By Iris Stone
Posted January 2015
In the United States, we have a unique interest in government and public policy, and thus a unique interest in public service degree programs. We churn out more lawyers per square mile than we can possibly employ, and many new professionals flock to the powerful, promising city of Washington, D.C. We keep up with daily news and keep tabs on government officials, and are often surprisingly educated on issues of the economy, healthcare, and social justice.
As a nation in-arguably founded on the pursuit of an ethical, effective government while fleeing an oppressive one, it’s no surprise that the United States is home to a wealth of universities with dedicated public service schools. Whether they dub it Public Affairs, Public Policy, Political Science, Government, or something else, these schools have committed themselves to creating impressive programs. They invent creative opportunities for students and establish fellowships, seminars, study abroad programs, research institutes, collaborative initiatives, and much more. They do all this to brand themselves as a school worthy of the most innovative, entrepreneurial public service students – some of whom may one day end up in the upper echelons of the federal government.
But how do you define “innovative”? Many of these schools could be classified as “good,” due simply to their expensive facilities or highly paid faculty. But as we set out to describe a list of the most innovative public service schools in the United States, we developed a methodology that hopefully identifies the universities doing truly innovative work.
Some of the categories we researched were fairly straightforward, and meant simply to filter the high quality schools from the ones not worth mentioning. This included looking at the institutions’ U.S. News Public Affairs Graduate Schools rankings and considering each department’s student-to-faculty ratio. We also considered how to qualify the schools that offered students the most options, so we counted the number of degree programs as well as dual/joint/concurrent public service degrees they all offered. We then grew more specific, ranking the quality of each department’s internship and career services programs, and even going so far as to count the number of unique and innovative public policy programs at each university. Lastly, we gave extra points to schools who gained the unique distinction of being honored as “innovative” by QS World Rankings. We assigned each school points and weighted each category based on our understanding of its significance in defining innovative public service schools, using information from multiple reputable sources as our guides in this process.
- U.S. News Ranking: maximum 27 points, 16% of total ranking
- Number of Degree Programs: maximum 15 points, 9% of total ranking
- Student-to-Faculty Ratio: maximum 15 points, 9% of total ranking
- Number of Joint/Dual/Concurrent Degree Programs: maximum 33 points, 20% of total ranking
- Strength of Internship Programs: maximum 20 points, 12% of total ranking
- QS Top Universities Innovation Ranking: maximum 15 points, 9% of total ranking
- Number of Innovative Features: maximum 40 points, 24% of total ranking
As you can see, there were a maximum of 165 total points included in this methodology. In other words, a school that scored perfectly in every category would have earned 165 points and a 100% grade. Of course, no school is perfect, and in fact the most points we awarded was 119. Nonetheless, this ranking system should give you a useful idea of which schools offer the most innovative programs in public service, giving students access to a wealth of degree options, numerous research opportunities, and extensive learning experiences outside the classroom. We have listed them from least innovative to most innovative, along with the “Net Price” values.
Net Price refers to a school’s average total cost after factoring in tuition, expenses, scholarships, and financial aid packages. Weigh your interest in innovation with your need for cost savings, and choose the school that’s right for you!
50. Naval Postgraduate School
The Graduate School of Business and Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate school is ranked in the Top 50 Public Affairs Programs in the country by U.S. News. Students can choose from numerous graduate public service degrees and certificate options, many of which combine the study of business with issues of national defense. With fewer than 10 students to every one faculty member, participants in the program have plenty of opportunities to learn, ask questions, and take advantage of the school’s innovative resources. For example, students can join the Global Public Policy Academic Group, which delivers interdisciplinary and research-based educational programs focused on globalization and national security.
