with valuable work experience, before hiring a Columbia grad with no experience.  You certainly will have bragging rights with a degree from Columbia, but I highly doubt you will get any increased salary because of it. 

tk2356

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Re: Columbia MPA Worth the Money?
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2017, 07:54:56 AM »
CrispySub, that's one hell of an idea -- sounds like you're going to do just fine in law, haha. I don't have a test score near competitive for Columbia's MBA program, but this is something I will pass on to others in the future who are in a similar dilemma.

Mommycake, congrats on finishing up your program! And thanks for the words of wisdom from someone who's worked in the field.

I think I'm going to stick with NYU for a few reasons. Their program is more geared towards nonprofit management, I wouldn't look to work abroad until after gaining domestic experience (thus minimizing the up-side of SIPA's international rep), and of course it will be free. Thanks again for the stellar advice!