The growing complexity of government and public policy in the 21st century – as government, non-profit, and private enterprise become more closely entangled, with corporations taking over jobs once done by the government and vice-verse – requires a new breed of public servant. A public administrator needs a thorough understanding of how government works and interacts with private industry, from economics to the environment, and to find a public service job in a managerial or administrative role increasingly requires an education beyond the bachelor level.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public servants with a master’s degree stand to make more than $12,000 per year over their colleagues with only an undergraduate degree, and that number could go as high as $19,000-$20,000; for instance, the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington reports an average salary increase of over $18,000 for their graduates. So if you’re already in a public service profession, there are some sound economic reasons to consider going back to school to earn an MPA, and if you’re an undergraduate student planning to go into the public sector, a couple more years of schooling could have a big impact on your income.
There’s one more good reason to consider further education too: the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, a new federal program that provides an opportunity for people in a wide variety of public service jobs to get their student loans completely forgiven after 10 years of work. There are restrictions, of course – public servants can’t default on their loans, and must make payments for all 10 years – but for those who qualify, it can be a major relief.
Of course, if you play your cards right in choosing your program, you may not have any student loans to pay back, and what little you take out you can pay off in much less than 10 years. That’s where Value Colleges comes in. Our job at Value Colleges is to guide prospective students to the best deals in higher education – the colleges and universities that provide their students with the perfect combination of reputation and affordability to ensure that they graduate with a sound investment.
Our Top 50 Best Value MPA Programs ranking highlights the institutions with MPA programs that will pay off in the long and short run, with strong job market prospects and high ROI. The ranking features only reputable, accredited colleges and universities; we considered only members of the NASPAA, the national standard for accreditation of public administration and public policy programs. From the master list, we ranked institutions according to three metrics:
- Average Starting Salary (Payscale)
- Annual cost (National Center for Education Statistics)
- US NEWS & World Report (MPA 2016 Ranking)
Prospective MPA students can rest assured that any program on the 2016 Value Colleges Best Value MPA ranking will deliver what they promise – all of the knowledge and skills necessary to make the most out of a public service career. Online MPA Programs are also another option. Be sure to read our Top 50 Best Value Online MPA Programs report.
Texas A&M University
Founded by President George H.W. Bush in 1997, Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government & Public Service has become one of the most respected graduate schools for government and policy in the nation, ranking in the top 25 public schools. Its home, Texas A&M, is recognized as one of the most successful universities in the US. As the first and largest public university in Texas – a state known for big colleges – and one of the Senior Military Colleges, Texas A&M is known for its commitment to public service and principled leadership.
The Bush School prepares the next generation of leaders with the Master of Public Service and Administration, providing students with the knowledge, experience, and analytical ability necessary in the demanding field of 21st century public leadership. Texas A&M is also a rare value, as all master’s students pay in-state tuition, making it one of the most affordable programs of its kind.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $5598/yr
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Like the city of Charlotte itself, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is on the rise, fueled by the astronomic growth of the city’s economic sector (now the second most significant banking center in the US, after New York City). Part of the globally-respected UNC system, UNC Charlotte is rapidly approaching the reputation of flagship UNC Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, with highly-regarded programs in business, engineering, and computer science.
UNCC also offers the Gerald G. Fox Master of Public Administration, named for a respected former county manager. UNCC’s MPA offers five concentrations, including Non-Profit Management, Urban Management & Policy, and Arts Administration, allowing students to focus in areas of most interest or need. UNCC also offers an exceptionally low tuition rate for North Carolina residents, making their MPA one of the best investments in the field.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $4128/yr
North Carolina State University
North Carolina State University has long been a center of innovation and futuristic research as a corner of the Research Triangle, the nation’s first tech and computing hub. One of the most popular institutions in the state, NCSU has grown into a world -class research institution, with the Centennial Campus representing the future of public education and private enterprise partnership. NC State is best known for innovative, pace-setting programs in agriculture, technology, and engineering, but NCSU’s location in Raleigh, the capital and seat of government for North Carolina, means that NCSU’s connection to public policy and administration are deep and strong.
NCSU’s School of Public and International Affairs, founded in 2006 to bring together public administration, political science, and other relevant departments, offers a Master of Public Policy degree that combines the most current theory and real-world experience to make future leaders successful. All students complete an internship in government or non-profit settings, an easy task to accomplish in the state capital. With NCSU’s access and reputation, their reasonable tuition is just one more reason NCSU is a top value.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $7852/yr
University of Utah
The first university in Utah – founded before Utah was even Utah as the University of Deseret (Utah’s territory name) – the University of Utah is one of the most admired public research institutions in the west, with pace-setting programs in sustainable and renewable energy, engineering, and political science. With Nobel Prize winners, MacArthur Genius Grant recipients, and Rhodes Scholars in their DNA, it’s not surprising that UU would be a superior value as well.
