Top 100 Affordable Public Administration Schools

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Public administration degree programs are more popular now than ever. Many sectors of the public administration sphere are now in high demand. Careers in regional or urban planning, for instance, are seeing their ranks swell at incredible rates. Meanwhile, growing cities will surely need more and more public administration professionals to meet the needs of their urban areas.

Thus, we have created this page to help students make their best decision for an online public administration degree program. Below, students will find a discussion of bachelor’s and master's level degree programs. The page also discusses possible careers in public administration and other options for degree holders.

We take special care to discuss the economic aspects of a public administration degree. Not only do we note projected average or median salaries, but we discuss the job market. After all, the term public administration is an umbrella that holds many unique and fulfilling career paths. We hope you will find this information helpful along your educational and professional journey.

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Top 100 Affordable Public Administration College Rankings

Some of the factors we consider in our Rankings include:

  • Retention Rates:
    This number measures how many first-time, full-time students return to campus for their second year. The US Department of Education also tracks part-time students to help provide a full picture.
  • Graduation Rate:
    This is a key statistic that shows how many students stick around to graduate in four to six years. The DoE also shows how many students transfer and ostensibly complete degrees elsewhere.
  • Loan Default Rate:
    After students graduate their behavior still impacts their alma mater. When a low number of students default on their loans, they are presumed to be earning healthy salaries and thereby meeting their financial obligations.
  • Graduate Salaries:
    Along with the loan default rate, graduate salaries would tend to indicate how well students are at converting their degrees into earnings. Students can compare how well certain majors fare in the marketplace against corresponding median wages as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Cost of Tuition:
    This is a key figure for those who seek an affordable public administration degree program. We weigh the gross costs of tuition for in-state residents and out-of-state students alike. Further, we take note of the average net costs as they apply to students from high and lower tax brackets.

St. Petersburg College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $2,682
    • Out-of-state: $9,286
  • Net Price: $2,702
  • Retention Rate: N/A
  • Total Enrollment: 28,853
  • Undergrad Students: 28,853
  • Graduate Students: 0
  • Graduation Rate: 33%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 45
  • St. Petersburg College

Indian River State College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $2,764
    • Out-of-state: $10,201
  • Net Price: $3,878
  • Retention Rate: N/A
  • Total Enrollment: 16,942
  • Undergrad Students: 16,942
  • Graduate Students: 0
  • Graduation Rate: 41%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 23
  • Indian River State College

CUNY Bernard M Baruch College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,462
    • Out-of-state: $15,412
  • Net Price: $3,897
  • Retention Rate: 89%
  • Total Enrollment: 18,679
  • Undergrad Students: 15,482
  • Graduate Students: 3,197
  • Graduation Rate: 70%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 235
  • CUNY Bernard M Baruch College

CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,470
    • Out-of-state: $15,420
  • Net Price: $4,221
  • Retention Rate: 80%
  • Total Enrollment: 15,880
  • Undergrad Students: 13,746
  • Graduate Students: 2,134
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 276
  • CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $8,917
    • Out-of-state: $18,733
  • Net Price: $4,419
  • Retention Rate: 76%
  • Total Enrollment: 29,113
  • Undergrad Students: 24,965
  • Graduate Students: 4,148
  • Graduation Rate: 46%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 72
  • The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

California State University-Dominguez Hills

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $6,941
    • Out-of-state: $18,821
  • Net Price: $4,683
  • Retention Rate: 77%
  • Total Enrollment: 17,977
  • Undergrad Students: 15,365
  • Graduate Students: 2,612
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 117
  • California State University-Dominguez Hills

Brigham Young University-Idaho

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $4,300
    • Out-of-state: $4,300
  • Net Price: $6,871
  • Retention Rate: 70%
  • Total Enrollment: 39,145
  • Undergrad Students: 39,145
  • Graduate Students: 0
  • Graduation Rate: 60%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 12
  • Brigham Young University-Idaho

California State University-Fresno

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $6,643
    • Out-of-state: $18,523
  • Net Price: $6,906
  • Retention Rate: 83%
  • Total Enrollment: 24,298
  • Undergrad Students: 21,541
  • Graduate Students: 2,757
  • Graduation Rate: 56%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 20
  • California State University-Fresno

