Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who should consider pursuing an MPP degree?

    Any individual passionate about solving real-world problems should look at MSU’s MPP program. You will expand your policy knowledge by learning from top-tier economists and political scientists at a world-class Research-1 university working to solve critical societal and policy problems (e.g., access to clean drinking water, ensuring student achievement, promoting human rights, expanding renewable energy, reducing health care costs, fostering greater civic engagement, making housing affordable). We want to cultivate leaders further and help graduates make a positive mark on their community and world. 

    You will gain data analytic and numerical literacy skills, as well as a rich understanding of
    political and economic contexts to prepare you to design, implement, and evaluate public policy effectively. Moreover, you’ll explore how policy is both public and personal among a small and diverse cohort (15 – 25 students) during evening classes so you can still work part- or full-time and finish within two years.

  • What do I get with an MPP degree?
    You learn how to design, implement, and evaluate public policies while also acquiring a solid understanding of the political and economic dynamics of policy making. You also enhance your numerical literacy and gain strong quantitative, analytical capabilities. You simultaneously foster advanced written and verbal communication capacities. Ultimately, you earn a professional degree and applied skills that are directly transferable to numerous jobs in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
  • What is the difference between an MPP degree and an MPA degree?
    Master of Public Policy degrees are comprehensive and holistic, informing you about the policy process. Master of Public Administration degrees instruct you how to implement policies, programs, or organizations. Rather than focusing purely on administering a policy, MPP students gain an understanding of the entire process: policy design, agenda-setting, adoption, administration, and evaluation. Moreover, you earn essential data and analytical skills along the way. An MPP degree includes all the expertise you could gain from an MPA degree and more.
  • What are the course requirements for the MPP degree?

    You are required to complete 13 courses and an internship (42 credits total), all of which can be completed in two years. Course topics range from a policy pro-seminar, policy evaluation, quantitative research methods, to microeconomics, public finance, and a final research project. Three of the 13 courses are electives, where you can take classes on education policy, environmental policy, health care policy, urban politics, economic development, international development, labor rights, among many others.  

  • What else does the curriculum include?
    We ask our students to balance coursework with applied internships and research opportunities, so you receive hands-on experience developing evidence-based solutions to policy problems. The curriculum also includes a Capstone Forum, Speaker Series events, Policy Networking activities, and other events where students interact and network with state and local policy leaders and practitioners. 
  • I heard MSU hosts a “Capstone Forum;” what is that?
    Most graduate programs require you to complete a thesis project, where you spend one-semester writing a research paper and defend it before your academic committee. Under this framework, your research’s impact is limited. Several years ago, MSU moved to a Capstone Forum. Under our model, you dedicate a full year to executing your own cutting-edge and applied research with one-on-one support from faculty mentors and policy practitioners. Then you present your findings to a broad and diverse audience—including distinguished alumni, college and university leadership, policy practitioners, faculty advisors, family, and friends—during an evening reception. That way, your original research can reach a wider audience, have a broader impact, and allow you to network with practitioners right as you are entering the policy job market.
  • I heard MSU offers a “Linked-program;” what is that and how can I apply?

    MSU’s MPP Linked-program allows MSU undergraduates to earn both their bachelor's (BA or BS) degree and a Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree in just five years. Undergraduate students can apply up to 12 approved credits from the undergraduate level to their master's degree requirements. This saves undergraduate students time and money, and gets them a jumpstart on their policy careers. 

    Currently, only political science and economics undergraduate majors can participate in the Linked-program. But undergraduate students from other majors can participate via MSU’s dual-enrollement program, which mirrors the Linked-program. To apply, first meet with Academic Advisor Krista Zeig (kzeig@msu.edu) to see if the Linked-program or dual enrollment will work with your degree and career plans. Then you can apply online following the general application process for the MPP program. Linked-students do not need to take and submit GRE scores.

  • What are potential careers with an MPP degree?