The College of Social and Behavioral Science at the University of Utah, offers a Master of Public Administration degree, a long-standing program founded in 1976. The MPA is an independent, multi-disciplinary plan administered through the Political Science Department, allowing students and researchers a lot of freedom to pursue their interests within the context of public administration. As a public institution, University of Utah keeps tuition low, less than $300 per credit hour, making their model MPA a top value.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $6230/yr
Arizona State University
Far from its beginning as a humble state college, Arizona State University is a name known around the world for its excellence, affordability, and innovative spirit. The largest student body in the US, and one of the largest in online presence, ASU has become a standard-bearer for the modern university, showing other large public research universities what is possible. ASU has been named the most innovative university in America by the U.S. News & World Report 2016 ranking, a distinction it has proven over and over again.
ASU’s School of Public Affairs is one of the most decorated and prolific in the world, with award-winning faculty and a high level of scholarly production. The SPA’s Master of Public Administration is designed to prepare graduates for leadership in any number of areas, producing graduates ready for all of the complexities and challenges of modern civic leadership. ASU is also famously affordable, so students can trust that their work will pay off in the short and long run.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $10,610/yr
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Originally founded as a branch campus of the University of Alabama, UA Birmingham has grown into one of the most respected public research universities in the Deep South since its establishment as an independent institution in 1969. UAB is especially known for its health sciences research, with one of the highest rates of NIH (National Institutes of Health) funding in the region. Business is also big at UAB, as attested by solid Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report rankings.
The UAB Department of Government is making a name for itself in recent years as well, with a Master of Public Administration degree that is recognized as one of the finest in the South. As a professional, multi-disciplinary program, the MPA is well adapted to both recent college graduates and working adults already in administrative or public-sector fields. A partnership with the Coverdale Fellows Program provides returning Peace Corps volunteers financial support to earn the MPA as well, giving do-gooders an extra incentive to do good.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $7340/yr
Wichita State University
Wichita State University is on a mission to become known as the Innovation University, a plan that has seen large fundraising efforts, new research centers, and partnerships with prominent companies. WSU has always excelled in aerospace and engineering, as well as highly-ranked business programs, all of which have given Wichita State a strong reputation for social mobility, giving lower economic class and minority students a way into professional life and influence.
WSU’s Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs was founded in the 1960s, and began offering an early precursor to the MPA (then known as the Master of Urban Affairs) back in 1974, making WSU a trend-setter in an exciting new discipline. Today, with over 40 years of experience and growth, the Wall School sets an impressive standard for MPA eduction, with three dedicated research centers, community partnerships, and service. WSU’s extremely low tuition rate – less than $5000 a year – makes its excellent education an enviable value.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $4927/yr
University of Nebraska Omaha
The University of Omaha was originally founded as a private, non-sectarian college in order to free its professors and students from the restraint of a church-controlled education, a move that seems today very much in the independent, can-do spirit of the Midwest. Today, UNO is one of the most respected public research institutions in the region, especially in computer science and public administration.
The University of Nebraska Omaha School of Public Administration was one of the first accredited public administration programs in the nation, and if U.S. News & World Report’s rankings are any indication, still one of the best. With over 40 years of development, UNO offers a more varied and in-depth MPA program than anyone else in the region, with seven concentrations, two specializations, and two dual degree programs (pairing the WPA with the Master of Social Work or Managing Information Systems). For students interested in focusing on Emergency Management, Public Policy, Criminal Justice, or any of the other concentrations and specializations, the University of Nebraska Omaha has the expertise at an unbeatable price.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $4505/yr
University of Texas at Arlington
UT Austin may get the “cool” factor, but sister institution UT Arlington brings just as much excellence and innovation. One of the fastest-growing public research universities in the nation, UT Arlington is a new inductee into the Carnegie Foundation’s globally respected Tier 1 (the highest level of research production) putting it in company with the most respected universities in the world. Arlington’s focus on professional education and applied research, with highly-ranked programs in business, engineering, nursing and health, and social work, ensures that UT Arlington produces graduates who change the world.
The School of Architecture, Planning, and Public Affairs at UT Arlington has strong marks from U.S. News & World Report, as well as respected industry-specific publications, demonstrating the level of quality that brings students to Arlington. The residential MPA program offers five concentrations, including Urban Nonprofit Agency Management, Economic Development Management, and Local Government Management, as well as well-established internship opportunities to give students experiential learning opportunities. With reasonable tuition and the reputation of a school on the rise, UT Arlington is an investment for the long term.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $6959/yr
Indiana University Bloomington
The reputation is stellar: Indiana University Bloomington offers the U.S. News & World Report #1 MPA program in the nation. As one of the most respected public research universities in the Midwest, IUB is well-positioned for excellence in just about every field, and a renewed focus in recent years on professional and research education has brought IUB an ever-growing reputation. Bloomington, too, is recognized by students and faculty alike as one of the most welcoming college towns in the nation.
IUB’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs is riding that wave of support and goodwill, with their MPA degree setting standards for the rest of the field. With concentrations in 12 different areas, including Energy, International Development, and Public Finance, any MPA student should be able to find their way, and dual degree options combine the MPA with master’s degrees in Arts Administration or Environmental Science. That kind of possibility, with IUB’s job market value, ensures that the MPA is a top ten value.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $8442/yr
San Jose State University
Part of the globally-respected California State University system, San Jose State University may be the most important unsung university in the nation. SJSU is known as the school most likely to get graduates into Silicon Valley jobs, as more tech corporations hire from SJSU than any other school. SJSU’s high proportion of Hispanic and Asian students make it one of the most diverse institutions in America, and a major force for social mobility. And SJSU’s schools of business, journalism & mass communications, and art & design go hand-in-hand with its computer engineering to create the future of technology and communication.
