i finished my undergrad about a year ago with a degree in business and have been working in the corporate world since. i'm realizing that its really not for me and am now looking towards beginning work on a masters in planning in the fall of '06.
i am primarily interested in design and economic development, looking to eventually work for a private firm doing revitalization projects or on the chamber of commerce, convention bureau front. since my background is in business, i don't really have any contacts or mentors in the field to get advice from. basically, i'm trying to learn the following:
1) what are the best programs around the country? i've looked high and low but can't find rankings. i'd be particularly interested to hear about programs in chicago, buffalo, or columbus ohio, as i've already lived all three places, but am also completely willing to go anywhere to get the experience and see something else.
2) how should i anticipate paying for school? is it common to find work-stipend programs (where?) ta jobs (where?), or will this mean taking out loans?
finally, if anyone is in chicago and can recommend a group or organization to get involved in to learn a little more about planning, i'm all ears!