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What school? 🏫 Rutgers vs. UCLA

I am currently considering options for urban/city planning graduate programs and have narrowed down my choices to two schools: UCLA Luskin and Rutgers Bloustein. Both programs are top ranked and have strong academic programs as Research 1 universities. The faculty at both schools are also accomplished practitioners and researchers within my desired concentration area of Housing and Community Development (although UCLA may have an edge on the profile of the research they publish). However, I'm still trying to weigh out the pros and cons of each:

With UCLA, I can grow a professional network in the planning field within the region which I can leverage if I decide to stay in the L.A. area after graduation (this is my preference as L.A. is my hometown). However, UCLA seems to come with a good dose of bureaucracy and the faculty at UCLA seem to be less accessible to students in terms of communication and faculty advising. Furthermore, I'd like to gain hard skills/ hands-on work experience working in an research/graduate assistantship, but the process for applying for and securing these opportunities seems like a lottery system that is reserved for people that know how to "play the game".

With Rutgers, the faculty seem to be much more accessible and seem to give students more structured support and faculty guidance while earning their degrees. Yet, I am less familiar with the career/job network in the the Greater NY-Philadelphia area (although I'm sure that various career opportunities exist in this region as well.)

Finally, in terms of cost, I received a full-tuition fellowship from Rutgers plus a small living stipend over two-years. With UCLA, I received a fellowship that would cover 15% of tuition for only one-year which means that I would need to cover the remaining 85%+ of the cost of attendance out-of-pocket and likely take out student loans.

Please share any experiences you may have with either of these two programs - both in terms of the quality of the faculty, the level of student support/advising, and the post-graduation professional networks/ job prospects that either program might offer alumni. Thanks for your help in advance!


Don't have direct experience with either, but Full tuition + a living stipend? That's practically unheard of - you are literally being paid to go to school. That's a hard offer to turn down, my friend!


I went to Rutgers and loved it. Faculty seemed pretty accessible, but I have nothing to compare it to. Rutgers has a huge network in the NY/NJ/Philly area, and jobs in northern NJ, NYC, and DC a little further away pay very well. UCLA will definitely have a better network in LA, though. Consider reaching out to the Rutgers career services person to see if she can put you in touch with any alums in LA.

I agree with the other commenter though - getting your master's for free is a tough opportunity to pass up. Rutgers is consistently rated one of the top planning schools in the country, so you aren't sacrificing your education to make a smart financial move. IMO, the cost you pay for UCLA over Rutgers isn't worth it.