As a part of my As a part of my summer course Everything eLearning for the Higher Education Administrator, I was required to pick an online program from any college or university and critique it. The assignment required us to analyze and determine what advantages and disadvantages the program might offer and then describe what type of student would be a good fit for it. Here are my findings!

Note: Unless otherwise cited the source I used was Public Administration (MPA) (n.d.)

Institutional Profile

This program is offered by Kent State University, located in Ohio. Kent State University is a public institution that boasts over 41,000 undergraduate and 5,500 graduate students across its 8 campuses. Kent State University is home to a top-10-ranked Fashion School and the Liquid Crystal Institute (About | Kent State University, n.d.).

Brief Description

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree at Kent State University is one of the university’s many online degrees. This program is accredited by NASPAA and is one of few of the online MPA programs to receive this accreditation. It is a 36 credit hour program divided into 12 three credit courses. Instead of having multiple classes simultaneously each student takes one course for seven weeks before moving onto the next one, allowing students to completely focus on one course.

This program prides itself on experiential learning requiring students to attend other events outside of the “classroom.” This specific program requires students to have a “substantive full-time administration experience in a public service organization.” If they do not have this experience upon entry into the program, students must complete a 3 credit internship in addition to the 36 credit hours of coursework.

Kent State University Undergraduate students interested in pursuing the online MPA may apply as juniors and seniors for the program and take graduate courses that will count towards both your undergraduate and graduate degree. This shortens the time needed to obtain a graduate degree by up to 12 credit hours or one third of the MPA.

Advantages

Upon admittance to the program, a student counselor works with you to craft your personalized degree plan so that you can help construct your own path to graduation. Furthermore, this program is able to be done within two years, the same timeframe of other master’s programs. A current Kent State University undergraduate student interested in pursuing the MPA online has a great benefit of being able to take graduate courses during their undergraduate career and have them count. It may be possible to eliminate 1/3 of the time required in the MPA program, possibly even interning during this time to meet that experiential requirement (this is just speculation and is not reflected on the materials I have found thus far).

Disadvantages

The program requirement for “substantive full-time administration experience in a public service organization” can be problematic for students who already have a career in an area other than public service. These students will be force to locate, interview, obtain, and work an internship to get this experience. The internship requires 300 hours of additional work.

Some of the experiential components of the coursework (conducting interviews and attending events) may require reliable transportation. This is a cost not covered by the course and if you are a student from a rural area you may be limited in your opportunity to complete these tasks without burden.

Who would be a good fit?

I think that there are two types of student who would be good for this specific program. The first is a current Kent State undergraduate student who knows that they want to work in a non-profit or a government career. Although these types of students will most likely be required to take the internship requirement they are still cutting down a significant portion of their required coursework and cost of their MPA. If I take 9 credit hours (which is the maximum a Kent State student can obtain minus the additional internship credits during their MPA) then the student would save $5,958 *(based on current tuition rates) on their MPA. In addition to that financial savings they would save an additional 21 weeks of their life from being dedicated to coursework (3 classes as 3 credits multiplied by the seven week length per course). Time is money and they are saving both.

Another type of student who would be a good fit for this program is one who is already working in a public administration career with a Bachelor’s degree but is interested in pursuing a new job further up on the hierarchy, maybe a Director level position.  This type of student has the substantive full time experience and will have no need of the internship. These students will likely be working full-time and will benefit the most from the programs structure and would already be in a position to perform the experiential components of the class. They could interview their supervisor or attend a fundraiser of their own organization? Their full time experience that they are still currently enjoying would give them plentiful material for their coursework and projects.

Overall, based on the information I have been able to locate, Kent State University’s online MPA is a good option. It is accredited by a reputable accreditation agency and is focused on ensuring that its graduates have a practical experience in the field that they are going into despite it being an online program. However, think that there is room for improvement especially in its marketing to current Kent State University students. Students are looking for more cost efficient methods to obtain credentials and marketing this accelerated MPA option might draw students in.

References:

About | Kent State University. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2015, from http://www.kent.edu/about
Public Administration (MPA). (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2015, from https://onlinedegrees.kent.edu/programs-courses/graduate/public-administration-mpa/
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