Net Price: $0/yr
49. College of William and Mary
The College of William and Mary’s Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy traces its roots to the leadership and passion of this nation’s Founding Fathers. The competitive program only admits 25 students a year into it’s Master’s in Public Policy program, ensuring that the brightest and most ambitious students develop a close-knit community and close relationships with faculty. The public service school places 73rd on U.S. News’ list of best programs, and offers such innovative opportunities as the Friday Policy Dialogues, Policy Research Seminars, and an Alumni Mentoring Program. Bachelor’s degree students will also be happy to hear that the department encourages and provides many resources for undergraduate research. (See: Public Policy Scholarships)
Net Price: $11,534/yr
48. Indiana University-Purdue University
The School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI addresses the needs of students who want to work in government, business, nonprofits, community service, international relations. The department offers nearly 20 public service degrees and related majors, including joint programs in areas like criminal justice and public safety. Students at SPEA will particularly enjoy the school’s emphasis on connectivity, which allows learners to study on other campuses, and even in D.C.! Perhaps the most unique aspect of the public service school is its emphasis on sustainability, which allows students to also learn about how to protect our planet.
Net Price: $12,713/yr
47. University of Arkansas
The Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas, named after the famous political power couple, has produced political strategists, congressmen, lawyers, businessmen, nonprofit administrators, and humanitarians who have had a positive impact all across the nation. Although the department is relatively small, it more than makes up for it with strong internship programs and a rigorous Capstone requirement. Students can also join the Model United Nations and other campus groups to connect with other public service degree students and network with future colleagues.
Net Price: $12,057/yr
46. University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland
The University of Maryland’s main campus is located in College Park, which offers the unbeatable benefit of being located just outside the nation’s capital. In addition to finding internship experiences in the city, students can also apply to more unique internship funds that could take them all across the world. Rated in the Top 30 Public Affairs Programs by U.S. News, the School of Public Policy offers a handful of public service degrees in areas such as public policy, public management, public administration, and policy studies. UMCP has also developed a plethora of innovative programs, including The Global Public Leadership Program. This resources helps students connect with others dedicated to public service all across the world to solve common problems. (See: Public Administration Scholarships)
Net Price: $14,941/yr
45. Pennsylvania State University
Penn State at Harrisburg’s School of Public Affairs offers degrees in criminal justice, homeland security, political science, public policy, and public administration. Joint programs are also available in public administration and law, which allows graduate students to concurrently earn both an MPA and a coveted J.D. Students can also engage in research (mostly in the Central PA region), apply for internships, and acquire financial aid through merit scholarships. These reasons and more are why for the past several years Penn State has ranked in the Top 100 U.S. News public service schools, topping out at 51st in 2008.
Net Price: $23,161/yr
44. Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island
As an Ivy League institution, Brown University is one of the oldest, most prestigious schools in the country. Although it is most renowned for its traditionally liberal arts degrees, its Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions has much to offer. With a hard to beat 8:1 student to faculty ratio, public service degree students enjoy helpful attention from top faculty in the field. Research initiatives at the school cover urban policy, public opinion, technology, social welfare, innovation, law and criminal justice, teaching, and more. Students also benefit from advisors who can guide them through their concentrations, as well as numerous travel programs that will take them to Brazil, India, China, and other heavy hitting nations involved in global policy.
Net Price: $22,369/yr
43. Baruch College – CUNY
New York, New York
Baruch College tellingly describes its School of Public Affairs as a “community of change agents.” Leading scholars take students from the public service school outside of the classroom to benefit from real-world experiences and learn how to make a serious impact. The college has a Top 50 ranking from U.S. News, thanks to numerous resources that provide useful experiences beyond traditional lectures. For example, the Washington Semester takes graduate-level public affairs students to D.C. to learn from professionals in the political sphere. Another example is the Center for Equality Pluralism, which allow students to engage in in-depth research in social justice and inequality.
Net Price: $7,955/yr
42. Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
Cornell University is another prestigious institution with a reputation for educating the nation’s best and brightest. The Institute for Public Affairs offers a curriculum that is flexible, rigorous, and exciting to those interested in a life of public service. Public service degree options in the department include economic and financial policy, environmental policy, social policy, international development studies, human rights and social justice, and other interdisciplinary programs. Students can also complete a dual MPA/MHA degree, or even earn a concurrent MBA or JD. Furthermore, members can study off campus in Rome or Nepal, or engage in externships in places as diverse as Washington, D.C. and India.
