How to Pay for a Master’s Degree in Public Administration (MPA)

How to Pay for a Master’s Degree in Public Administration (MPA)-image

Paying for graduate school can be a significant hurdle in your pursuit of an advanced degree. Knowing how to pay for your Master’s of Public Administration is one of the most significant steps you will take in deciding on a graduate program. The Cornell Brooks School MPA program is more affordable than some other schools offering the same degree, including Columbia, New York University, and Georgetown. Combined tuition, fees, and overall living expenses for Cornell's two-year MPA range from $20,000 to $40,000 less than our competitors. This is in part because we are the only Ivy League school with a land-grant mission

There are a variety of funding opportunities available to further reduce the cost of your education, including merit-based fellowships, part-time campus employment, federal loans, program fellowships, and external funding. Here at Cornell, we want to make getting an MPA as simple as possible. Let's dive into a few of the financial aid options available to you.

1. Merit-Based Fellowships:

We award about 50 percent of our students with partial, merit-based tuition fellowships. These fellowships, based on previous academic performance, partially cover tuition. If you are admitted to the program, you will receive notification of your award in your admission letter. 

We also have partnerships in place with the following agencies to offer additional support to students. This support may include application fee waivers and further consideration for financial support:

2. Part-Time Employment:

Cornell’s Student Employment website is the source for information and policies about student jobs on campus. The site maintains a jobs database open to Cornell graduate students that lists hourly positions.

Here’s a sample of “real” detailed job descriptions you’ll likely see in the jobs database.

  • AV Equipment Assistant
  • Library Support
  • Student Writer Intern
  • Student Research Assistant
  • Student Assistant

3. Federal Loans:

Cornell currently participates in two federally funded programs: the William D. Ford Direct Loan and the Federal Graduate PLUS loan. These programs are available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are matriculated toward the degree.

4. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program:

If you work for a nonprofit organization, you may be eligible for the federal loan forgiveness program. The program forgives loans on the balance of your student loan after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Qualified employers include government organizations, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations and other nonprofits that provide qualifying service.


The FAFSA isn't just for undergraduate students. Graduate students will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for Federal Student Loan Programs. Filing the FAFSA is an extremely smart — and sometimes vital decision — when it comes to financing graduate school.

6. External Funding Opportunities:

Cornell's Financial Aid page lists a variety of external funding options, including: 

Whatever your financial standing, Cornell University is dedicated to helping high-achieving and competitive students to fund their graduate education. If you have questions about financing your graduate degree at Cornell, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

Explore our digital resource page — An Educational Guide for Future Leaders in Public Affairs — for an in-depth look at what it would mean to pursue a Master of Public Administration!

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