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Thread: Cornell or UPenn - MRP v MCRP

  1. #1
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    Cornell or UPenn - MRP v MCRP

    Hello,

    I am strongly interested in both planning programs at the listed universities. This is of course a life decision that I need a ton of scholarly input on in order to ensure that I make the correct choice. I am very interested in the land use and environmental planning within both programs. Does anyone know the difference between the two degrees (MRP, MCRP)? , Do anyone know if the programs name will have an effect on job placement? (Cornell's Placement V. Penn's) Please assist me in comparing these programs, however, this is of course taking into consideration the cost of the program, but right now I am not looking at that aspect until the end.

    Please help! Anything that I did not ask is appreciated.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    A few points here, proceeding from general to specific.

    1. Both of these programs are top-shelf, so a student hell-bent on getting thorough preparation for a career in environmental planning is not likely to leave either one empty-handed or disappointed. Admissions are very competitive, though, so unless you're feeling extremely confident or have some other reason to ask about only these two, it behooves you to include some of the area's less-celebrated/applied-to programs in your search. If you'd like some ideas, just ask: you can't swing a dead cat in the northeast without hitting a planning program.

    2. Some say that the name of the degree doesn't matter too much, but in this case I think the degree titles imply some real differences in orientation: Cornell offers a Master of Regional Planning, and Penn offers a Master of City Planning. It doesn't seem likely that this truly means nothing, especially given the physical differences between Ithaca and Philadelphia, and Cornell's history/presence as a land grant institution. This isn't meant to imply that nobody from Cornell knows anything about city planning; that nobody from Penn knows anything about regional planning; that environmental planning "belongs" to one name or the other; or that these are two completely distinct and unrelated pursuits. Instead, the point is that there may be differences in the kinds of examples discussed in class, the kinds of fieldwork or community-based the courses incorporate, and the kinds of research the faculty are working on with students. This leads to the next point.

    3. Look at each program's core curriculum. There are some real differences there. Forum members often state that all PAB-accredited programs have to cover the same topics, and state this is a way that implies a relative equivalence in terms of course content. I don't agree with this. It may be that the distinctions make no difference in the job market, but that's not what we're talking about here. What you study, as obvious as it sounds, affects what you learn while in school. At Penn, you have to take a GIS course. At Cornell, you don't. At Penn, you take Law and Urban Development. At Cornell, you have to take a law course, but it's expected that you'll take a law course specific to your academic interests. The same is true for economics: Penn offers "the course for planners," and Cornell offers a variety based on one's interests. A student's concentration interests seems to be added on to the core curriculum at Penn, while it seems to directly influence some of the core curriculum courses taken at Cornell. Of course, requirements aren't set in stone: if you roll into Penn with a lot of GIS experience, you might be able to waive that course and get some flexibility. It's amazing what kinds of options even one waived course will bring. Once you have a feel for the requirements, you'll have a feel for just how much course time your interests in environmental planning will get.

    4. Of course, you learn a lot outside of class, as well. Where can you make an individual contribution as a student? With an assistantship? With an internship? Will it just be in your term papers? When I was looking into programs, I noticed that Penn was all coursework, which includes a workshop and a studio. There was also an internship requirement. The setup seems great for taking a lot of courses, and developing professional contacts, but it might mean fewer chances to weave together information from multiple courses on your own. Cornell, on the other hand, requires one workshop course and a final project of either a four-credit research paper or a ten-credit thesis. A thesis (or any kind of capstone) requires a major synthesis, and that has its advantages. While plenty of Penn students go on to doctoral work if they are so inclined, it's worth noting that an excellent thesis is usually a major asset for application to doctoral programs. It's also good for demonstrating one's aptitude for or experience with a particular topic to relevant employers. I know, you take what you can get, but it's not a bad thing to show a little independent thinking/project management.

    While there's no answer here, I wanted to talk a bit about the comparisons you asked for on a more fundamental level. After all, your comparison is the one that matters, and the best thing you can do in July is get into the information and weigh it out for yourself.

    (Or just pay Planetizen to do it for you.)

  3. #3
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    Thank you!