Net Price: $25,652/yr
41. University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky’s School of Public Policy and Administration has a surprisingly highly-rated program, coming in at #16 on U.S. News’ list. Although the department is fairly small, it offers a uniquely high concentration of joint degree options, including a PharmD/MPA, JD/MPA, or BS/MPA. A “University Scholars” program offers particularly motivated public service degree undergraduates the opportunity to enter into an accelerated bachelor’s/master’s program. Students also benefit from rigorous Capstone Projects, which allow them to pursue research in an area of particular interest to them. Past projects have studied fiscal performance of nonprofits, sustainability, the socioeconomic impact of coal, and much more.
Net Price: $14,839/yr
40. American University
Washington, District of Columbia
American University’s primary benefit to public service students is its location right in the middle of Washington, D.C. This allows members of the School of Public Affairs to find competitive internship opportunities at local nonprofits, with government organizations, and even on “The Hill.” Particularly innovative features of the public service school include the three-year bachelor’s cohort program, which allows undergraduates to focus on several interdisciplinary units at once; the Campaign Management Institute, which educates individuals in the workings of political campaigns; and the Key Executive Leadership Programs, which transforms current professionals and businesspeople into powerful leaders in public service.
Net Price: $32,548/yr
39. Ohio University
Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs builds its program around key interests in the environment, community organizations, the economy, public-private partnerships, research, and of course leadership. Ranked in the Top 30 Public Affairs Programs by U.S. News, Ohio offers nearly a dozen public service degrees in such areas as Environmental Studies and Public Administration. Students pursuing a master’s in political science can choose to either write a thesis or submit “two significant papers,” which are based on prior graduate level courses. Undergraduates in the Honors Tutorial College can also benefit from a unique opportunity to become research assistants and earn scholarships to support their participation. Ohio University is the only public service school in the United States that is a joint partner with a college of business on a Center for Entrepreneurship, and they lead a 20 county state commercialization effort, which has had a big impact on their innovation approach to public service. Their work in this area is what contributed to Ohio University being one of only 18 universities in the country named a 2015 Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the prestigious Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The honor was bestowed in recognition of OU’s strong commitment to economic engagement.
Net Price: $17,846/yr.
38. University of Massachusetts Amherst
The Center for Public Policy and Administration at UMass Amherst welcomes students interested in the interdisciplinary crossroads of public policy, research, teaching, and social change. Dedicated faculty integrate social equality into courses in political science, criminal justice, and policy administration. Master’s degree students in the public service school can even choose to joint major in public policy and either health, business, education, or planning. Accelerated programs and rigorous internships are available to students looking to push their career into the fast lane. The school also offers nationally-recognized research opportunities that span family care, the environment, governance, science and technology, and social justice.
Net Price: $19,120/yr
37. University of Georgia
Public Service students at the University of Georgia benefit from a plethora of innovative opportunities. Members of the Department of Public Administration and Policy can study abroad through “MayMester China,” participate in the Seoul Case Study Program, or earn a graduate assistantship through the Fanning Institute. The department offers both MPA and PhD degrees, as well as joint programs for those interested in either an MBA or JD. These opportunities, plus unique initiatives like the Georgia Legislative Internship Program and Service Learning Courses, have helped propel UG into U.S. News’ Top 5 Public Affairs schools in the nation.
Net Price: $12,862/yr
36. University of California – Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
UCLA is home to one of the premier Schools of Public Policy on the West Coast. Coming in at 23rd on U.S. News’ list of top public service degree programs, it offers “areas of focus” in Crime and Drugs, Education, the Environment, Health, Nonprofits, Labor, International work, Poverty, Social Policy, Regional Development, and Transportation. Within the department, such programs as the Luskin Center for Innovation, Global Public Affairs at Luskin, and Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership provide students with a plethora of opportunities to explore learning outside the classroom. Furthermore, the Social Justice Initiative, through a partnership with NYU, offers workshops, student fellowships, and public events for those committed to social equality.
Net Price: $13,686/yr
35. Indiana University
The School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) at Indiana University holds the esteemed #2 spot on U.S. News’ list of Top Schools for Public Affairs. Its wealth of public service degree programs (covering the undergraduate, master’s, PhD, and executive education levels) and strong internship resources help boost its standing in the world of academia. However, its focus on innovation is what makes it really stand out. For example, the Civic Leaders Center is a living-learning community for motivated freshmen interested in public policy. Students can also travel overseas; visit Washington, D.C.; or earn a summer associate position at AmeriCorps.
