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Top 25 Online Master’s of Public Administration Programs 2018

The government, nonprofit, and private sectors intersect at public administration, which allows professionals to implement both creative and practical strategies in managing financial and human resources to improve policies. Graduates of master of public administration (MPA) programs have the leadership and communication skills necessary to bring together nonprofits, private companies, and public agencies to achieve their common goals. They must know how to translate their ideas to their peers and the public, and effectively implement those ideas. MPA degree holders may qualify to work as a city manager, chief administrative officer, government affairs director, public policy director, or executive director. The median salaries for these positions range between $70,000 and $100,000 per year, according to January 2016 data from Payscale.com. Students who choose to pursue their MPA online can do so without disrupting their personal and professional responsibilities, still working to propel their careers into advanced managerial roles.

Note: A detailed explanation of the methodology we used to determine the best online Master’s of Public Administration programs can be found at the end of the ranking.

#1 Arizona State University School of Public Affairs – Phoenix, Arizona


The School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University offers a distinguished Online Executive Master’s of Public Administration. This program stands above the rest with its cutting edge curriculum, program flexibility, and respected reputation within the education community.

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U.S. News & World Report ranks ASU’s executive master of public administration (EMPA) program in the top 5% in the country, and the degree is available primarily online, with the exception of three-day, in-person executive sessions in Phoenix, Arizona and Washington, D.C. ASU’s EMPA takes 19 months to complete, and caters to leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors with at least five to seven years of progressive leadership experience. These online MPA students work with a learning cohort, completing one class at a time. Each class lasts 7.5 weeks. Students complete 10 classes total, for 30 credit hours.

Affordability Score: Above Average
TMD Ranking Score: 100.00

#2 University of Nebraska Omaha School of Public Administration – Omaha, Nebraska


At the University of Nebraska, Omaha students can earn a highly respected and fully online Master’s of Public Administration degree. Dedication to student success, hands on learning opportunities, and state and national recognitions are just a few of the reasons that this well-rounded MPA made our list.

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The MPA program at University of Nebraska, Omaha was the first accredited program of its kind available completely online. The program holds accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), and has been offered online since 2000. Online MPA students at UN enjoy low tuition, paying approximately $550 per credit for nonresidents, and $330 per credit for Nebraska residents. They learn from the same faculty as their on-campus counterparts, and have opportunities to network in-person with these instructors during their on-campus orientation session. Online MPA courses at UN are asynchronous, providing students with full flexibility.

Affordability Score: Very Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 98.30

#3 Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs – Bloomington, Indiana


The School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University offers an Online Master’s of Public Affairs that is recognized nationally. This program earned the number two spot on our ranking due to its elite reputation and reasonable pricing.

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Indiana University’s online MPA combines a master of public administration with a master of public policy, preparing students to fill impactful leadership positions. The 48-credit hour program divides into three components: core courses, advanced electives, and experience. Six courses (18 credit hours) make up the core courses, while advanced electives include up to 10 courses, or 30 credit hours. The experiential component comprises an internship — Indiana University may waive this requirement for students with prior professional experience. Most MPA students take two courses per semester, but they may tackle a heavier course load, with permission from their faculty director.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 97.95

#4 University of Central Florida School of Public Administration – Orlando, Florida


Students can earn an NASPAA accredited and fully online Master’s of Public Administration degree from the University of Central Florida. This program made our ranking because of its accreditations, affordable tuition, and flexible format.

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University of Central Florida offers an online MPA through its college of community innovation and education. MPA students at UCF complete 42 credit hours, including nine core courses, four advanced electives, and a capstone experience. NASPAA accredits this degree, and the program is ranked by U.S. News & World Report. UCF offers two dual degree options for online MPA students, as well: an MPA plus master of science in criminal justice, and an MPA plus master of nonprofit management. Online MPA students with Florida residency pay about $330 per credit hour, while out-of-state students pay approximately $700 per credit hour.

Affordability Score: Very Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 96.47

#5 Baruch College, CUNY Marxe School of Public and International Affairs – New York, New York


Baruch College, CUNY’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs offers an elite Online Master’s of Public Administration program. This MPA is a great choice for the distance learner looking for a top-notch program.