That future won’t happen without infrastructure, public services, and environmental protections, however, which is what gives the SJSU’s Department of Political Science’s MPA its motivation. The SJSU Master of Public Administration prepares students for leadership, financial knowledge, and management in government and non-profit sectors, with a low tuition rate that promises students a strong return on their investment and promises the public a strong next generation of leaders.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $6738/yr
University of Colorado Denver
Originally a satellite campus for the flagship in Boulder, the University of Colorado Denver is now the largest research university in the state, and one of the most renowned in the west. Part of CU Denver’s reputation stems from the famous Anschutz Medical Campus, one of the best-known medical schools in the world, but CUD’s Business School and School of Public Affairs are also highly rated and successful. Denver’s thriving job market and business scene keep students coming.
The School of Public Affairs – one of the top 30 in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report – offers a wide slate of options for the MPA. Students can choose numerous concentrations, including unusual offerings such as Gender-Based Violence, as well as six dual degree programs, where other programs often offer only one or two. A reasonable tuition rate keeps CU Denver a top value, and students recognize a value when they see it.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $6516/yr
Northern Illinois University
Founded as a teacher’s college, Northern Illinois University has long been recognized for bringing education to the people of the region, a mission that has seen NIU cited as a strong force in social mobility. As a highly productive public research institution, Norther Illinois University provides students with exceptional opportunity in business, engineering, and, of course, teaching education.
The School of Public and Global Affairs at Northern Illinois offers an MPA program ranked in the top 50 by U.S. News & World Report, one with some impressive stats. Students can hone in on their areas of concern with five specializations, including fiscal administration and non-profit management. With paid internships, students have the opportunity to gain many hours of experience that can lead to employment, and a 95% job placement in the field proves it.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $8174/yr
George Mason University
George Mason University was originally a branch of the University of Virginia, but in less than 60 years it has surpassed its illustrious flagship in Charlottesville, as well as powerhouses like Virginia Tech, to become the largest public research university in Virginia. For growth, GMU’s proximity to Washington, DC, has been its greatest asset, leading to significant connections and partnerships with government, non-profit agencies, and industry, including DAPRA, NASA, Homeland Security, and many more.
With George Mason’s Washington relationships, it should be no surprise GMU’s School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs should be a leader in the discipline. Located at GMU’s Arlington, VA, campus, the SPGIA’s Master of Public Administration program is taught by professors with real-world government and leadership experience and provides students with ample opportunity to put their learning into action. It’s an MPA degree that will give any competitor a run for its money.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $10,328/yr
San Diego State University
Students want to go to San Diego State University; an average of over 80,000 applications every year gives SDSU the status of one of the most selective institutions in the west, since they can accommodate only a third of that number. SDSU’s excellence is evident, with one of the most productive research faculty in the nation for its size, raising San Diego State to national (rather than regional) status in U.S. News & World Report rankings.
As an urban research university, San Diego State’s School of Public Affairs is extremely well-developed and well-connected for students to learn from experience. SDSU is especially strong in City Planning, one of the concentrations for the Master of Public Administration, along with Criminal Justice. SDSU’s program emphasizes the relationship between public and private sectors to prepare students for the future of public service. Low tuition rates make SDSU a great value and a major force in raising students in Southern California into professional public service.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $6738/yr
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin is the flagship and the standard-bearer for higher education in Texas. Generations of young Texans have found themselves in Austin, creating a culture that is known around the world – as famous for food, music, and partying as for tech, business, and filmmaking. Austin is also the state capital, with deep connections to the government, non-profit, and industry interests that keep Texas’s political life charging ahead.
Close proximity to the capital of Texas – a big state with big money, big culture, and big needs – makes UT Austin an obvious choice for a Master of Public Administration degree. The Texas MPA comes from the nationally-respected McCombs School of Business, and that business slant gives students the tools they will need for the world of contemporary public administration, whether in the public, non-profit, or private sectors. With business connections a more and more key part of government, an MPA from McCombs sets students up for success.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $10,934/yr
University of Maryland, College Park
One of the premier public research universities in the mid-Atlantic region, the University of Maryland shares a major advantage with George Mason University – located right on the edge of Washington, DC, UMD has benefitted from productive partnerships with the NIH, NSA, Homeland Security, and many more government agencies and offices. With over $1.5 billion budget and more than half a million dollars in external funding, UMD rivals any private research university for the opportunities it provides students.
