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graduate programs at elite universities that aren't that competitive

GradschooladmitGradschooladmit 19 replies5 postsRegistered User New Member
edited December 2013 in Graduate School
The first that comes to mind is Harvard's mid-career "masters" in public administration. You get to say you went to Harvard but it sounds more like a networking opportunity than anything academic.
While the two-year pre-professional master’s programs in public policy are generally regarded as invaluable career preparation for those wanting to work in government, the one-year mid-career programs are more like cash cows, attracting older students with established careers who are drawn to the name. This distinction may be difficult to discern from the outside — certainly combining the words “Harvard” and “Kennedy” on your resumé would make anyone seem qualified — but it’s a crucial difference. The former is an actual, hard-earned Master’s degree, while the latter is more a certificate of participation, an indulgence the politically-minded can purchase to crown their glory.

Russian spy shows Harvard program for what it is - Salon.com

Columbia's MSW program apparently has a 70% acceptance rate and it also apparently has several "cash cow" masters programs.

What are some others at "world class" institutions like Chicago, Stanford, Yale, etc.? Is this also a reflection of how masters degrees are less valued in the US than in other countries?
edited December 2013
16 replies
Post edited by Gradschooladmit on
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Replies to: graduate programs at elite universities that aren't that competitive

  • MontegutMontegut 5518 replies606 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I don't know about this Harvard program, but my BIL did a master's in business program at Tulane, our local private, several years ago. I remember that it cost them 100K. They got into serious debt, but since job prospects were hard for him to find, he had hoped getting this advanced degree would help. I remember that he had to attend class every Saturday, all day, like 8 to 5, and it was a very rigid schedule.

    After my BIL completed this program, he got his master's degree in business. However, those six figure jobs he was promised were not available to him, despite lots of legwork and headhunter agencies and such. He went back to working as a manager at Home Depot, something he did before making this expensive adventure, and now, in his fifties, with four kids, he still has college loans to pay off.

    As my son starts looking at grad schools in engineering, I notice quite a few schools have things called "certificate programs". In some, one even gets a master's degree. But there is little research involved, no funding, and it's a rigorous curriculum of courses that must be taken in a certain sequence. While some of these programs are things I know son would be interested in, they teach courses directly related to what he wants to do, I worry that they also will be a waste of money, and in the end, the time and money would have been better spent getting a research based master's degree that may take a few years longer and require him writing a thesis (ugh), but may carry more weight when he goes out to find a job.
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  • snarlatronsnarlatron 1595 replies45 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    You get to say you went to Harvard

    You could go to HES and say that.
    cash cows

    I'm not familiar with this HKS program but I think that the term "Cash Cow" is thrown around maybe too dismissively for all of the special-interest and terminal Master's programs. One of my close friends at a fancy East Coast U did a Master's that I have since seen referred to as a "cash cow" on these boards. However, a big fancy West Coast U accepted that Master's as an M.A. equivalent when he went to grad school there into a post-Master's Ph.D. program.
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  • juilletjuillet 12631 replies161 postsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    Just be another university accepts a degree as an MA doesn't mean it's not a cash cow. In fact, just because a degree is good doesn't mean it's not a cash cow. A "cash cow" degree is one that makes crazy money for the university with minimal effort or expenditure by the university itself. One example I think of are many of the MA programs in liberal arts at Columbia - like human rights studies or Islamic studies. It doesn't mean that the programs are not good, that you can't learn a lot or that you can't use the degrees as a stepping-stone to doctoral programs. But, the human rights program only has 3 core courses that are unique to the program; the rest are all courses in different departments. And there's very little non-repayable aid to that program. Hence, cash cow. They don't have to maintain a separate department for it; they don't even have to offer that many unique courses just for the program. But people will do the program as a stepping-stone to other graduate programs or as a way to try to get credentials for human rights jobs, which may or may not work. (Same thing with the regional studies programs - check out the course lists.)

    It's actually not really that surprising that many universities have cash-cow master's programs. Universities are businesses; they may be non-profit enterprises, but they are trying to make enough money to support their mission and the programs they do actually invest a lot of resources in.
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  • snarlatronsnarlatron 1595 replies45 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Juillet, I agree with your entire post. I do maintain that why a university conjures a degree or program is not necessarily linked to whether or not the degree is useful for some students. A "cash cow" Master's may be very useful to a student who can afford it, just as a full-tuition degree from Kenyon is very useful to a student who can afford it.

