• Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no echo chambers. Create your FREE Cyburbia ID, and join us today! You can also register through your Reddit, Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Microsoft account.

what do YOU think the top 5 planning schools are?

bestnightmare

Cyburbian
Messages
61
Points
4
Forget what U.S. News and World Report Says. For that matter, forget what EVERYONE else says! List YOUR top five planning schools. I expect no two to be the same. For whatever reason - prestige, quality of faculty, quality of students, research opportunities, etc. I'm trying to get an honest picture of what people regard as the best planning schools. If you like, you can explain your choices, but it's not required. List each school once only. Ties are permissable.
Examples:

Good:
1. Alabama
2. Alaska
5. Arizona
5. Arkansas
5. California

Bad:
1. Michigan State
1. Michigan State
1. Michigan State
1. Michigan State
1. Michigan State

Rank Away.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Wannaplan?

Galactic Superstar
Messages
3,149
Points
27
How can I rank other planning schools when I only went to one of them? I don't have time to go back to school to compare!
 

bestnightmare

Cyburbian
Messages
61
Points
4
what i'm asking for is completely subjective. what do YOU know, what have YOU heard, if anything at all....what other schools did you consider besides your own? if you ranked the school you chose as #1, why?

this is more of a 'coaches' poll' than an 'ap poll'
 

SW MI Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
3,195
Points
26
I have no idea. I went to Eastern Michigan and liked it a lot. I'm curious as to why MSU is on your bad list five times?

;)
 

NHPlanner

Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
9,889
Points
38
Ball State University, Iowa State University, Michigan.

Based on faculty, strength of design professional preparedness, general reputation.

My bias of course to BSU.
 

Wannaplan?

Galactic Superstar
Messages
3,149
Points
27
Well, I went to the University of Michigan, and they're strong on design and land use, but weak when it comes to site plan reviews.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
From a canadian perspecive

1) waterloo (undergrad)
2) UBC (Grad)
3) Toronto (grad)
4) Waterloo (grad)
5) Dalhousie (grad)

Have heard good things about University of Michigan, Berkely, UNC-Chapel Hill and Texas A&M .

Having gone to one of the "bad" schools, I won't add to a list of bad schools, anyschool that is accredited can provide you the opportunity to explore and learn what you want, regardless of reputation.
 

el Guapo

Capitalist
Messages
5,984
Points
29
My Choices

1. DeVry
2. The EIB Institute
3. Barbrazon School of Modeling
4. Burlington Coat Factory (NOT affilitated with Burlington Industries)
5. Kenny
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,550
Points
25
I am gainfully employed, which I believe is my number 1 criteria on "how good" a planning school is. So the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee gets my vote. Upong graduation, I had no problem securing a job.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
For West Coast (particularly California), many of my colleagues have graduated from California Polytechnic at San Luis Obispo. Berkeley I understand is more "theoretical."

From personal experience, the University of Virginia offers a decent education-not probably as stellar as some of their other programs (law and business, for example), but certainly decent.

I would look at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill also.
 

OhioPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
304
Points
11
I get a lot of students who ask me this question. They want to know how our school, Ohio State, ranks compared to other schools.

We are a high quality school that provides an excellent education. However, how good a school in largely depends on your interest area, whether you want a practical or theoretical experience . . I always recommend thinking about your interests and then go to the ACSP website and looking over the one page bios for each school. Narrow it down to 10 or so and then start requesting information.

The school I work at is great, but the planning school I went to Texas A&M also provided an excellent planning education.
 

japrovo

Member
Messages
103
Points
6
As has been mentioned I would be thinking about what you wanted to practice but also where you were interested in practicing. For example departments in an architecture school may offer great design courses if you care about design. Departments in an urban university may offer unique contexts that you wouldn't get on a more residential campus. And where do you want to start out? Others' experinces may be diferent but it seems like the internship to first job pipelines are typically regional.

