The Capacity and Constraints of Small MPA Programs: A Survey of Program Directors

Small Master of Public Administration (MPA) programs are commonly defined as having enrollments below 100 students. Given their size, these programs face unique administrative challenges, such as heavy faculty teaching loads, resource constraints, and marketing beyond their region. However, the graduates of small programs serve many of the nation’s communities by building the capacity of local public administration. To explore the capacity and constraints facing small MPA programs, we administered a survey to the directors of these programs. We find that many small programs have faculty with manageable teaching loads and adequate funds for travel. However, small programs still face challenges. Directors of small MPA programs receive little formal training, work under recruitment pressures, and have difficulties maintaining active advisory boards. Directors also report needing more administrative support and budget autonomy to do their jobs effectively and maintain accreditation with the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.