    I have discovered the vast and specific difference between these programs via the website. I appreciate in depth response and obvious knowledge of the programs within this field. I guess a question that I should have asked, but neglected to do so is, are the programs worth taking out a loan? I would not like to seek a terminal degree in planning, however, I would like to possible practice, but maybe teach as well. I am extremely interested in Law Use and Environmental Law as well as City Management. Now I know UNC - Chapel Hill has an outstanding program for City Management in addition to their highly ranked planning program but the curriculum there is pretty set straight. Back to the Penn V. Cornell question does the Penn program being housed within the Design school mean anything?? I'm extremely concerned with this only because I'm not interested in design at all. Also both school have integrated JD programs for the program with T14 law programs that place very well, but an advantage at Penn is the amount of outreach that they do it's seemly unbelievable for a law program.

    I ultimately think I would like to work in an urban area and interact with the community (Philadelphia), but though Ithaca is very rural it has an urban area, or so I hear. Who know I just would like to be able to defend my choice and looking at the Rankings Cornell is on top just internationally focused. A final questions and I know I'm all over the place with this, but do you feel as if a person that went through undergraduate , straight to the Masters program then law school would be disadvantaged??? Should I take years off in between.. I have a strong undergraduate research background in planning (Duel Degrees w/planning emphasis) / GIS experiences, and a few internships, but NO JOB just free work and loan accumulations.
    Last edited by Kedarioush; 09 Jul 2012 at 2:49 AM. Reason: Didn't Post everything!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    You will probably get more than a few replies in this vein, but Iíll be the first: if I were you, I would strongly consider cost into the equation. Also, if you are committed to an Ivy League education, I would have your sights set on teaching (which it sounds like you are) because that is where I think the name will count the most (and will best justify the cost). For me, personally, that is the only reason I would consider taking on that debt load. And I still might not do it.

    I went to Penn, though not for planning (undergrad and a different grad degree). It is an excellent school and I am from Philly, so I can also attest to the many community planning opportunities there. The possibilities really are endless (though this is true of many places and many schools). I was fortunate at the time to have some scholarships that significantly reduced my debt.

    Sometime later, I returned to school for an MCRP degree at a state school in my current state. Being a little older and having a more focused sense of what I wanted out of the program meant I was able to do very well and have some great experiences in applied planning even before I graduated. My point here is that if one is self-directed and has a good sense of the areas of planning they want to focus attention on, you could do well and get a great education at many (more affordable) schools. If you know less about planning already and/or are more open to whatever possibilities may open up as you go through the program, maybe the Cornell or Penn programs are well suited. But the price tag still stings!

    The reality is (not just in the current economy, but in general) that planning doesnít really pay that well. Its ok and you can do quite well for yourself in the upper reaches of management, but its not a get-wealthy type of career. Which isnít why most of us went into it, but in the sense of being able to pay off oneís loans in a timely fashion, I would think long and hard about that. Do professors make much more? Iím not really sure, but I donít think itís a huge pay scale difference. Again, worth thinking hard about.

    Again, Penn is an excellent school as is Cornell. But unless you have an angle on making it more affordable (faculty scholarship, wealthy grandparent, etc.) I would think long and hard about that price tag. Depending on the scenario, it seems to me one could graduate from either of those schools with as much debt as a medical doctor but lack the income-generating potential. Which means being saddled with student loans for a LONG time. If you have a way to reduce that cost significantly, though, I say go for it. Youíll definitely get a good education.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  5. #5
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    Thank you, Does Ranking Matter?

    I completely understand what you are saying and I appreciate you balance of information even being an alum of Penn. I'm excited about the forthcoming experiences at either of these universities, but I want to ensure that I get the best bang for my buck. I have recently learned that Penn has been redeveloping the program, yet still has outstanding faculty with the department. I know that these are both awesome school, however, Cornell has been at ranked like number one and two since the ranking starting. Though this is possibly pointlessI would like to say that UPenn has been number 10 consistently, but they have a tremendous amount of seemly great work going on especially faculty research. I would like to be in a City, but I would also like to have that secluded feel of not being in a big city though I completed my undergraduate degree in a major City without many distractions, however, I feel that the many opportunities available to me at Penn would distract me in my desire to save West Philly.

    Here is one issue though, I've learned that most at Penn I will not be able to complete a thesis while at Cornell that is almost guaranteed and I would like to have a thesis just in case I decide to pursue a Ph.D instead of a J.D bc there aren't any guarantees that I will be admitted into the law program.

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