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Baruch College offers an online MPA, available for both full- and part-time students. Full-time students take nine credits per semester, totaling 42 credits (45 if they complete an internship), while part-time students take fewer than nine credits per semester. This breaks down to seven core classes, one internship course, and six electives. Students who work full-time may not attend Baruch’s MPA program full-time. MPA students can choose between five concentration areas: health care policy, policy analysis and evaluation, nonprofit administration, public management, and urban development and sustainability. Common careers for graduates include elected officeholder, program manager, researcher, or policy advocate.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 95.86

#6 Texas A&M University Bush School of Government and Public Service – College Station, Texas


Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service offers a nationally recognized Online Executive Master’s of Public Service and Administration. This program was chosen for our list because of their accreditations, prestigious mentions, and reasonable tuition rates.

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The online MPA program at Texas A&M is available as an executive master of public service and administration (EMPSA), for professionals with significant prior experience. Applicants must have five years of professional experience, and preferably two years of supervisory or management experience. This two-year program requires one week of residency each year, and offers tracks in homeland security, nonprofit management, and public management. EMPSA students at Texas A&M complete 39 credit hours between 15-week fall and spring sessions and 10-week summer sessions. They also complete a capstone public service and administration project, working collaboratively with a government or nonprofit organization.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 94.86

#7 John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY – New York, New York


The John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY offers a flexible Online MPA that is highly recognized by many of the leading educational ranking systems. This degree carries an excellent public affairs reputation and distinct accreditations.

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John Jay College of Criminal Justice offers an online MPA with a focus on public policy and administration, which prepares students for positions in nonprofit and government organizations committed to social change and public service. The 42-credit program offers four specialization options in criminal justice policy and administration, emergency management, human resources management, and management and operations. Applicants must hold an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, and international applicants from non-English speaking countries must also submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language. John Jay’s MPA program is accredited by NASPAA.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 94.76

TMD Ranking Score: 94.17

#8 Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs – Syracuse, New York


The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University offers a well recognized Online Executive Master’s of Public Administration degree. This EMPA has a great reputation and is highly ranked among the leading educational ranking systems.

Photo courtesy of Syracuse University/Steve Sartori
Syracuse offers an EMPA online for experienced public service professionals aiming to advance their careers in government, for-profit organizations, and nonprofits. EMPA students at Syracuse must learn to integrate data analysis into policymaking and management, uphold morality and ethics in sectors experiencing controversy, manage budgets and evaluate public expenditures, and lead organizations and teams in collaboration. EMPA students can complete this 30-credit degree in 15 months. The program comprises three core courses, focusing on broad public administration topics, and seven specialized courses. Classes go live weekly, and coursework is self-paced. Online students enjoy full-time support and access to on-campus resources.

Affordability Score: Expensive
TMD Ranking Score: 91.79

#9 San Diego State University College of Extended Studies – San Diego, California


San Diego State University offers a highly accredited Master’s of Public Administration degree. This program holds the great combination of affordability and high education standards.

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SDSU offers this 16-month program to experienced professionals working in managerial positions in nonprofit and government agencies. The accelerated curriculum comprises 36 units, and mirrors San Diego State’s on-campus MPA program. The online MPA takes place in six two-month modules, with two weeks’ break between modules. It requires on-campus experiences at the beginning and end of the program, and a capstone research course during the final module. Students present their research project to a panel of professionals during their last on-campus experience. MPA students at San Diego State can expect to pay $20,000 in program expenses to complete their MPA.

Affordability Score: Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 91.50

#10 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government – Chapel Hill, North Carolina


Students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill can earn a well respected and 100% Online Master’s of Public Administration degree. The School of Government’s Online MPA is featured in this ranking because of the program’s highly respected brand and unique interactive online format.

Photo courtesy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
UNC’s online MPA, also known as [email protected], offers part- and full-time options to approximately 200 students each year, as opposed to only 60 students in UNC’s on-campus MPA program. The online format combines flexible distance learning with quality on-campus education by delivering weekly live online classes by UNC faculty. [email protected] students receive self-paced coursework, and still gain hands-on learning experience through the program’s experiential component. Students choose from concentrations in international relations, local government, nonprofit management, public management, and public health. Online students at UNC receive full student support from an admissions counselor, program faculty, and student support teams.

Affordability Score: Expensive
TMD Ranking Score: 90.31

#11 American University School of Public Affairs – Washington, District of Columbia


American University offers an elite Online Master’s of Public Administration near the heart of the nation’s capital. This MPA stands out in our ranking because of its dedication to helping students meet their personal and professional goals.