UMD’s School of Public Policy has one of the most enviable positions of any of its competitors, with its inside-the-Beltway location offering students access to government at an unprecedented level, whether it is small non-profits or President Obama himself (who has spoken numerous times at UMD). The University of Maryland offers Master of Public Policy and Master of Public Management degrees with numerous, current specializations that will prepare graduates for the future of public service leadership.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $11,376/yr
University of Southern California
As the oldest private research university in California, the University of Southern California has had plenty of time to get it right – “it” being the combination of excellence and access that makes USC one of the most respected names in the world. One of the most selective universities around, USC’s impressive budget and commitment to only accepting the best means that the students USC accepts receive copious financial aid, and that their student body remains highly diverse, with many first-generation, low-income, and minority students.
The Price School of Public Policy at University of Southern California focuses on the challenges of modern urban life all around the world, challenging students to probe difficult questions and imagine answers no one else can. USC offered one of the first MPA degrees ever, and their program remains solidly placed in the top 5 of U.S. News & World Report’s ranking. With a research center in the California capital, Sacramento, USC provides their Public Administration students with ample opportunity to practice what they learn in real environments, making the USC MPA a top investment.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $39,984/yr
Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis
When city leaders began to consider the need for higher education in the growing city of Indianapolis in the late 1960s, they hit upon a novel solution: Indiana University and Purdue University, both of which had extension campuses in the city, combined their expertise to form Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, a unique, independent institution that brings together faculty and programs from both universities to provide the best education possible.
The IUPUI School of Public and Environmental Affairs offers a Master of Public Administration degree that brings together the SPEA’s expertise in policy, management, finance, and all of the elements that make a modern government work. Small classes take on real projects rather than theory and case studies alone for real experience, going through all the stages of developing and completing a real civic undertaking. True to its mission, IUPUI keeps tuition in a reasonable range to meet the educational needs of more future public leaders.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $8136/yr
University of Washington
One of the US’s most respected public research universities, the University of Washington is the leading winner of research grant funding in the nation, a fact that demonstrates the productivity and up-to-date innovation of U-Dub’s faculty. UW has grown considerably as Seattle has exploded into a hub of tech, computing, and entrepreneurship, and their dedication to providing education to the most students possible have given them one of the most generous funding programs in the US for underprivileged students.
UW’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance is ranked #4 by U.S. News & World Report for best graduate public affairs, high praise for a field that is growing in competition and relevance every year. The Evans School offers 8 areas of concentration, including Social Policy, Nonprofit Management, and International Development, with a strong focus on the all-around skills of management, analysis, and organization. U-Dub graduates can expect to make great strides in their careers with one of the most respected degrees in the field.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $15,207/yr
Originally founded as an innovative, experimental school to bring science and engineering education to the working class of Pittsburgh, PA, Carnegie Mellon University today is a major private research university that rivals MIT, Stanford, and Yale in reputation and value. Recognized as a New Ivy by U.S. News & World Report, Carnegie Mellon is as excellent in business and policy as in engineering and computing, with highly ranked programs in almost all disciplines.
The Heinz College is consistently ranked in the top 10 of public affairs schools, with a strong tradition of using technology for analyzing and understanding the larger issues of public policy and governance. With their collaborative, multidisciplinary program and innovative drive, the Heinz College’s Master of Science in Public Policy and Management prepares students for the future, not just the present of public leadership and administration. Carnegie Mellon’s tuition is not cheap, but strong student support and a spectacular ROI make sure that CMU remains a value.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $40,625/yr
University of Maryland Baltimore County
One of U.S. News & World Report’s most promising up-and-coming American schools, the University of Maryland Baltimore County is growing by leaps and bounds and rapidly moving up tiers in Carnegie Foundation status. This independent institution, once a branch campus of the University of Maryland, is focused on engineering, science, business, and, increasingly in recent years, public policy and urban development. With strong government partnerships, a reputation as a best value, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion, UMBC is on its way to the top.
The newly-organized School of Public Policy brings together all of UMBC’s public administration and management programs, along with the Maryland Institute of Policy Analysis and Research, an undertaking 40 years in developing. The UMBC MPP offers 8 possible concentrations, including Education Policy, Health Policy, and Economics. UMBC has long been considered a top value, and an affordable tuition rate makes the MPP a strong investment in a public service career.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $10,530/yr
University of North Texas
Located within the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan region, the 4th largest city in the US, the University of North Texas is able to bring students the best of two worlds: a comfortable, active college town with music, arts, and sports, and a major urban center in close proximity for access to jobs, internships, and experiential learning. Once known for its renowned English Department and Folk Music Club (which had a major role in sparking the Texas musical explosion of the 1960s and 70s), today UNT is more recognized for professional education, engineering, and public policy.
UNT’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service has been recognized as one of the strongest in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Students praise the CPACS’s student-focused approach, characterized by ample support and guidance from classroom to internship to career. The Master of Public Administration program is a USN&WR top 10, with over 1,000 successful alumni and attractive financial support plans. The University of North Texas’s low tuition rate makes it a clear contender for best value.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $5450/yr
University of Arizona
Founded when Arizona was the Arizona Territory to take advantage of the Morrill Land Grant (source of many states’ public universities), the University of Arizona was built on land donated by two gamblers and a bartender who must have had a lot more foresight than average. A top educator for Hispanic students and one of the best for financial support, the University of Arizona makes sure Arizona residents who want and deserve an educational opportunity aren’t left out in the cold – or sun, as the case may be.