Net Price: $11,361/yr
34. Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas
The Bush School of Government and Public Service is named for one of the most famous political families of the Republican party. One particularly interesting feature of Texas A&M is its emphasis on joint programs; students of the public service school can choose an accelerated bachelor’s/master’s degree or form an interdisciplinary major in Economics/International Affairs, Economics/Public Service, International Studies/International Affairs, Political Science/Public Service, or Sociology/Public Service. Resources such as the Institute for Science, Technology, and Public Policy and the Mobacher Institute for Trade offer additional opportunities. Learners can also explore the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, which serves as a core area of research in international policy.
Net Price: $11,323/yr
33. University of Arizona
The University of Arizona houses its School of Government and Public Policy within the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, offering a unique opportunity for crossover study. Undergraduate students can major in public administration, criminal justice, political science, public management, or even law, while graduate students can explore public administration or international security. The large size of the public service school and its strong career resources have landed UA a #37 spot on the U.S. News list, while facilities such as the National Institute of Civil Discourse; Rombach Institute on Crime, Delinquency, and Corrections; and the Applied Ethics Program round out its placement as an innovative public service school.
Net Price: $14,070/yr
32. University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California
Another top public service school located in Los Angeles, USC has funneled significant time and resources into the development of its Price School of Public Policy. The impressive department offers majors in a diverse set of interests, including urban planning, real estate development, nonprofit leadership, and international policy management. With more than two dozen total public service degree options and a tiny student to faculty ratio of just 9:1, students enjoy both large-campus resources and small-school attention. Over the years the department has expanded to offer executive education programs, short-term courses, and even online learning.
Net Price: $29,889/yr
31. Rutgers University – Camden
Camden, New Jersey
The Department of Public Policy and Administration at Rutgers (Camden) roots itself in the core tenants of theoretical understanding, empirical analysis, social science, ethics, law, and politics. More than half a dozen research institutes allow students to explore government compliance and ethics, constitutional understanding, education, community development, law and philosophy, and the impact of culture on a variety of government interests. The public service school also places a premium on offering dual degrees, and allows students to choose an accelerated option or study Urban Studies/Public Affairs, Political Science/Public Affairs, Economics/Public Affairs, Law(JD)/Public Affairs, or Criminal Justice/Public Affairs concurrently.
Net Price: $11,294/yr
30. George Washington University
Washington, District of Columbia
George Washington University is one of the few postsecondary institutions that can offer its students 24/7 access to all the resources of the nation’s capital. Graduate public service degrees and certificates in public affairs focus on transforming students into capable leaders and encouraging them to make a difference. Ranked 12th of all Public Affairs programs nationally by U.S. News, GW offers a low student-to-faculty ratio and numerous joint degree options. The department also offers stellar career placement and internship services, including the Women’s Leadership Fellows Program for particularly promising female students. GW also provides a host of funding opportunities, including placements with AmeriCorp, the Peace Corp, and Teach for America.
Net Price: $32,018/yr
29. University of Massachusetts – Boston
In addition to its Amherst location, the University of Massachusetts has also developed a public service school at its Boston campus worth mentioning. The John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies is a great choice for master’s degree applicants interested in political science. Students can explore “Global Leadership Dialogues,” join a Summer Institute in Ecuador studying Conflict Transformation, or take advantage of one of the campus’ numerous research facilities. Public service degree options include Conflict Resolution; Gender, Leadership, and Public Policy; Gerontology Research/Policy; Global Governance and Food Security; International Relations; Public Affairs; or Public Policy.
Net Price: $10,575/yr
28. University of Delaware
The University of Delaware has constructed a School of Public Policy and Administration that is poised to integrate “academic excellence and professional experience.” Student Exchange Programs, Conflict Resolution Programs, and community service opportunities help students to broaden their horizons in new ways. Students can also apply to the “First Step” Challenge in Social Innovation, which encourages creative thinkers to apply their ideas to solving global problems. U.S. News recognizes UD as a top public affairs program, specifically citing its degrees in nonprofit management, city management, and public administration. In 2007, the public service school also received an award from the American Public Human Services Administration for its commitment to human services training.