For the record---Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond) MURP 99, Portland State Univeristy PhD expected in 2004. Both urban univeristies. VCU was handy to home and provided a good general education in the field and a context that made sense to me. The bulk of the students were local although that has not always been the case. At PSU I've worked with a lot of the murps and the program does draw nationally. And why not---study in Portland offers the chance to work on things I could only read about in Richmond.
 
Messages
5,353
Points
31
I sort of fell into planning so I didn't really research schools and such. If I had done that, I certainly wouldn't have gone to UNO, but it's much too late to cry over that. I find it rather odd that the guide to planning schools is only available from the APA press. You can't buy it at a bookstore. How are you supposed to learn about the schools if the resource is limited in circulation?
 

SGB

Cyburbian
Messages
3,387
Points
25
Planderella said:
I find it rather odd that the guide to planning schools is only available from the APA press. You can't buy it at a bookstore. How are you supposed to learn about the schools if the resource is limited in circulation?
This is just another one of the many "services" provided by our friends at the American Planning Association, I suppose. ;)
 

Greenescapist

Cyburbian
Messages
1,169
Points
24
Planderella said:
I I find it rather odd that the guide to planning schools is only available from the APA press. You can't buy it at a bookstore. How are you supposed to learn about the schools if the resource is limited in circulation?
All the contents are available for free on the ASCP Web site. I've talked to a lot of people about planning schools and researched them for a while before I made up my mind on a school. The schools that constantly were brought up as "high-quality" (usually high-price, too) were:

MIT
Berkeley
UNC-Chapel Hill
USC
Penn
Univ of Illinois, Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin
 

Habanero

Cyburbian
Messages
3,241
Points
27
I know I wouldn't want to be an Texas A&M grad, I don't respect their professors at all. The professors haven't been in the real world of planning in forever and when you come up with actual solutions that have worked in the real world they tell you there is no way that would ever work. The head of the Economics department did a study, funded by the homebuilders association, and intentionally left out major factors in any economical study. When called on it he said it was because it was commissioned by the Home builders Association. The study was then forwarded to the legislators to try to get impact fees abolished.
 

nerudite

Cyburbian
Messages
6,544
Points
30
I'm one of those who don't think that the average practioner really needs to go to a fancy planning school. I did fine with a geography degree (with an urban planning specialization) from UC Davis.

It also depends on what you are looking for in a program. In California, Berkeley is more theory/general planning, Cal Poly (SLO and Pomona) are hands on technical type stuff (usually with good internships), and UCLA falls somewhere in between. There are other schools that have a wide range of specialties. I know that San Jose has a technical program that is gaining favor in the Bay Area. If I were to go back and do it again, I may choose a Cal Poly... but I really don't have any qualms with the my education thus far.
 

prudence

Cyburbian
Messages
688
Points
20
I looked at three schools:

Univ. of Wisc.-Milwaukee
Arizona St. Univ.
Univ. of Wisc.-Madison

I ruled out Madison because it's Madison. It didn't offer what a "big city" offered. Milwaukee is the center of the Wisconsin world regardless of what Madison thinks.

Milwaukee as a school does afford greater diversity in course options...plenty of engineering and GIS available, plus works closely with the surrounding cities for large planning projects...

I must mimic what Repo said...I was employed as a planner for my two years at school and have had no difficulty being employed since.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
1. The school I attended.
2. Others.

We seem to keep coming back to different versions of the same question. The reality is that there really isn't a "best." There are some bad ones to stay away from, but more or less, everyone else is about the same. Some programs have more of a focus in one area or another, but in general, you get out of it what you put into it. Hey, you don't even need a planning degree to be a planner.

In the end, when you come into my office for an interview, you will be there because of your experience and capabilities. The fact that you have a degree, and what it may be in, will count for about 5% of the hiring decision. The school that degree comes from means nothing.
 

bestnightmare

Cyburbian
Messages
61
Points
4
SW MI Planner said:
I have no idea. I went to Eastern Michigan and liked it a lot. I'm curious as to why MSU is on your bad list five times?