The School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona offers an MPA program ranked in the top 10 for the west, and top 20 nationally by U.S. News & World Report. The UA MPA program brings together the business skills of the private sector with the policy and legal knowledge of the public sector to send graduates out into the field with complete command of the demands of modern public administration, connecting government, business, and non-profit agencies. With classroom and real-world learning, UA’s public policy graduates can handle any challenge.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $11,040/yr
Part of the globally-recognized State University of New York system, Binghamton University is recognized as a Public Ivy (a public university with the quality and reputation of the Ivy League), as well as a top 50 public institution by U.S. News & World Report. Originally a small liberal arts college, Binghamton has grown into a large research university and has been named as a Kiplinger’s Best Value for in-state and out-of-state residents.
The Department of Public Administration, part of the College of Community and Public Affairs, offers an MPA program that compares favorably to programs at much more elite colleges and universities with a much lower cost. Small classes and dedicated professors offer the most current learning in the field, with dual degree programs combining the MPA with Social Work, Nursing, or Student Affairs. Binghamton is also part of the Peace Corps Master’s International program, giving students the opportunity to serve in the Peace Corps during their degree program, gaining real-world, on the ground experience.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $10,870/yr
University of Georgia
One of the foremost top-tier, public research universities in the south, the University of Georgia – the first chartered public university in the US – has a long, storied history. Like Binghamton University, UGA is considered a Public Ivy, and its location in Athens, GA puts it in one of the most beloved and famed college towns in America. An hour’s drive from Atlanta, UGA students have access to all of the internship and networking opportunities a world-class metropolitan city can provide, but get to return to the kind of small town where an historic tree reputedly owns itself.
The Department of Public Administration and Policy at UGA has been consistently ranked in the top 5 public policy schools by U.S. News and World Report, and proudly employs the most productive faculty in the field. UGA’s MPA program includes a mandatory internship for all students, as well as a capstone project based on real-world research. High graduation and job placement rates prove that UGA supports its students and ensures success for their graduates, a key to a great value.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $8492/yr
University of Colorado Colorado Springs
The University of Colorado Colorado Springs may not be considered the little sister to the Boulder and Denver institutions much longer; UCCS has been a focus for the University of Colorado system during the 21st century, intentionally building up engineering, business, and other programs to raise Colorado Springs from a regional campus to a nationally-recognized university. And that effort has worked – UCCS is a university on the rise.
The UCCS School of Public Affairs offers a Master of Public Administration degree program that stands as the best value available in the Centennial State. MPA students can count on a highly diverse student body (more than a quarter of UCCS’s students are minorities) and a focus on critical thinking, analysis, ethics, and collaboration – all the necessary components of a public policy program that is directed toward the future of public service.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $9916/yr
University of Texas at Dallas
Like its neighbor, the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at Dallas makes the most of its location in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation. Founded by Texas Instruments (makers of every calculator you ever used in school) as a research center, the campus became the start of the University of Texas at Dallas when the company donated it to the state in 1969. Today, UT Dallas is one of the most productive first tier research universities in the US, with many world-class STEM programs.
UT Dallas’s School of Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences brings its location to bear in its MPA degree program, providing students with access to the government and non-profit agencies of a thriving, complex city. Master of Public Affairs students can choose from four specializations: Public Management, Local Government Management, Nonprofit Management, and Policy Analysis. It’s one of the few accredited Public Affairs programs in Texas, and a solid investment in a public administration career.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $11,940/yr
University of Texas at El Paso
Founded as a mining and metallurgy school – complete with a practice mine that still exists on campus – the University of Texas at El Paso has grown into one of the most significant engineering and technology institutions in the nation. Part of its importance is UTEP’s status as the largest Hispanic-serving institution, with over 70% of its students claiming Latino heritage. UT El Paso, therefore, awards more degrees to Latino students than any other college, bridging an important educational gap for a growing population.
For Hispanic and Latino Americans to have a voice in the American political process, they need to find a place in policy and administration, which gives the UTEP Master of Public Administration an important mission. MPA graduates are hard at work in the border regions and across the southwest in a variety of government and non-profit careers, and the program is flexible to accommodate working professionals who want to improve their credentials. With four specializations – Public Policy and Management, Leadership, Urban and Regional Planning, and Homeland Security – UTEP MPA students can follow the path that leads them where they want to go, at a price much lower than almost any competitor.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $4336/yr
University of Central Florida
With the second-largest student body in the US (rival Arizona State University just edges them out of first), the University of Central Florida is a major public research university, founded to provide engineering education for NASA’s nearby Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Centers. UCF’s accomplishments in technology and engineering are world-famous and key to our modern way of life, but many of UCF’s other programs have been recognized by U.S. News & World Report. With a large Hispanic and African-American presence, UCF is a highly diverse, up-and-coming university that is changing how higher education works.