Net Price: $14,398/yr
27. University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
The University of Michigan is a prestigious Midwestern school, reputable for its excellence in many academic areas. A top 15 U.S. News program, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy offers degrees and certificates at all levels of study. This includes an interdisciplinary Public Policy/International Affairs summer program, which uses rigorous training to prepare particularly competent undergrads for advanced study. Research-focused students can also explore their passion through such institutes as the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy; Center for Public Policy in Diverse Societies; the Education Policy Initiative; the International Policy Center; the National Poverty Center; and more.
Net Price: $15,939/yr
26. University of Albany – SUNY
Albany, New York
The University of Albany, part of the extensive State University of New York system, attracts students from far and wide to its Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. Members of the college spend much time learning outside of the classroom, often through teaching and research assistantships and professional development opportunities. Another example of experiential learning includes the Center for International Development, which conducts policy-oriented research and implements projects to solve global challenges. In addition, the Project on Violent Conflict, which studies all forms of political violence, such as terrorism, rebellion, war, and insurgency.
Net Price: $13,979/yr
25. University of Pennsylvania
As the southern-most Ivy League School, the University of Pennsylvania offers superior programs just a short drive from the political center of Washington, D.C. In fact, the Wharton School’s Public Policy Initiative has a permanent office stationed in the nation’s capital. Located in bustling Philadelphia, public service degree students also find plenty of career opportunities in the area’s local government. UPenn has an intimate student-to-faculty ratio of just 6:1, but degree programs reminiscent of a much larger campus. The Fels Institute of Government offers majors in public administration, economic development and growth, nonprofit administration, and public finance, as well as a long list of dual degree options.
Net Price: $21,994/yr
24. Ohio State University
Ohio State University is not just one of the largest public institutions in the country, it’s also home to the impressive John Glenn School of Public Affairs. Students can attend unique seminars in space policy and exploration, education, and food policy, or explore an extensive internship program. Other innovative features include the Washington Academic Intern Program, the Civil Leadership Council, and the Battelle Center for Science and Technology Policy. Another option is NEW Leadership Ohio, an initiative that helps empower women to take on executive roles in public service. Undergraduate women connect with colleagues at Rutgers and the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies to learn how to build a new generation of policymakers.
Net Price: $17,406/yr
23. University of Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin is a premier public school in the Midwest with a Top 15 U.S. News ranking for its Public Affairs Department. Labelled the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, the program offers a few main areas of study. Core focus areas include Law and Public Policy, Urban Planning and Public Affairs, and International Affairs. UW also offers some unique areas of interdisciplinary focus, combining public policy with health, neuroscience, or energy analysis. The public service school’s focus on innovation and ingenuity had led to a stellar career placement rate (93%), with the majority of graduates focusing on state or nonprofit work.
Net Price: $16,536/yr
22. Columbia University
New York, New York
Columbia University in the City of New York is one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions, offering top education in one of the country’s most loved metropolitan areas. The school combines an unbeatable student-to-faculty ratio of just 6:1 with a huge public affairs department, rife with resources and informative events. The School of Public and International Affairs combines a few main graduate programs with a number of concentrations, specializations, and unique workshops, creating practically limitless learning opportunities. Perhaps the department’s most innovative feature is its global reach, with educational partners in London, Berlin, Beijing, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Mexico City, and more.
Net Price: $20,740/yr
21. Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Commonwealth University benefits from its ideal location in the state’s capital city. Students have plenty of access to local government internships and career opportunities, but are also just a short drive from Washington, D.C. With both accelerated and dual degree options, the School of Government and Public Affairs allows students to study a unique combination of topics. Areas of study include homeland security, urban and regional planning, nonprofit management, and criminal justice. In addition to traditional internships, public service degree seekers can also bolster their resume through service learning opportunities or find prestigious employment through the Wilder Graduate Scholars Fellowship Program.
