The Graduate Programs.com site offers a variety of rankings of programs, including programs that offer a master’s in public administration (MPA) degree. The site aims “to be the most authoritative online resource to help students choose the best school for their career aspirations and budget.” Founders of the site “believe that objective information about education, careers, and educational financing should be easily accessible.” The site has a blog (containing approximately 150 individual pieces) where prospective students can learn about the school of their choice.

The site publishes its ratings each spring and fall. Go here to view the site’s 2016 MPA program rankings. The site ranked the MPA offering at California State-Northridge University as the top MPA offering.

To produce the site’s rankings, the site reaches current and recent graduate students through scholarship entries as well as social media platforms.

The site assigns 15 ranking categories to each graduate program at each graduate school.  Rankings cover a variety of student topics such as academic competitiveness, career support, financial aid and quality of network.

GPN reached out to Harvey Berkey, Graduate Programs LLC chief operating officer, to learn more about his website’s rankings of graduate programs. Berkey’s responses are below.

GPN: What is the difficulty that you’ve found using some of the national rankings of graduate programs, and how does your site address that problem?

Harvey Berkey: Regarding some of the national rankings of graduate programs, developers of some those rankings have had some problems with the data being biased. The rankings are biased in the sense that, the universities themselves r able to influence the results.

At our website, all of our ratings come exclusively from graduate students themselves who are attending the program. For example, regarding our MPA program reviews – they only come from those students who review the MPA offering at their particular university, and they rate their program according to 15 different criteria. Responding students don’t identify themselves if they don’t want to be identified. They do leave some comments, but they can use screen names. So the information is totally unbiased from the point of view of it being affected by the universities or by businesses related to the universities or related to those academic programs.

GPN: What distinguishes your site’s rankings of graduate programs? How do the site’s rankings differ from other program rankings?

HB: What sets us apart from other ratings is that we are unique.  Grad students — not grauateprograms.com, school administrators, industry personal or other outsiders — rate their grad programs and universities. Grad students use 15 different criteria to rate their grad program; they give the program from one to 10 stars. What sets apart our top-ranked MPA programs, which in many instances are different from the ratings produced by U. S. News and others, is that they reflect students’ attitudes only.

The value of student reviews cannot be overstated. A 2014 Consumer Review Survey indicated 72 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 88 percent of customers will consult reviews before finalizing an online purchase. What can be better for a potential MPA student than to get advice from his peers?

GPN: Do government agencies rely on your site’s rankings? Who else uses the rankings?

HB: Economic development officials in state and local government agencies use the ratings at our site. Other users include potential and current grad students. They are well served coming to graduateprograms.com and utilizing the content, rankings and other information available there.

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