UCF’s School of Public Administration has a well-respected Master of Public Administration that has become one of the most sought-after degrees in the state of Florida. Partnerships in Orlando and across the central Florida coast give students ample opportunity for experiential learning and after-graduate careers. All of UCF’s full-time MPA students complete the program in three years or less, at a price that is among the most competitive in Florida, making the UCF MPA a nationally-recognized best value.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $6916/yr
Georgia State University
While students at the University of Georgia can travel to Atlanta to network, students at Georgia State University have full access to the city’s government, non-profit, and business life from GSU’s downtown Atlanta campus. Along with Georgia Tech, Georgia State University is one of two major public research universities in Atlanta. Atlanta can certainly handle it; as the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the US, there is arguably no place that needs more experienced, well-trained professionals to keep the city humming.
Good public administration is key to the health of any major city, which is why Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies is so important. With federal, state, and local government represented in Atlanta, and Georgia State’s connections, students get a wealth of real-world experience and knowledge from experienced faculty. Georgia State’s MPA is scheduled for working professionals, with afternoon and evening classes making for flexible, convenient coursework. Low tuition rates only add to the value.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $6876/yr
California State University Long Beach
With one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation, made up of a high proportion of Hispanic, Asian, and African-American students, California State University Long Beach is a major force in bringing social mobility and educational access to the Los Angeles County area. A U.S. News & World Report top college for the western region, CSU Long Beach is also a perennial best value, with one of the lowest tuition rates in California (where, as residents will admit, nothing is cheap).
As a sprawling, economically and racially diverse metropolitan area, Los Angeles county may be one of the most challenging places in the world to learn and practice public administration, and the CSU Long Beach Graduate Center for Public Policy & Administration makes the most of its opportunity. CSU Long Beach offers an MPA degree program with a general focus, as well as specializations in Public Works Administration or Urban Affairs, both excellent choices for students already working or who wish to work in Los Angeles County. And that incredibly low tuition rate makes CSU Long Beach one of the smartest investments in California.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $6738/yr
Florida Atlantic University
Florida Atlantic University was founded for adult education, intended to meet an educational gap in south Florida by completing the work of community college with upper level and graduate courses. That legacy is important, even as FAU has grown into a more conventional university with a full slate of programs; it means that FAU understands the educational needs of everyday workers and professionals, and brings that education to them with quality and support, especially for low-income and minority students.
FAU’s School of Public Administration understands the needs of the South Florida region and of its students. The MPA degree program focuses on general public administration analysis and problem-solving, with specific focus on the concerns surrounding the university and its service area, with students taking part in real-life public service through required internships. FAU’s exceptionally affordable tuition rate also ensures that students will finish with little debt and a full store of knowledge and experience to enter their public service career.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $5467/yr
California State Polytechnic Institute, Pomona
Founded as a branch of the renowned California State Polytechnic Institute, Cal Poly Pomona has been an independent institution since 1966, completing its mission of bringing STEM-focused education to the people of California at public-university costs. Ranked among the top universities in the western region by U.S. News & World Report, Cal State Pomona boasts engineering and business administration programs that stand alongside Stanford, as well as close relationships with the Department of Homeland Security and the NSA.
Cal Poly Pomona’s government agency connections should come in handy for the Department of Political Science’s Master of Public Administration degree program. A multidisciplinary program, MPA students may take courses in economics, business administration, psychology, and more in addition to core MPA courses, allowing them to find their own interests and focus within the field. And Cal Poly Pomona’s tuition is one of the lowest in California, especially for a polytechnic university, an institution that typically features a high ROI and strong job market presence to make the MPA a sound value.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $6738/yr
Ohio State University
The Ohio State University is one of the most respected, desirable public research universities in the Midwest, with a focus on science, technology, and engineering. While one of the most selective and rigorous of public universities, it is also the third-largest, just behind titans Arizona State and the University of Central Florida. Ranked in the top 20 nationally by U.S. News & World Report, Ohio State has taken its humble origins as a mechanical and agricultural college into the stratosphere.
The John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State offers a premiere MPA program. An academically challenging program, the Ohio State MPA emphasizes statistics and economics as well as legal and policy knowledge, giving students a deep knowledge of all aspects of civil government and how it interacts with private industry and nonprofit sectors. Eight dual degree programs are offered as well, combining the MPA with degrees in areas such as Business Administration, Latin American Studies, and City Planning. No surprise OSU’s MPA students have a 94% placement rate upon graduation – a great investment for sure.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $11,560/yr
University of Missouri
The University of Missouri is the leading public research university in Missouri, a top-tier institution with a full docket of educational opportunities, including a medical school, law school, and the first school of journalism in the nation. As the first public university west of the Mississippi River, UM has been central to learning in the region in all fields since before Missouri was a state – through the trauma of the Civil War and into the modern era.
The Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs – named for President and native Missourian Harry Truman – is designed and determined to be the premiere site for government and public service education in Missouri. With several options, including special programs for mid-career professionals and international students, the UM MPA provides students a fully-rounded picture of how government and policy-making works. Students also have numerous options for real-world experience, with internships, capstone projects, and workshops.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $8402/yr
California State University, Dominguez Hills
Long recognized as one of the best values in the US, California State University, Dominguez Hills, has been doing important work impacting first-generation and economically-disadvantaged college students. One of the most diverse student bodies in the nation, with more than 50% Hispanic, as well as high proportion of African-American and Asian-American students, CSUDH makes education accessible, providing social mobility and economic power to those traditional colleges leave behind.