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The school of public affairs at American University offers a master of public administration and policy (MPAP) for professionals seeking to advance their careers in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, and across all levels of government. Graduates are equipped to analyze administrative problems and apply organizational management knowledge to come up with solutions. They also hold broad knowledge of how contemporary public policies and programs exist in legal and political contexts. American University’s two-year MPAP program lets students earn their degrees according to their own schedules. Online students have access to American University’s alumni, faculty, and policy expert networks.

Affordability Score: Expensive
TMD Ranking Score: 89.49

#12 Kansas State University College of Arts and Sciences – Manhattan, Kansas


Students at Kansas State University can earn a Master’s of Public Administration degree that can be completed almost completely online. This MPA is a great choice for distance students with flexibility, multiple accreditations, and a great reputation in the education community.

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Kansas State’s MPA program is available in a hybrid format, with all core classes and most elective courses offered online. The program caters to learners who want to establish themselves as civic leaders, providing students with theory-informed, research-driven, and skills-based approaches to learning. Graduates are equipped to lead in the public and nonprofit sectors, and know how to apply knowledge, think critically, and seek practical solutions to real-world problems. Kansas State limits each MPA cohort to 15 new students in an attempt to minimize the faculty-to-student ratio. For that reason, the school’s MPA student body totals only about 30 students.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 88.92

#13 University of Texas at Arlington College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs – Arlington, Texas


Students at the University of Texas at Arlington can earn an Online Master’s of Public Administration at an affordable price-point. This MPA program stands tall in the areas of affordability, program flexibility, and high regard within the educational community.

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University of Texas, Arlington offers an accelerated online MPA, comprising 39 required core hours, plus a three-hour capstone and a three-hour internship. Students with at least one year of experience in the public sector may not have to complete an internship. The only course flexibility for online students is a choice between public capital budgeting and nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship — all other courses are mandatory. UTA expects online MPA students to take two courses each term (fall, spring, and summer), wherein summer courses have staggered starting dates. Online students work in cohorts, and may not choose a concentration.

Affordability Score: Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 88.77

#14 Old Dominion University School of Public Service – Norfolk, Virginia


The School of Public Service at Old Dominion University offers an Online Master’s of Public Administration. This distinguished program was ranks well due to its flexibility and affordable tuition cost.

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ODU’s online MPA program caters to students of all experience levels: Those with prior experience in the public sector can build on their existing skills, and those with little to no experience can start on a foundation for their future. ODU provides its MPA students with the abilities, skills, and professional knowledge they need to advance their careers in public administration. The program emphasizes five areas: public management processes; public administration’s political, legal, and ethical concepts and issues; organizational behavior and design processes; program evaluation and policy analysis; and qualitative and quantitative analysis techniques.

Affordability Score: Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 88.16

#15 University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy – Los Angeles, California


The University of Southern California offers an Online Master’s of Public Administration degree. Students in the Price MPA benefit from this program’s excellent reputation and flexible format.

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Online MPA students at USC enjoy an education that integrates the major disciplines bearing on leadership and management in today’s interconnected political and socioeconomic environment. The program implements modern research into public policy and management practice, preparing students for the opportunities and challenges of a career in public administration. Graduates come away with skills in management, analysis, and policy, equipped to work in the public, private, or nonprofit sector in healthcare, resource management, or city planning. Full-time students can complete USC’s MPA program in five to six semesters, including summer semesters, while part-time students usually finish in approximately 10 semesters.

Affordability Score: Expensive
TMD Ranking Score:87.65

#16 Villanova University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – Villanova, Pennsylvania


Students at Villanova University can earn an Online Master’s of Public Administration degree that holds an exceptional accreditation through the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. This Online MPA ranks well because of their high education standards and many prestigious mentions.

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Villanova’s 100% online MPA program teaches students through highly interactive courses focusing on management and strategic planning in the nonprofit and public sectors. Graduates are able to lead ethically, intelligently, and creatively in public administration roles. Online students at Villanova enjoy full access to their faculty, plus a comprehensive course curriculum. MPA students can tailor their degrees by focusing in nonprofit management or city management, and they can earn graduate certificates in city management, nonprofit management, or public administration. Successful program candidates have a bachelor’s from an accredited university and at least three years of prior relevant work experience.

Affordability Score: Above Average
TMD Ranking Score: 87.46

#17 Grand Valley State University School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration – Allendale, Michigan


Grand Valley State University’s School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration offers a flexible Master’s of Public Administration. This Hybrid MPA is a great choice for students because of its budget conscience tuition rates and excellent accreditation.