;)
the avatar will answer your question.
go blue!
 

Suburb Repairman

moderator in moderation
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
7,342
Points
31
small and forgotten

When it comes to determining the best planning schools, "experts" always seem to ignore smaller schools. I go to Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. Our name changes to Texas State University in September. Our urban planning degree is in the Geography Department. I am nearing completion of my BS in Urban & Regional Planning and currently am working an internship. Despite our 26,000 students, we get overlooked in planning. The Geography Department is internationally respected and has made many appearances in AAG rankings as one of the top Geography schools in the nation. So what does that have to do with my planning degree? The department prides itself in preparing students for real-world application of their degrees, regardless of emphasis. Many of the "superior" schools (per U.S. News...)are more theoretical in nature with less emphasis on practical application. I don't care how much New Urbanism and Smart Growth jargon you can spout out; it's completely useless if you don't have the training to practically apply the theory. In my internship I operate essentially as a director of planning without the fancy title. My city is a suburb of San Antonio having severe growing pains. They are working on a Comprehensive Plan to deal with the growth. Even though I have the expertise and theoretical background, I have to play the political game. In the ideal world, planners would be completely removed from politics. The fact of the matter is, most city councils are set in their ways and you have to have the knowledge and personality to convince them to change. Theories are abstract and intangible. When you overwhelm people with facts, you may find them more open to your suggestions. I used this same method to convince my city (remember, a suburb) to enact clean air regulations, despite my status as a lowly intern.

So why should Southwest Texas State University/Texas State University on the list of best schools for planning? Simple. Their degree has real practical application.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,464
Points
44
AH ok

Are we talking grad or undergrad?

I would have to say top five that I know of in no order...

University of Wisconsin Mad,
University of Wisconsin Mil
University of Arizona
Michigan State
Northern Michigan University

(The last one is personal experience) From the two APA national conferences that I have been to, we compared programs, and as an undergrad, we are doing things that many grad students do not do till there last year. We work on real life problems, and work with the city, as well as, NMU in many of the years at the past, have been the only undergraduate presenters for the student presentations.

It is a tiny program, each year maybe 4 or 5 graduate, and there are only 2 planning profs. But we do so much hands on, real life, that I hit the ground running when I got here.
 

Habanero

Cyburbian
Messages
3,241
Points
27
Re: AH ok

michaelskis said:

University of Arizona
UofA They may be getting rid of their program due to funding issues and lack of interest. ASU is good, but I don't like they are more focused on Architecture than actual planning theories. I've also found that you cannot work and get your Masters (at ASU) at the same time in Planning because they only offer most classes during the day.
 

Maroon

Cyburbian
Messages
45
Points
2
Another perspective

Alan said:
Well, I went to the University of Michigan, and they're strong on design and land use, but weak when it comes to site plan reviews.
Alan is absolutely correct, but is this the reason to go to graduate school?

Perhaps it is for you. In that case, do not go to U-M. On the other hand, if you think that you can learn on the fly, and perhaps snag a good internship to gain marketable skills, look at Michigan. My current boss told me point blank at my interview that another candidate had experience in the job, but he (the boss) had no doubt that I would surpass the other candidate in six months due to a better education grounded in reasoning, thinking, and theory.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
I think this thread is bunk. I believe it is not the program, rather your fit into the program: Professors, courses offered, courses you are able to take outside the department, and the other students in your class that will participate in class discussion with you (although it is impossible to determine the last one until you arrive), oh and plus the ongoings in the town the school is located in.

My program would in no way be considered in the “Top 5”, but I believe it was the top One and only for me. I had great classmates, great professors, great friends, and the courses offered both in and out of the department where tailored fit to my needs (including some independent studies where I arranged the syllabus).

5 years prior or 5 years post, this school could be completely different and I would of not fit. So timing is everything.