Net Price: $16,764/yr
20. University of Texas
The University of Texas spans multiple campuses throughout the large state, and roots its flagship location in the burgeoning city of Austin. The school’s large number of public service degrees and joint programs have pushed the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs into U.S. News’ Top 20 ranking of Public Affairs departments. When it comes to innovation, UT excels through such initiative as the Peace Corp Master’s International Degree Program, which prepares graduate students for work in philanthropy, global policy, international development, or energy and the environment. Many of UT’s research centers are innovative as well, and allow interested scholars to pursue research in international security, law, human resources, health and social policy, philanthropy and community service, international energy, and environmental policy.
Net Price: $15,336/yr
19. University of California – Berkeley
The Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley focuses on “Leadership for the Public Good.” Attracting smart, dedicated, and service-minded individuals, the department offers a few selective programs in public policy. The degrees are also extremely flexible, allowing MPP students to joint major in an area from a number of other Berkeley schools. UC Berkeley offers impressive internship programs, plus the PPIA Junior Summer Institute. The latter initiative funnels members of underserved communities into an intensive seven-week training program to prepare them for careers in public service. Students can also explore a host of global and executive programs, such as the Hague Domestic Violence Project. This project works to draft policy to help shield child refugees from violence and abuse in their home countries.
Net Price: $16,614/yr
18. University of Washington
The University of Washington may be on the other side of the country from the political capital with a similar name, but it is nonetheless intuitively connected to all current issues in public policy. Students can pursue a master’s or PhD in public policy and administration through the public service school, leading to work at universities, nonprofits, or think tanks. Areas of specialization at the Evans School of Public Policy And Governance are available in philanthropy, the environment, social policy, science and technology, and much more, providing students with an innovative, interdisciplinary look at government work. Students can also complete concurrent degrees, participate in Capstone Projects, or even choose a degree that will prepare them for the Peace Corp. UW is currently ranked #9 in Public Affairs by U.S. News.
Net Price: $9,559/yr
17. Stanford University
While Stanford is a top Western university lauded for its science, technology, and engineering programs, it also boasts an impressive commitment to government and public policy education. Stanford also holds the unique honor of being awarded a five star innovation ranking from QS World Rankings, due in large part to its research capabilities, social responsibility, internationalization, and inclusivity. Many of Stanford’s public policy courses are interdisciplinary, aptly combining the study of law, ethics, philosophy, economics, organizational behavior, and even social psychology. The Public Policy Program also offers an undergraduate Honors College and Practicum Sessions, where students can conduct real policy analyses.
Net Price: $19,109/yr
16. Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon, also known for its prowess in STEM fields, offers myriad public service degrees through its School of Public Policy and Management. Distinguished faculty employ innovative teaching techniques and provide a challenging, dynamic learning environment for bright students. Potential areas of focus include traditional degrees in Public Policy or Public Management, but also unique majors in Medical Management, Arts Management, and Biotechnology Management. Students can also attend part-time, earn a certificate, apply for the summer Junior institute, or apply to the Negotiation Academy for Women. Students can also enjoy “Global Heinz,” which could take them as far as Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, or Mexico to study government and public service.
Net Price: $35,464/yr
15. Virginia Polytechnic and State University (Virginia Tech)
Virginia Tech is currently recognized by the U.S. News and World Report for having the #37 best public affairs and #17 top public management administration programs in America. Within the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), students have a wealth of degrees to choose from. Undergraduates can achieve a B.A. in Public and Urban Affairs or B.S. in Environmental Policy and Planning. At the master’s level, there’s a Master of Public and International Affairs (MPIA), Master of Public Administration (MPA), and Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) with dual degree options. Doctoral candidates can also receive their Ph.D. in Public Administration and Public Affairs (PAPA) or Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG). Virginia Tech is well-known for its diverse student population, distinguished faculty, supportive alumni base, and unique 11-week Washington Semester Summer program.
Net Price: $19,096/yr
14. Florida International University
Florida International University distinguishes itself through one of the nation’s largest offerings of public service degree programs. Academics cover an incredible range of topics, including criminal justice, Asian studies, economics, political science, public administration, and international relations, plus minoring options in numerous foreign languages. FIU students at the graduate level can explore such unique topics as African Diaspora, Global Governance, and Atlantic History, or pursue more than a dozen joint and combined degree programs. FIU also provides a long list of innovative centers and institutes, including the Academy for International Disaster Preparedness, the Center for Labor Research and Studies, and the Global Energy Security Forum.
