Rankings and the Road Ahead

USN&WR badgeU.S. News & World Report released its rankings of the 2017 Best Graduate Schools on March 16, 2016. The rankings cover a broad range of programs, from business to engineering to medical schools.

Public affairs schools are ranked every four years based on a peer assessment survey that utilizes a list of schools and individuals provided by NASPAA (Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration). In the 2012 USN&WR rankings, SPA ranked 29th nationally.

This year’s edition places SPA at number 34 nationally, tied with Stanford, Johns Hopkins and several other prominent institutions. SPA maintained its position among the top five public institutions in the western United States that offer a graduate public affairs program.

In the subfield/specialty rankings, deans and other faculty members at surveyed NASPAA schools are asked to nominate up to 10 programs for excellence in each specialty area.  A minimum of seven nominations in a given specialty are required for a school to be ranked.

Once again, SPA did extremely well in the specialty area rankings:

  • 10th in environmental policy and management (no change from previous ranking)
  • 15th in nonprofit management (14th previously)
  • 24th in public management administration (no change)
  • 25th in city management and urban policy (NEW ranking)

SPA focuses mainly on six of the nine specialty areas ranked by USN&WR. The fact that SPA is ranked in the top 25 in four out of those six areas is something to be proud of.

And our online Master of Criminal Justice program continues to receive high ratings, including a number 12 national ranking in January 2016 by USN&WR. This is the highest ranking of any online program in the entire CU system, and is even more notable by the fact that it was achieved in the highly competitive online criminal justice field.

While the U.S. News & World Report rankings are very influential, there are a number of other ranking systems that are cited by prospective students and other audiences. Bestvalueschools.com recently ranked SPA number 13 on its list of the most innovative public service schools, and topmanagementdegrees.com ranked the online MPA program number 15 nationally.

SPA has great momentum as we move into next year and the future looks bright. We will welcome two new tenure-track faculty members in fall 2016: Deserai Crow will join us from CU Boulder in environmental policy and emergency management, and Will Swann will join us from Florida State University in local government and public management. Both will make strong additions to SPA faculty.

In the coming academic year we will recruit two additional tenure-track faculty members to join us in fall 2017. One will be in the nonprofit field and the other in a specialty area to be determined.

We will also roll out the Bachelor of Arts in Public Service degree program this fall. This is an exciting opportunity for SPA that will expand our influence at CU Denver and beyond, and bring in additional resources to the school as enrollment grows.

Students continue to give high marks to the quality of instruction they receive at SPA and graduates go on to achieve great things in positions at the local, state and national level. There is much to be proud of at SPA and I am grateful for everything faculty and staff do that contributes to our continued success.



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  1. Let’s Make It A Great Year! – Views From the West

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