    You can use your MPP degree to do policy research, manage policy teams, advocate for the passage of policies, work in public administration, design and evaluate policies, assess a policy’s fiscal impact, serve as city managers or county administrators, lead a nonprofit, or help private companies navigate the governmental system, among many other career paths.

  • What is MSU’s MPP degree placement rate?

    94% of our graduates are employed and making an impact in the policy world within 6-months of graduating from the program. Recent placements include the Director of Fiscal Policy & Analysis for Chicago Public Schools; program assistant for the Mott Foundation; fiscal analysts for the Michigan House and Senate Fiscal Agencies; policy advocates for interest groups in Washington DC; and even the chiefs of staff for the last two governors for the state of Michigan. 

  • What are alumni of MSU’s MPP program doing now?

    MSU alumni of the program lead at the highest levels. Alumni include gubernatorial chiefs of staff, policy analysts, legislative fiscal analysts, CEOs, city managers, elected officials, communications directors, program managers, nonprofit directors, among many other leadership posts. Here is a list of some of our alumni’s current positions:

    Health Policy Analyst, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
    Government Relations Manager, American Motorcycle Association
    Public Affairs Officer, Consulate General of Canada in Detroit
    Policy Analyst, Michigan League of Public Policy
    Research Officer, Ghana Center for Democratic Development
    Fiscal Analyst, Michigan House Fiscal Agency
    Education Specialist, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)
    President & CEO, Michigan Restaurant Association
    Director of Major Gifts and Special Projects, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation
    President and CEO, Detroit Philanthropy LLC
    Manager of State Governmental Affairs, Consumers Energy
    V.P. of Programs, CS Mott Foundation
    Program Analyst, U.S. Coast Guard
    City Manager, City of Grand Haven, Michigan
    Senior Policy Advisor, Chicago Public Schools

  • Why MSU relative to other programs?

    MSU’s MPP program is the only one in the country that is jointly administered by two top economics and political science departments at a world-class Research-1 university. We boast knowledgeable instructors with applied experience, and that engage in cutting-edge research. And the faculty have earned high marks in the classroom for their teaching styles. 

    What is more, we offer smaller enrollment and cohort sizes compared to other programs (70% fewer students than other programs in Michigan and the Big 10), which means more personal attention and a customizable approach to meet your individual needs and interests. Further still, our program is located only five miles from Michigan’s capital, thus offering multiple professionalization opportunities. And when you graduate, we are able to introduce you to our extensive alumni network in Michigan, across the country, and around the globe, so you can lead at the highest levels in the policy world wherever you want to make an impact. 

  • How diverse is the program’s student body?

    We prioritize diversity of all forms at MSU and especially welcome applications from students from underrepresented groups. We are proud of the fact that students of color comprise between 30 and 50% of our cohorts. Our cohorts also typically include several international students each year. We have admitted students from Botswana, China, Ghana, India, Palestine, Turkey, among many other countries. What is more, a sizable percentage of our students are early-career or mid-career professionals pursuing additional training to assist them in their vocational pursuits. Simply put, we value all forms of diversity and perspectives in the classroom because they enrich the learning process.

  • How big are the class sizes?
    MSU’s MPP program offers smaller enrollment and cohort sizes (15 – 25 students) compared to other programs (70% fewer students than other programs in Michigan and the Big 10), which means you get more personal attention and faculty support. As such, we can customize the degree to meet your unique needs and policy interests. 
  • I work full-time; can I still take courses?

    Of course! Most of our classes are offered in the late afternoon (3 – 6 pm) or evening (6 – 9 pm) so you can still work part- or full-time and earn your degree. We have many students who are current professionals seeking to increase and improve their skill sets. 

  • How long does it take to earn my MPP degree?

    The overwhelming majority of our students complete the degree requirements in two years. Because we offer most of our courses in the late afternoon or early evenings, even those students working part- or full-time jobs can earn their degree in a couple of years. However, a few students decide to take an additional year to finish their MPP degree. 