The CSUDH College of Business Administration and Public Policy takes part in that work, giving students the tools they need to take on positions of authority and leadership in government and private sectors, from economics and law to teamwork and communication. The CSUDH MPA program offers concentrations in Healthcare Administration, Criminal Justice Policy and Administration, and Non-Profit Management, all areas of major growth and critical importance to a thriving public sector. Like sister institutions San Jose State (#11), San Diego State (#15), and Cal State Long Beach (#32), CSDH’s low tuition makes it an obvious best value.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $6738/yr
University of Kansas
The leading public research university in Kansas, the University of Kansas is ranked #55 in the nation for public institutions by U.S. News & World Report. Delayed by the Civil War, the university was key to helping Kansas heal from the horror of its early years through agricultural, engineering, and technical education, bringing the state into the Industrial Age and beyond. KU’s schools of business, engineering, and law are regarded as some of the finest in the Midwest.
Even more impressively, KU’s MPA degree program, from the School of Public Affairs and Administration, has been ranked #1 for city/county management by U.S. News & World Report – a great distinction in a competitive, growing field. One major reason for KU’s success is the unique full-year internship, a program that takes up the entire second year of master’s study and has given KU graduates in impressive 100% job placement rate. A degree that all but guarantees a job in its field is an investment hard to put a price tag on.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $9029/yr
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
With one of the largest students bodies in the US, the University of Minnesota is one of the leading public research universities in the Midwest, drawing students from across the region and the nation to their highly-ranked programs in medicine, law, business, and more. With two campuses bridging the Minneapolis-St. Paul divide, UM serves more than 51,000 students and maintains the reputation of a Public Ivy, educating some of the most influential leaders in the Midwest and the US, including two Vice Presidents and numerous Senators.
Named for former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs emphasizes not just managerial and administrative skills, but public service and ethical leadership. The UMTC Master of Public Affairs is a specialized program designed for mid-career professionals already working in public service to improve their credentials and take on leadership, management, and administrative positions in government or non-profit agencies. With day, evening, weekend, and summer courses, even students working full-time can complete the degree in less than three years.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $15,844/yr
The oldest college in New York State, and one of the nine remaining Colonial Colleges founded before the Revolutionary War, Columbia University is literally a model for the American university. As an Ivy League university, Columbia’s reputation is the basis of comparison for all other institutions, whether Public Ivy, New Ivy, or some other variation. So how can one of the most elite schools in the world be a value? Simple: if you can get into Columbia, it’s very unlikely that you will pay a dime thanks to their generous financial support plans, and the Columbia reputation is practically the only thing you need on your resume.
Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs is one of the most respected and admired in the world, with over half the student body consisting of international students coming to study at the leading global policy school. Students in the Columbia MPA program study local and national policy issues in an international context, learning to understand how all politics in today’s world is global. It’s an education like no other, for students who can, and will, take on the world.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $42,280/yr
Brigham Young University
A private, Latter-Day Saints institution, Brigham Young University is one of the foremost private research universities in the west, consistently receiving U.S. News & World Report’s highest ranks for their business, nursing, education, and law schools. BYU is one of the largest religious universities in the nation, and while most of its students are members of the Latter-Day Saints church (and receive a steep discount), church membership is not required.
The Marriott School of Management at BYU is a top-ranked national business school, falling in the top 40 for U.S. News & World Report, with some individual programs landing in their respective top 10. The Marriott MPA, administered by a business school, emphasizes managerial and economic/financial skills, giving BYU’s students a unique view of public policy and administration. As a religious school, BYU focuses on ethical action and positive impact, graduating professionals to go out and improve their world, not just maintain the status quo.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $14,148/yr
Mississippi State University
Founded as a land-grant institution dedicated to providing practical education to the citizens of Mississippi, Mississippi State University of Agriculture and Applied Science (the full name) has been one of the leading educational institutes in the Deep South for a century and a half. MSU’s mission continues in every discipline and field, giving the people of Mississippi and the south entry into professional and technical fields for affordable costs.
The Mississippi State Department of Political Science and Public Administration is part of that effort, offering students a Master of Public Policy and Administration degree that prepares future leaders for service in Mississippi and elsewhere. With a low student to faculty ratio, students get ample access to their instructors for the kind of mentoring that small liberal arts colleges usually advertise, learning about their research and getting the most current training available. With MSU’s incredibly low tuition, students can count on money well spent.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $4590/yr
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
A mid-sized public university, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas gets the most attention for its famed basketball team and its close proximity to the Las Vegas strip. That doesn’t make UNLV a party school though – it means that UNLV has one of the most respected hospitality programs in the nation, and a large number of working adult students improving their future career prospects. UNLV has the only dental school and the only law school in Nevada, as well as one of the finest business schools in the region.
