Public Administration M.P.A. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Public Affairs

Program Description

The Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) offers students the opportunity to study public policy and program management from a cross-disciplinary perspective. Students gain an understanding of the political processes through which issues, problems, and policies are formulated; the economic basis for government action in a market economy; and the comparative and historical contexts of governmental programs. Students study public budgets, finance, and regulatory processes, as well as the behavior of both public and private organizations and their management. Students also gain competence in the qualitative and quantitative methods needed to analyze programs and policies, and develop sensitivity to the moral and ethical dimensions of policy issues.

M.P.A. Program The two-year Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) program consists of sixteen courses; students typically take four courses per term for four semesters. The M.P.A. program offers a basic structure for study, however, each CIPA Fellow (student) works closely with a faculty advisor to design an individualized program based on the student's specific area of interest. Elective courses and research opportunities may be taken through the program in any department or college in the university. Fellows have eight areas they may concentrate their studies in:

  • Environmental Policy
  • Finance and Fiscal Policy
  • Government, Politics, and Policy Studies
  • Human Rights and Social Justice
  • International Development Studies
  • Public and Non-Profit Management
  • Science and Technology Policy
  • Social Policy

CIPA Fellows are expected to engage in public affairs work related to their respective areas of concentration during the summer between their first and second years of study. As a culmination of studies in the M.P.A. program, all students are required to develop and complete a thesis. Typically, the thesis grows out of a Fellow's specific area of concentration, and often incorporates work done during the summer internship. 

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-8018

294 Caldwell Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • economic and financial policy
  • environmental policy
  • government, politics, and policy studies
  • human rights and social justice
  • international development studies
  • public and nonprofit management
  • science and technology policy
  • science, technology and infrastructure policy
  • social policy


2020-2021: $38,354

Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Rolling admissions from Aug. 15 to June 1; Spring and Fall admission

Requirements Summary:

CIPA has a rolling admissions program, admitting qualified students throughout the year. As numbers of applicants have been increasing, admissions may be closed at any point when the class is full. Candidates are urged to apply between November and January.

A faculty committee evaluates individual applications. We generally notify you of our decision within three weeks of receiving your complete application.

Complete application information is available on the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs Web site. Please review the application process before applying.

Applicants to CIPA must meet all Graduate School application requirements. Applicants for whom English is a second language must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

Note: As of July 7, 2020, CIPA no longer requires a GRE score for the MPA application.

When applying, please submit a statement of purpose (500-word maximum) that addresses the following points:

  • Why you are applying to the program
  • Personal and/or professional experience that have led to your interest in Cornell's MPA program
  • Your future goals -- how you would put an MPA graduate education to use
  • Examples of volunteer work, positions of responsibility, and any other life experiences that have contributed to your interest in public affairs

Also submit an essay (1,000-word maximum) that:

  • Briefly describes an area of public affairs to which you would like to make a contribution
  • Discusses what you would like to see accomplished in this area
  • Explains how you would go about initiating, supporting and sustaining changes in this area so as to enhance public well-being and public services
  • all Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam or IELTS Academic Exam for non-native English applicants
  • a statement of purpose*
  • current resume
  • essay*
  • three letters of recommendation
  • for ESL students only: Internet-based test version of the TOEFL: writing 20, listening 15, reading 20, speaking 22; computer-based TOEFL minimum: 250; paper-based: 600

* See the CIPA Web site for details.

Learning Outcomes

A.    Problem-Solving and Analytical Skills

       1.    Economic Analysis and Public Finance
       2.    Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis for Public Affairs
       3.    Administrative, Political and Policy Processes

B.    Specialized Public Policy Subject Matter Competence

C.    Writing Skills

D.    Group Work, Management and Leadership Skills

E.    Communication and Presentation Skills