  • Are there any specializations?
    Yes, we provide the opportunity to delve deeper into policy areas of interest via specializations. In particular, we offer six areas of specializations: (1) Chicano / Latino Studies; (2) Environmental Policy; (3) Gender, Justice, and Environmental Change; (4) Global Urban Studies; (5) International Development; and (6) Women and Gender Studies. Students pursuing a specialization can use their elective credits to take qualifying courses in these respective areas, earning the corresponding specialization on their transcript upon completing their degree.
  • What is the application process?
    Students can apply for admission into the MPP program by visiting: https://grad.msu.edu/apply/. A personal statement, three letters of recommendation, official transcripts, GRE scores, and TOEFL results for non-native English speakers are required. The application deadline is June 15. But the early admission deadline for consideration of assistantships and funding is February 15. 
  • I’m a low-income student; can I qualify for an application fee waiver?

    Students seeking an application-fee exemption must fill out an application form via the Big10 Alliance: https://grad.msu.edu/application-fee-waiver. Once you qualify for a fee waiver via the Big10 Alliance, you can submit the fee-waiver when you complete the MPP application. Alternatively, students that participate in targeted conferences and events (e.g., SACNAS, ABRCMS, AISES, ERN, SROP),  as well as McNair scholars, can also receive application fee-waivers. Simply note your conference/event attendance or McNair affiliation on your application, fill out a fee waiver form here (http://bit.ly/MSUeventwaiver), and then send a note to msumpp@msu.edu, giving us a heads up. 

  • What policy interests do you consider for admittance into the program?

    We welcome students from all academic backgrounds and policy interests. Our courses are designed to provide a breadth of understanding of policy studies while also allowing you opportunities to gain depth in your policy area of interest. For example, if you still want to learn more about social welfare policies, you can tailor each course’s final project component around such policies as well as use your elective courses to focus on this area of study. 

  • What is the minimum GPA requirement for admission into the program?

    There is no minimum requirement for a student’s GPA for admission into MSU’s MPP program. Upon reviewing applications, we consider a student’s overall academic performance, GRE scores, internships, professional experiences, interest in public policy, fit in the program, and potential for success in the field of public policy. Students with the strongest applications overall will be considered for assistantships and university funding. As a reference point, however, the average undergraduate GPA for admitted students is 3.5. 

  • What are the average GRE scores of admitted students?

     Like a student’s GPA, there is no minimum requirement for a student’s GRE scores for admission into MSU’s MPP Program. We consider a student’s overall academic performance, including GPA, internships and professional experiences, interest in public policy, fit in the program, and potential for success in the field of public policy. Students with the strongest applications overall will be considered for assistantships and university funding. As a reference point, however, the average GRE scores for MPP students are GRE Verbal---155 (67 percentile); GRE Quantitative---153 (51 percentile). We must receive students’ official GRE scores directly from ETS, and test scores more than five years old are not accepted.   

  • Where should I send my GRE scores?
    Please ensure that you send your official report of GRE scores to Michigan State University. Use the following codes to order scores: University code: 1465. Department code: 1903 Public Policy. The GRE must be recent (less than 5 years old). You will enter your scores on the application if they are available, but you must also have the official report sent to MSU. For information on the GRE refer to http://www.ets.org/gre or http://www.testingoffice.msu.edu.
  • I’m a non-native English speaker; do I have to take the TOEFL exam?

    Yes, if you are a non-native English speaker, we require you to take the “Test of English as Foreign Language” (TOEFL) and submit your scores. MSU’s minimum Internet based test (iBT) requirements are no sub-score below 19 reading, listening, and speaking; no writing sub-score below 22; with a minimum average score of 80. Since communication, verbal and written, is a crucial component of the MPP, higher sub-scores in the TOEFL are most helpful for the application. See http://www.ets.org/toefl/institutions/scores/interpret/ for score interpretation. However, we will also accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) in lieu of the TOEFL. You can see a conversion here: https://www.ets.org/s/toefl/pdf/linking_toefl_ibt_scores_to_ielts_scores.pdf. The TOEFL exam (or equivalent) is only waived if you received your BA/BS undergraduate degree in the US or another English-speaking country, or a prior master’s degree from an AAU institution.  