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MPA students at Grand Valley State University study public administration in a hybrid format, combining online courses with on-campus ones at GVSU’s Grand Rapids campus. The program aims to develop students’ general knowledge and specific skills related to professional careers in public service organizations. Graduates are prepared to work effectively and ethically in urban and regional policy, public management, nonprofit management, healthcare administration, and criminal justice. Courses focus on economic and community development, nonprofit financial management, politics and administration, the nonprofit sector and philanthropy, public policy analysis, public budgeting, and health administration.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 87.05

#18 California State University, San Bernardino Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration – San Bernardino, California


California State University, San Bernardino offers a well respected Online Master’s of Public Administration degree. The MPA, through the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Administration, was chosen for our ranking because of their elite accreditations and reputation within the education community.

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California State University, San Bernardino offers all its MPA classes in both on-campus and online formats each year, but all online MPA students must take their comprehensive exam on-campus in San Bernardino. Students may focus their degree in cybersecurity, leadership, or public financial management. They may also opt for a dual degree in MPA and MSW (master’s in social work), or pursue their certificate in public procurement or nonprofit leadership. Applicants must have prior work experience in the public or nonprofit sectors. Those without prior experience must undergo an internship early in their MPA program.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 86.81

#19 University of Delaware School of Public Policy & Administration – Newark, Delaware


At the University of Delaware, students can earn an Online Master’s of Public Administration with esteemed NASPAA accreditation. This Online MPA is perfect for students who are high prestige and flexible format.

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Aspiring leaders of public service organizations might consider the online MPA program at University of Delaware, which equips students with foundational public policy knowledge, plus hands-on management skills. Graduates are prepared to contribute to modern nonprofit and public service solutions to make an impact on their communities. UD’s MPA develops students’ knowledge of current societal issues, strengthening their leadership skills through contemporary case studies and applied research. The 36-credit program typically takes 30 months to complete, during which students explore current public service research and learn skills to oversee the financial and administrative aspects of nonprofit and public service organizations.

Affordability Score: Expensive
TMD Ranking Score: 86.72

#20 California State University, Long Beach College of Health & Human Services – Long Beach, California


The College of Health and Human Services at California State University, Long Beach offers a distance learning Master’s of Public Administration degree. This unique program uses a hybrid format to provide the convenience of distance education with in-person connections.

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The online MPA at CSU Long Beach caters to full-time employees looking to study remotely while maintaining their current careers. Students can complete their degree as quickly as in 24 months, completing 39 units’ worth of six-week classes, with a two-week break between courses. The program focuses on five core areas of knowledge: leading and managing in public services organizations; participating in and contributing to public policy; analyzing, synthesizing, problem-solving, decision-making, and critical thinking; articulating and applying a public service perspective; and interacting and communicating productively with the workforce and general public.

Affordability Score: Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 86.21

#21 University of South Florida School of Public Affairs – Tampa, Florida


The University of South Florida offers an accredited and fully online Master’s of Public Administration degree. This established program made our list because of their exceptional affordability and overall prestige.

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USF launched its fully online MPA program in 2013, in an attempt to accommodate working students who wanted to advance their careers in public administration. The degree comprises 45 credit hours (or 42 credit hours for students with prior management experience in the public or nonprofit sectors), and enrolls between 60 and 70 students, ensuring small class sizes (of 10-25 students). Full-time students can complete their MPA in two years, while part-time students usually complete it in 3-4 years. Graduates are equipped to pursue leadership roles in the state, local, or federal government, or nonprofit organizations or special service districts.

Affordability Score: Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 86.20

#22 Arkansas State University College of Liberal Arts & Communication – Jonesboro, Arkansas


A very affordable Master’s of Public Administration program is featured through the College of Liberal Arts and Communication at Arkansas State University. This 36-credit hour program is a great choice for the prudent student because of its exceptional price point and convenient online format.

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Arkansas State makes its MPA available to online students who wish to pursue a public management track of study. Students can complete their degree in as little as 18 months. The program comprises 36 credit hours. MPA students at A-State focus on developing the skills to rigorously analyze problems and successfully collaborate on finding solutions. They also learn to build community and social infrastructures, and integrate theory and practice. MPA students concentrating in public management explore administrative structures and behavior patterns in the public sector, and learn to analyze and evaluate policy and political processes.

Affordability Score: Very Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 84.64

#23 DePaul University School of Public Service – Chicago, Illinois


The School of Public Service at DePaul University offers an Online Master’s of Public Administration. This program is designed to prepare students for leadership roles in the public sector.