Net Price: $$11,552/yr
13. University of Colorado
The School of Public Affairs at UC Denver is ranked 29th on U.S. News’ list of Top Public Affairs Programs. Its nearly dozen major options cover criminal justice, public administration, regional planning, law, and more, plus supplementary certificates/concentrations in such innovative arenas as gender-based violence, emergency management and homeland security, environmental policy, interpersonal violence and healthcare, local government, and nonprofit management. The public service school also offers leadership seminars, online courses, and accelerated programs to meet the needs of diverse groups of learners. In addition, students can explore the Wirth Chair in Sustainable Development, which focuses on developing “green” strategies to support future generations.
Net Price: $12,580/yr
12. Arizona State University
Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs offers a multitude of innovative opportunities to aspiring public service professionals. For example, the “Alliance for Innovation” gives students the opportunity to pitch innovative ideas pertaining to the future of local communities and governments. ASU has received recognition from both U.S. News and QS World Rankings for its superior programs, and collaborates with more than a dozen research centers and institutes. One such example is the Center for Urban Innovation, which seeks to improve local neighborhoods through innovative governance and design. Another example is the Center for Social Cohesion, which focuses on studying the forces behind social unity.
Net Price: $12,380/yr
11. Georgetown University
Washington, District of Columbia
Georgetown University is attractive to public service students for numerous reasons. It holds a prestigious reputation for academic excellence; is well-known for its superior facilities and on-campus resources; and sits in one of the most historic, beautiful parts of the United States’ political capital. Well known for its prowess in the political science arena, Georgetown offers Policy Analysis Capstone courses, international programs, networking policy dinners, and membership in an impressive consortium of other top universities. All this and more has led U.S. News to rank its Public Affairs program 23rd in the nation.
Net Price: $25,814/yr
10. George Mason University
George Mason University is an up-and-coming public institution with a growing reputation for excellence in a number of areas. A fledgling community college just 40 years ago, GMU now hosts nearly 30,000 students each year. Students are particularly attracted to its School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs, which features distinguished faculty with professional experience in the federal government, military, and nonprofit sector. Working with a well-known economics department, SPGIA provides first-rate academics and competitive internships in nearby Washington, D.C. Other innovative offerings include the Global Politics Fellows, the Public Service Fellows, and research centers exploring everything from energy science and entrepreneurship to philosophy and corruption.
Net Price: $16,155/yr
9. University of Virginia
The University of Virginia is well-known as one of the top schools in the state, and boasts the prestigious Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. The entire public service school consists of one innovation after another, and encourages students to explore entrepreneurial thinking and social values. In addition to a number of traditional programs, students can also apply to complete joint ventures in Public Policy/Law (JD), Public Policy/Business Administration (MBA), Public Policy/Education Policy (PhD), Public Policy/Public Health, and Public Policy/Urban and Environmental Planning. Members of the Batten School complete summer internships, participate in “Batten Reports,” and apply for special funding and fellowship opportunities.
Net Price: $13,463/yr
8. University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs is currently rated in the Top 20 on U.S. News’ list of Public Affairs graduate programs. Students can major in public policy, urban and regional planning, environmental policy, international development, or public affairs, plus earn certificates in early childhood policy, nonprofit management, or policy issues on work and pay. Outside the classroom, public service degree students can join the International Fellowship Program, spearhead a diversity initiative, and perform service outreach and field experiences. Other particularly innovative options include the Feminist Leadership Fellowship Program, which helps support female executives in the nonprofit sector.
Net Price: $15,531/yr
7. University of Chicago
The University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy offers Master’s, PhD, and Joint degrees to talented individuals. The school’s interdisciplinary approach allows Public Policy students to link their studies with a major in Middle Eastern Studies, Business Administration (MBA), Law (JD), Social Service Administration, or even Divinity. Students can also take advantage of a professional option and earn a bachelor’s and master’s in just five years. Understanding that “rigorous classroom study is only half the equation,” the department also allows Chicago students to find summer internships, participate in team projects, take international seminars, attend speaker series, and connect with helpful local mentors.
