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Evans School of Public Affairs looking at increase in applicants for MPA program despite potential c

Despite facing a potential consolidation as a side effect from the upcoming budget cuts for the UW, the Evans School of Public Affairs is looking at its largest incoming Masters of Public Administration (MPA) class to date.

The Evans School’s MPA program received a record number of applications for the 2011–12 school year, including a 78 percent increase in applications from international students. The Evans School Student Organization (ESO) hopes that this increase in applicants will help the school’s chances at not being consolidated into another graduate program.

This year’s applicant pool and expected cohort adds up to a total of 634 students in the MPA program. There is an expected enrollment of 185 students for the 2011 school year, as opposed to the 165 students enrolled in 2010. The increase is not a surprise to Alan Foster, president of the ESO, however.

“The number of applicants and the size of the cohort is increasing every year and has been for several years,” Foster said. “In the last 10 years, the school has done nothing but grow.”

Foster attributed this growth partly to the greater amount of people considering graduate education to wait out the economic downturn, saying many of the Evans School’s peer institutions are experiencing growth as well. However, he feels that the quality of the Evans School attracts students to apply to the UW school specifically.

“It is seen as a high-quality program with incredibly good professors and with graduates who have very high chances of getting great jobs,” Foster said.

Jesse Knappenberger, director of student services and admissions, said in a news release from the Evans School that “the quality and growth in the Evans School applicant pool demonstrates applicants’ trust in the school’s strong history of preparing exemplary future leaders.”

Foster thinks the growth will help the ESO’s advocacy against a proposed consolidation.

In her Feb. 23 letter to the state Legislature, UW Interim President Phyllis Wise outlined possible reductions of educational choices should worst-case budget scenarios become a reality, one of which was “consolidating the Evans School of Public Affairs with another college and “significantly” reducing course offerings. Foster said he feels that the consolidation could potentially decrease the number of applicants in future years.

“It will scare off students if the school is consolidated,” Foster said. “A lot of the students who are applying [to the Evans School] right now would instead be applying to a school that’s consolidated into, let’s say, Arts & Sciences. It wouldn’t make their list.”

Foster said that out of the top 24 MPA programs, only two of them are not independent schools while 22 of the bottom 24 of MPA programs are consolidated. He sees a difference between having the school be independent from other programs at the university and being consolidated.

“There’s a real connection, we feel, between being independent and being highly sought after,” Foster said. “The suspicion that everybody has is that, if [Evans] is consolidated, the number of applicants will decrease.”

Students from the Evans School and the Information School, which is also facing a possible consolidation, went to Olympia, Wash., last Thursday and met with six legislators to discuss preserving the independent forms of their graduate programs and advocate against higher-education budget cuts in general.

“Obviously, our direct interest is in our program, but if we can influence legislators to support a budget that is a bit friendlier to higher education, then that helps everybody, including us,” Foster said.

While Wise’s letter presented consolidating the Evans School into another school as a scenario in response to the expected cuts in state funding to the UW, Foster said that leadership within the Evans School has been looking at solutions that allow the school to remain independent.

“If Evans was to experience a very high amount of cuts from the state, our leadership in the school has identified methods for absorbing those cuts while staying independent,” Foster said. He said that Dean Sandra O. Archibald met with Interim Provost Mary Lidstrom about alternative scenarios.

Foster is hopeful that the increase in applicants will help the school fare better when the UW makes its cuts in response to less funding from the state this June.

Reach reporter Sarah Schweppe at news@dailyuw.com.

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