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The online MPA program at DePaul caters to current professionals in the government sector, or prospective students who aspire to work in the public sector. The program equips students with the knowledge to practice public administration in government at the local, state, federal, and international levels. Students may specialize in public management, international public management, or metropolitan planning and urban affairs. All specializations are available completely online. MPA students may pursue certification, as well, pairing their master’s in public administration with a certificate in community development, metro planning and development, social research, global health, or women’s and gender studies.

Affordability Score: Above Average
TMD Ranking Score: 84.63

#24 University of West Georgia College of Social Sciences – Carrollton, Georgia


Students can earn an exceptional Online Master’s of Public Administration through the College of Social Sciences at the University of West Georgia. This program is a great choice for distance students due to its flexibility and affordability.

Photo courtesy of The University of West Georgia
Prospective students working in public service or aspiring to work in government or nonprofit agencies should consider an online MPA from University of West Georgia, which integrates academic study with administrative practice in its public administration program. Students may choose between a hybrid or fully online format, and they may transfer up to six prior credits toward the 36-credit requirement. This includes 12 elective credits and a comprehensive research project. Graduates are able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of public service values, including constitutional principles, democracy, and ethics; generalist management skills and techniques; and the relationship between practice and theory.

Affordability Score: Very Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 84.50

#25 Georgia College & State University College of Arts and Sciences – Milledgeville, Georgia


The College of Arts and Sciences at Georgia College & State University offers an Online Master’s of Public Administration degree. This distinguished program stands out with exceptional accessibility due to its flexibility and very affordable tuition.

Photo courtesy of Georgia College and State University
Online MPA students at Georgia College develop the management skills they need to implement programs, projects, and policies in a public service career. Graduates are equipped to work at any level of government or in nonprofit organizations, community and housing development, international development, or private businesses that work with the public sector. Alumni from Georgia College’s MPA program most commonly work in state government. Coursework prepares students to serve, manage, and lead with competence and ethics. The degree comprises 36 credits in a fully online format, which full-time students can complete in four semesters.

Affordability Score: Very Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 84.30

For more information on public administration, check out our Public Administration Resource Guide.

Also, check out our Frequently Asked Questions about public administration:

What are the advantages of pursuing a full-time Master’s in Public Administration?
Which schools offer the most affordable Master’s in Public Administration degrees?
What are the admission requirements for a Master’s in Public Administration?

Methodology

This ranking is designed to find the best online Master’s in Public Administration degrees available. A list of almost 330 schools was obtained and evaluated first on a distance format, and then evaluated by the following factors: Accreditations, Affordability, and Prestige.

Regional Accreditation (20%): Institutional accreditations attest to each program’s value and university education standards. Each bachelor’s program in this list is accredited by one of the six regional accrediting organizations recognized by the US Department of Education.

Public Administration Accreditation (20%): In addition to regional accreditation, each MPA program is ranked based upon if it holds an accreditation from the NASPAA. The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) is the highest recognized global accrediting body of master’s degree programs in the fields of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. This accreditation attests that a master’s program in public affairs has gone through a rigorous process of voluntary peer review and has attained specific standards for professional master’s degree programs in the sector of public affairs, policy, and administration.

Affordability (20%): Each MPA was evaluated for the estimated total base tuition cost. Tuition costs directly affect accessibility and is an important criterion to research when deciding upon a program. The base tuition was calculated for the entirety of the degree, but does not included fees, books, or room and board. For schools that offer a lower in-state tuition rate, the in-state pricing is used. Based on this base tuition data, each program was then given an Affordability Score:

Expensive = $50,000+
Above Average = $30,000-$49,999
Average = $20,000-$29,999
Affordable = $14,000-$19,999
Very Affordable = $0-$13,999

Regional College Prestige (20%): This information was collected from one of the most prestigious sources in educational rankings, the Princeton Review. Each program was ranked on if their college or university was included in one of the Princeton Review’s 2018 Best Regional Colleges Rankings.

Graduate Public Affairs Program Prestige (20%): This criterion was collected from one of the most prestigious sources in educational rankings, US News and World Report. Each program was ranked based on their score within the US News and World Report’s Best Graduate Public Affairs Program Ranking.

All of the data for these factors was collected, weighted equally, averaged, and then calculated on a 100-point scale. This score is the TMD Ranking Score, which provides the ranking order for this list. By evaluating the accreditations, affordability, and prestige, this ranking helps prospective students find the highest quality Online Master’s in Public Administration Programs.

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