  • I’m an international student; do I have to send official transcripts via a courier for the application stage?
    No. For the application stage, we can accept a PDF copy of the transcript to be submitted with the online application. However, if you are admitted into the program, we will require that you send via courier your official transcripts. Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate study should be mailed to the Department of Political Science at the following address: Department of Political Science; 368 Farm Lane, S303 South Kedzie Hall; Michigan State University; East Lansing, MI 48824; USA. 
  • Are there any funding opportunities available?

    Yes, MSU’s MPP program offers competitive Departmental assistantships for incoming students, and, in conjunction with MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR), IPPSR fellowships for incoming students. Recipients of the assistantships/fellowships work during the Fall and Spring semesters (10 hours if the assistantship is quarter-time or 20 hours if the assistantship is half-time) on research, teaching, or administrative assignments for the program or IPPSR. In return, recipients receive a stipend, tuition and fee waivers (for 9 credits for the Fall and Spring semesters), and health insurance coverage. 

    To apply for the Departmental assistantships, supply the standard application for admission and indicate an interest by February 15 by email to msumpp@msu.edu. To apply for the IPPSR fellowships, supply the standard application for admission and indicate an interest by May 15 by email to msumpp@msu.edu. For more information or questions, feel free to contact the MPP general email account: msumpp@msu.edu. Candidates considered for the assistantships or fellowships may be emailed requests for further information or a personal interview. All students—including international students, students from underrepresented groups, students with professional experience—are encouraged to apply. 

    We also offer Public Policy Learning Assistantships and Public Policy Research Assistantship opportunities where students can either assist an instructor-of-record in the course preparation, collaborative learning exercises, and objective grading for a policy class, or assist a faculty-of-record, post-doc, or graduate student with hands on public policy research. PPLAs and PPRAs are only provided a small stipend. Two PPLA/PPRAs are selected each Fall and Spring semesters and are only eligible after their first semester in the program.

    Feel free to visit MSU’s Graduate School for more funding opportunities: https://grad.msu.edu/funding. The university offers residential life graduate assistantships (https://liveon.msu.edu/graduateassistantships), need-based scholarships (https://finaid.msu.edu/grad.asp), among others.  

  • I’m concerned that I don’t have a strong enough math background; can I still do the program?
    You will gain data analytic and numerical literacy skills and learn how to rely on evidence to make decisions regarding public policy, so you don’t need to worry about your current math abilities. We commit to meeting you where you are and help bring you up to speed so that you are successful in applying new quantitative techniques.  
  • How much does the program cost?
    We believe we offer the best value for the cost compared to any other program. Tuition costs can vary depending on whether you are an in-state, out-of-state, or international student. To calculate your expenses for 42 credits in the MPP graduate program, please use MSU’s tuition calculator: https://ctlr.msu.edu/COStudentAccounts/TuitionCalculator.aspx
  • What is it like living in the greater Lansing area?

    The greater Lansing-area metro population is around 470,000, with a median age of 35. The Lansing area is a diverse, vibrant community: 75% of residents identify as white, 11% identify as black, 8% identify as Latinx, and 6% identify as Asian. Top employers in the area including the State of Michigan, MSU, Sparrow Health System, General Motors, Auto-Owners Insurance, McLaren Health, Peckham, Jackson National Life, and DART. Rents (around $750) and unemployment rates are below the national average, while the median home price ($90,000) is far below the national median of $205,000. The Lansing area is frequently listed as one of the best, most affordable cities in the country. In addition, the Lansing area boasts several entertainment options, including MSU's Wharton Center, the Lansing Symphony Orchestra, Lansing's Minor-League Baseball Team (the Lugnuts), art and music festivals (Common Ground, BluesFest, Jazzfest), among others. Lansing also has a robust transportation system between the Capital Region International Airport and the Capital Area Transportation Authority bus system, frequently rated one of the best in the country. Visit East Lansing's welcome page and Lansing's welcome page.