Now I have a good entry job (as do the other grads from my program), I am very satisfied and no one yet has given two ____s where my degree is from (except on game day;))

It is all about custom fit, for me.

Fin.
 

green lizard

Member
Messages
133
Points
6
Huston said:

5 years prior or 5 years post, this school could be completely different and I would of not fit. So timing is everything.
I have to agree with this...
A lot of teaching is done by proffessors who do it as a
part time thing, or move on when they see that longevity may
be difficult in their current college, or get a better gig in
the real world.

The planning school is the start, it gives you the foundation
and history (hopefully not to warped) in planning
practice to PRACTICE. In less you stay in academia,
most of what you practice you learn on-the-job.
With any luck, planning school did teach you some
flexability of thought.

The best planning school is the job you got after you graduated.
 

Richmond Jake

You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!
Messages
18,287
Points
44
green lizard said:
The best planning school is the job you got after you graduated.
This speaks loud and clear...and is sooo accurate.
 

JNA

Cyburbian Plus
Messages
24,889
Points
51
The best planning school is
1 - accredited
2 - the one that accepts you
3 - where you have in-state tuition
4 - helps you get an internship - valuable
5 - the one you graduate from (UCD)
6 - first planning job (Still with them)
 

cmdrico7812

Cyburbian
Messages
45
Points
2
Re: AH ok

Northern Michigan University

(The last one is personal experience) From the two APA national conferences that I have been to, we compared programs, and as an undergrad, we are doing things that many grad students do not do till there last year. We work on real life problems, and work with the city, as well as, NMU in many of the years at the past, have been the only undergraduate presenters for the student presentations.

It is a tiny program, each year maybe 4 or 5 graduate, and there are only 2 planning profs. But we do so much hands on, real life, that I hit the ground running when I got here. [/B][/QUOTE]



>I am currently a student at NMU in the planning program. I'll be a senior next year and I am currently looking for grad schools. When did you graduate and what have you been up to since? I know NMU's program is small but you are right when saying there is a lot of hands on work. Did you have any trouble getting into grad school or getting a job because you went to a smaller school? I'm looking forward to attending the APA conference in Washington D.C. this spring, should be a good time. The planning program at NMU is in danger of extinction. With the state budget cuts that came down last year we were one of the frist programs to possibly get cut because of the low number of students enrolled in the program. Their loss I suppose.
 

MitchBaby

Cyburbian
Messages
198
Points
7
A Canadian Perspective

Though he thinks these are the top five Canadian schools, I beg to differ. I don't claim to be unbiased, just seeing it a little differently... I say this because I went to Queen's after ALOT of research across Canada because it offered 1. the most money, and 2. the most interesting course selection. I also did my undergrad at UBC which is why I didn't do my Master's there, otherwise I probably would have.

1. Queen's (Kingston) - policy based planning - ie the development of zoing by-laws etc. for wide ranging use. Great professors, small faculty with lots of money going to students.

2. UBC (Vancouver) - environment and sustainable development planning - planning to protect the natural environments is a high priority here. Wide ranging professors from local consultant firms - also has an emphasis on emergency planning. Big faculty but better facilities now than 5 years ago.

3. McGill (Montreal) - urban design focused. Most of the course work at McGill revolves around urban design and street scape planning. There's little related to policy or environment.

4. Dalhousie (Halifax) - Great little school in a great little city. I didn't learn much about the program, but went to a conference in Halifax in January (Canadian Association of Planning Students) and the set-up was great and the courses imaginative.

Bad Reputations in Canada

Toronto - its a good school, but its what I call a cookie cutter school. They trash all of the personal beliefs that students bring into the course and convert them into typical corporate development style planners - extremely expensive

Waterloo - What an ugly campus! The school should focus on planning a better and more receptive campus because it is pretty horrid. Some say the environment makes the school , well Waterloo is pretty bad.