    OP, I hope that you are not asking the question because you are name-shopping. The worst way to look at grad programs is to start with the name of the U.
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  • DarthpwnerDarthpwner 919 replies88 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Even though Stanford MS CS is a cash cow, would it be worth attending if I am interested in becoming a chief Engineer/Computer Programmer in the future?
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  • juilletjuillet 12631 replies161 postsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    Exactly, snarlatron - many "cash cow" master's programs are very useful and highly regarded by employers! An MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School is bound to be useful even if it's not rigorous. I think the problem is people assuming that all master's programs (especially professional ones) are supposed to be rigorous and difficult to get into. Professional master's programs are career preparation, not academic study. So what if the primary benefit is networking - it also gives you the letters for jobs that require master's degrees, and you have an international network on which to draw when looking for opportunities. To many that is more than worth the $120K+ it costs to get the degree, especially if you can afford to repay it and then some.

    And Darthpwner, yes. First, I'm not sure that I would characterize Stanford's CS program as a "cash cow." But as snarlatron already mentioned, a cash cow program doesn't mean that you can't learn from it or be well-prepared for jobs. The Stanford name goes far and wide; they have a top CS program and you'll learn a lot, and they probably have an excellent career center that can link you to internships and jobs.
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  • GradschooladmitGradschooladmit 19 replies5 postsRegistered User New Member
    I'm not knocking the Kennedy School entirely. They have a serious 2-year MPA with competitive admissions. I'm referring to the MID-CAREER MPA which is basically a vanity degree. While it's true that some famous and important people have attended it, its alumni also include Bill O'Reilly and Ashley Judd. They even let Felipe Calderon in without a degree!
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 26659 replies174 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    methinks the author of the salon piece is whack. If the university is granting a degree, the university is granting a degree -- not a certificate of attendance.
    hey have a serious 2-year MPA with competitive admissions. I'm referring to the MID-CAREER MPA which is basically a vanity degree.

    And you have reviewed the academic curriculum to make that judgement? :rolleyes:

    Columbia's terminal MA programs award a real Columbia MA, and just happen to make tons of money for the University. It doesn't taint the degree, however.
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  • katkatmousekatkatmouse 78 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    methinks the author of the salon piece is whack. If the university is granting a degree, the university is granting a degree -- not a certificate of attendance.

    Quote:
    hey have a serious 2-year MPA with competitive admissions. I'm referring to the MID-CAREER MPA which is basically a vanity degree.
    And you have reviewed the academic curriculum to make that judgement?

    Columbia's terminal MA programs award a real Columbia MA, and just happen to make tons of money for the University. It doesn't taint the degree, however.

    I have absolutely no idea what you are trying to say - and you're a Senior member with 17K+ posts?
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  • ek4264ek4264 1 replies0 postsRegistered User New Member
    I think the point that bluebayou it trying to make is that it doesn't matter if the degree is a professional degree or research degree, a cash cow or not. It is a degree.

    CalTech offers a graduate degree in astrophysics. It most certainly is a research degree and very prestigious. Harvard offers an MBA. It is not a research degree and, amongst engineers and scientists, not nearly as prestigious. I have never heard anyone describe astrophysics as a cash cow. I have never heard anyone describe an MBA as anything other than a cash cow. Does the cash cowedness of the Harvard degree hurt Harvard MBAs. I don't think so.

    From the hiring manager point of view:
    1) We are impressed by anyone that bothers to get a graduate degree (in the field you are applying for). It shows that you care about your field. It took time and money to get it, even if it was the easiest degree ever, it is even easier to not get one at all.
    2) We are human and therefore we are impressed by names we are familiar with. A degree from MIT, CalTech, GTech, U.C. Berkeley, etc. impresses us.
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 26659 replies174 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think the point that bluebayou it trying to make is that it doesn't matter if the degree is a professional degree or research degree, a cash cow or not. It is a degree.

    Almost:

    It is a degree from a prestigious, world-class college/university. (Even if it is a cash cow, which most terminal Masters programs are....)
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  • VeryHappyVeryHappy 18418 replies324 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Columbia's MSW program apparently has a 70% acceptance rate

    How do you know this?
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  • anxiousmomanxiousmom 5794 replies105 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Candidates for masters and phd programs self-select. If you have 2.3 gpa and average GRE scores and attended directional U and have no meaningful work experience, you are not likely to be applying to Harvards midcareer MBA program. Only top candidates apply - thus the acceptance rate may not be representative of the quality of the candidates applying. (JFWIW I have no knowledge of the admissions rate to Columbia's MSW program.)
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  • VeryHappyVeryHappy 18418 replies324 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I would like to know how the OP knows Columbia's MSW acceptance rate.
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  • smjsmj 11 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    Education masters programs usually aren't the most selective. That being said, I don't know how a graduate degree in education from Harvard would be useful if you don't plan to work in education. Plus, the most prestigious program in your field might not be at the elite schools (for example, the astronomy program at the University of Arizona).
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  • GaGaManiacGaGaManiac 47 replies14 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    @Gradschooladmit
    Before attending Harvard, Calderón earned a law degree and a master's in economics.
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