Net Price: $31,935/yr
6. University of Pittsburgh
The 33rd-ranked Public Affairs Program by U.S. News, the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs features numerous accelerated programs, online learning opportunities, and numerous centers of research. The school’s main focus is on public administration and international development, but joint public service degrees are also available in business administration, law, public health, social work, and information science. Although located in Pittsburgh, area students will enjoy the short drive to career opportunities in Washington, D.C., and can also apply for international programs in Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, South Korea, France, South Africa, China, or Colombia.
Net Price: $22,341/yr
5. Rutgers University – Newark
Newark, New Jersey
In addition to Rutger’s Camden location, its Newark location also deserves a mention on this list of innovative public service schools. Students enjoy numerous unique degree programs and international partnerships, and can conduct research through the Rutgers Institute on Anti-Corruption Studies, Center for Technology Leadership, Center for Applied Appreciative Inquiry, or Institute on Transparency and Governance, just to name a few. Other unique options include the Virtual Museum of Public Service, which helps to inspire socially responsible careers, and the New Jersey DataBank, which makes information on government officials easily accessible.
Net Price: $10,601/yr
Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton University, as an Ivy League institution, is often lauded as one of the premier colleges in the country. The institution’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, named after a former United States president, concentrates on motivating a strong commitment to public service. Ranked as the 5th best school of its kind by U.S. News, Princeton also holds the rare honor of receiving 5 innovation stars from QS Rankings. Public service degree students can explore the Bernstein Gallery, which critically analyzes contemporary policy issues; attend the annual JRCPPF conference on equity and finance; or tap into the resources of nearly 20 collaborative research centers and institutes. While College Navigator lists the average net price as $21,231/yr for Princeton undergrads, the Woodrow Wilson School reports that due to its generous aid package, all students graduate debt-free.
Net Price: $21,231/yr
3. New York University
New York, New York
New York University, an urban college with buildings scattered throughout the bustling downtown metropolis, is often noted for its excellent instruction in the creative arts. However, its Wagner School of Public Affairs is equally notable, regularly receiving recognition from ranking experts at U.S. News. Sometimes overshadowed by its Ivy League neighbor, NYU offers just as many if not more innovative programs to aspiring public service professionals. Students complete rigorous Capstone requirements and select from a unique spread of seminars in economics, finance, politics, law, and global justice. NYU also boasts a long list of research opportunities, including the “Innovation Lab,” which runs cutting-edge experiments testing the latest and greatest public policy theories.
Net Price: $34,268/yr
2. Duke University
Durham, North Carolina
Duke students can choose from a number of undergraduate degrees, pursue a master’s in public policy or international development, or even earn their PhD. Dual degrees are available in traditional selections, such as business administration and law, as well as more unique areas of study, such as the environment and medicine. Duke encourages student entrepreneurship and offers stellar internship and career placement services. The public service school’s Distinguished Lecture Series at Sanford also offers students rare access to high-profile leaders.
Net Price: $19,116/yr
1. Harvard University
The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, named after one of the United States’ most loved presidents, offers competitive programs to only the most talented students. One of the few American schools graced with a 5 star innovation ranking from QS Top Universities, plus the #3 spot on the U.S. News list, Harvard offers a practically endless list of resources. Students can choose from a handful of specially designed degrees and have the option to select from an impressive list of joint programs. They can also pursue research through one of more than 60 programs covering leadership, civil society, ethics, business, women and government, and you guessed it…innovation. As Harvard has a reputation for being one of the best universities in the world, it’s no surprise that it ended up at the top of the list for innovative public service schools.
Net Price: $16,445/yr
Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management
Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration
U.S. News Ranking & Reviews
QS Top Universities Innovation Rankings
About the Author:
Iris Stone began her writing career when she started working as a freelance writer and researcher in 2011. Her freelance business soon took off and she now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Despite the time it takes to run a business she still does much of the writing herself, and her work has included a variety of content related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and graduates’ careers. Her interests span far beyond writing, and she is currently studying to be a physicist. Check out her Google+ Profile.