UNLV’s School of Environmental and Public Affairs is important and influential, especially with UNLV’s concerted sustainability effort – an obvious priority for a college in the desert. The School offers an MPA degree program designed for completion in two and a half years, though nearly all full-time students finish in two or less. Students without public administration experience are required to take an internship for real-world experience. UNLV’s spectacularly low tuition makes it a clear top 50 best value.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $4968/yr
University of North Carolina
The premiere public research university in North Carolina, one of the first public universities ever established, and one of the original Public Ivies, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has set the standard for public higher education from the very beginning. One of the corners of the Research Triangle (along with NC State University, #3), UNC remains one of the most selective and academically rigorous institutions in the south, a distinction it is expected to hold for many more generations.
The Carolina MPA, administered through the School of Government, is one of the top 25 MPA programs in the nation. The UNC School of Government is the largest school of its type in the nation, with deep ties to local and state government. All of UNC’s government professors are engaged in advising, consulting, and research that directly connects the school to government – a major benefit for UNC MPA students. With those kinds of ties, MPA students can count on not only top-of-the-line education, but the network necessary to turn that education into a lifelong career.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $9143/yr
Texas Tech University
Long recognized as one of the most respected public research institutions in the west – as well as one of the most beautiful, with its Spanish Renaissance architecture and meticulous landscaping – Texas Tech University has made its reputation on computing, environmental science, and medicine. As a first-tier research university, Texas Tech’s faculty have contributed significantly to everything from space exploration to turf grass.
That’s to say nothing of the work being done by the Department of Political Science and the Center for Public Service, the academic centers of the Texas Tech MPA program. Faculty and students work together on projects in the field and in the research center, finding solutions to problems unique to west Texas. With four concentrations – Public Management, Healthcare Management, Nonprofit Management, and Environmental Policy and Administration – Texas Tech MPA students can find their own ways to make change in their cities and communities.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $4858/yr
University of New Mexico
The University of New Mexico is the top public research university for the region, a leader in bringing education to the wide-spread population of New Mexico. UNM is especially significant as an educator and employer for the large Hispanic and Native American populations of the area; the largest employer in the state, UNM provides more opportunity for these overlooked groups than any other large research university.
The UNM School of Public Administration offers an in-depth, flexible, and diverse MPA program with three possible concentrations: Health Policy and Administration; Human Resources Management; and Public Management. Students can also choose from two dual degree programs: an MPA/JD program, and an MPA/MCRP (Master of Community and Regional Planning). With all of these opportunities, UNM graduate students have an excellent start.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $6096/yr
San Francisco State University
The California State University system is a heavy hitter for value, and San Francisco State University has earned its place among several of its sister institutions on this list. With high Asian-American and Hispanic populations among its student body, SFSU has a major social impact on the Bay Area, giving many underprivileged and minority students the chance to become Golden Gators.
SFSU’s Department of Public Administration offers an MPA degree that is ranked in the top 5 for California. Many community, city, and state partnerships offer SFSU MPA students the opportunity to see public policy and administration in action, and to take part in community action in the real world. There are also six up-to-date concentrations available, including Urban Administration, Criminal Justice Administration, and Environmental Administration and Policy, all at the same low tuition rate as the other CSU schools.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $6738/yr
One of the most respected non-Ivy League private research universities in the north, Syracuse University has long been recognized for excellence in business, engineering, and the arts. An elite university with many eccentric, long-standing traditions, Syracuse is considered an archetypal college town and an archetypal American college, with a wealth of cultural experience and access for students.
The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, the first school of its kind in the US (founded in 1921), is still regarded as the best public affairs school in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. The school that set the standard continues to set the standard, with seven concentrations in the most crucial public administration areas, a world-class faculty, and a diverse student body that makes Syracuse a sound investment at any price.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $33,312/yr
University of Illinois at Chicago
While its roots go back much farther as a satellite campus to the University of Illinois flagship in Urbana-Champlain, the University of Illinois at Chicago has only been an independent institution since 1979, but in that time it has grown into the largest university in Chicago and one of the largest in the nation. As many as a tenth of all Chicago residents have earned degrees from Chicago, making UIC a major source of the city’s workforce.
With its location in Chicago – the third largest economy in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles – UIC is in a prime spot for public administration education, and the College of Public Planning and Urban Affairs makes full use of the city’s offerings. The Department of Public Administration offers a world-class MPA program with seven concentrations and a multidisciplinary faculty bringing the full complexity of modern public policy to their students – future leaders of Chicago and beyond.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $13,447/yr
George Washington University
Closing out the Value Colleges Top 50 MPA Programs, George Washington University is an elite private university in Washington, DC. Regularly ranked as the most politically active campus in the US – stiff competition to be sure – George Washington University owes its name and existence to the dying wishes of President George Washington to establish a university in the nation’s capital. GWU has educated numerous political leaders, educators, and businesspeople.
It almost goes without saying that George Washington University would have a leading public policy and administration school, and sure enough, the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration is consistently ranked at the top nationally. The GWU MPA, named the #10 MPA program in the US by U.S. News & World Report, provides an education in public administration unlike any other, with direct connection to Washington and eight specializations. While the price may be higher than a public university, George Washington makes up for it in value.
Average Graduate Tuition & Fees: $27,810/yr