So there's my oppinion based on personal research, friends, and the background of each program. Hope it helps.

donk said:
From a canadian perspecive

1) waterloo (undergrad)
2) UBC (Grad)
3) Toronto (grad)
4) Waterloo (grad)
5) Dalhousie (grad)

Have heard good things about University of Michigan, Berkely, UNC-Chapel Hill and Texas A&M .

Having gone to one of the "bad" schools, I won't add to a list of bad schools, anyschool that is accredited can provide you the opportunity to explore and learn what you want, regardless of reputation.
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,903
Points
35
Re: A Canadian Perspective

West Coast Canadian said:

Waterloo - What an ugly campus! The school should focus on planning a better and more receptive campus because it is pretty horrid. Some say the environment makes the school , well Waterloo is pretty bad.
While I agree that the campus at Waterloo leaves a lot to be desired (though some of the infill buildings being constructed are correcting some the more severe problems) I feel to see how that makes it a "bad" planning school. However, I agree that it is somewhat overrated. The co-op option was great though.

Queens is great for grad work. It's also probably the most snobbish school in Canada.

I don't know where you get your ideas about U of T from, so I won't even go there.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
Having met a few of the profs from queens and hearing them speak, I hope the classes are more interesting, educational and less preachy then their "dog and pony show" presentations.
 

Nero

Member
Messages
246
Points
10
College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University has a great program! WITH an Environmental emphasis. It's a medium size program based in with LAs.

If the program is too small it lacks creditability and too large it is impersonal.
 

nerudite

Cyburbian
Messages
6,544
Points
30
Re: Re: A Canadian Perspective

Tranplanner said:
Queens is great for grad work. It's also probably the most snobbish school in Canada.
With the most snobbish output (IMHO)... when I interviewed potential candidates for a planner position last year, you could tell who graduated from Queens without looking at the resume. They all say "I went to Queens for graduate school" with this superior tone like it was Oxford or Harvard, often with the head nod of authority to punctuate the significance of the statement. (Oh yeah, and I decided to hire a Univ of Saskatchewan graduate, in case anyone was interested).

So far the people I've met from Guelph seem to be practical and have a good understanding of planning... but I have no idea about their program, I've only seen the graduates.
 

MitchBaby

Cyburbian
Messages
198
Points
7
Re: Re: Re: A Canadian Perspective

nerudite said:
With the most snobbish output (IMHO)... when I interviewed potential candidates for a planner position last year, you could tell who graduated from Queens without looking at the resume. They all say "I went to Queens for graduate school" with this superior tone like it was Oxford or Harvard, often with the head nod of authority to punctuate the significance of the statement.
You are absolutely right. Queen's is a snobbish school and the only reason I went there was money. Its particularly bad as an undergrad. As a grad student, however, I enjoyed the program but not the town. But I don't feel that anyone from Queen's is any better than anyone else just because they went to Queen's...
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
So far the people I've met from Guelph seem to be practical and have a good understanding of planning...
At the CIP conference I scared the hell out of a few people from Guelph. (Alcohol and tales of the white trash rural folk I deal were the main factors)

I think they may romanticize rural life a bit too much.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
My favourite quote about guelph is

I'd rather step in sh*t at guelph then sleep with it at western.
 

nerudite

Cyburbian
Messages
6,544
Points
30
See... I know so little about Canadian schools, that I had no idea that it was even ag-oriented or rural. The planners I've met so far have impressed me more than those from other universities (on a whole)... but then, I've had limited exposure to truly remarkable planners (especially consultants :( ) around these parts.
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,903
Points
35
Don't get me wrong - Guelph is a great school. And the City of Guelph is actually a really neat place. I'll try to dig up some pics.

Guelph gets it's stereotype from the fact that it hosts a School of Agriculture, and the Ontario College of Veterinary Sciences.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
Guelph is on my short list of places that I would not mind living in southern ontario.

As for the vet college, lots of hot women with strong stomachs.
 
Top