Fayetteville State University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $5,309
    • Out-of-state: $16,917
  • Net Price: $7,016
  • Retention Rate: 74%
  • Total Enrollment: 6,551
  • Undergrad Students: 5,644
  • Graduate Students: 907
  • Graduation Rate: 34%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 12
  • Fayetteville State University

CUNY Medgar Evers College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,352
    • Out-of-state: $15,302
  • Net Price: $7,090
  • Retention Rate: 62%
  • Total Enrollment: 5,798
  • Undergrad Students: 5,798
  • Graduate Students: 0
  • Graduation Rate: 14%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 32
  • CUNY Medgar Evers College
Full Ranking Report

Why a Degree from an Affordable Public Administration School?

Students who choose an online degree in public administration are making a decision that will open up many opportunities. While many career-focused degrees are rather limited in terms of post-graduate opportunities, a degree in public administration can land students a job with local, state, or federal government. Other students might enter into a job with a lobbying firm in DC or their state capitol. Public administration degree holders can also gain a bit of experience and apply their degrees to the world of business.

In order to make sure that they are able to have the sort of life they want, public administration students should look for the most affordable public administration school possible. That does not mean that they should seek the cheapest option. Rather, students are encouraged to find a public administration school that offers high academic quality with a reasonable price tag. When students hit that sweet spot, they reap a terrific return on their educational investment and gain even more value from their education.

One way to contain education costs is to start out with an associate degree. While it may be difficult to find a two-year degree in public administration, there are options. For instance, many community colleges offer degrees in business administration, accounting, and management, all of which will serve as great compliments to a four-year bachelor’s degree in public administration. Since community colleges are typically far more affordable than a state university, students can dramatically reduce the total cost of an undergraduate degree, and their general education courses completed in their associate degree can lessen the amount of time they must spend in a four-year institution.

Choosing an Affordable Public Administration College

Choosing the best and most affordable public administration college or university is not an easy task. There are innumerable personal and pragmatic considerations in play and it's important to consider them all. Students should list and evaluate all of these considerations prior to enrolling in a four-year undergraduate program. Some of the pragmatic things to consider include the price of tuition, location, academic value, and long-term return on investment.

When it comes to the price of tuition, and college in general, there are two numbers to consider. The first is the gross price. That figure is bound to be rather large, but it should be considered the baseline cost and it can be shifted lower in several ways. Now, students should look at the average net price. This number factors in various forms of financial aid, such as grants and scholarships. Ideally, every student will pay the average net tuition price, if not less. However, with that gross price in mind there will be less shock if available financial aid does not pay off as desired.

As for location, this is naturally a huge concern. Even younger students may not want to travel too far for their degree. However, this factor can be ameliorated if the public administration degree program is available online. If there are core courses that are particularly difficult, such as mathematics, a local community college may be able to provide the in-person instruction students need.

When it comes to academic quality and value, that's where this website comes in handy. We have assessed the academic statistics for many public administration degree programs. We look at data that reflects retention, graduation rates, and more. Once armed with our assessment, students will have a sound idea of what a program has to offer.

As for return on investment, this is a difficult metric to pin down. However, we look at the reported salary statistics from previous public administration students. As for the up-front investment, students can weigh their educational costs versus the long-term earnings estimates. That up-front cost can be eased by taking some classes online or through a community college.

Online Options

Online education is more prevalent now than ever. If the COVID pandemic did nothing else, it showed that students can learn online. However, certain degrees are better suited to the online format than others. In fact, an online public administration degree is nearly perfect for online students.

In these degrees, as well as many others in a liberal arts curriculum, all of the material can be digested by reading and then discussing the concepts. While some bemoan the lack of personal attention, others contend that online courses allow easier access to instructors. This is because a student can take time to formulate their questions and then send them to their instructor in an email. In fact, those students who used to sit in the back and not participate now are all included in the discussions. Thus, when students engage with their professors and other instructors, they could receive a better, more interactive education than those in large lecture halls.

On the other hand, it may be more difficult to complete courses that require hands-on work, such as laboratory sciences. However, academic departments seem to have found reasonable substitutes for the beakers and Bunsen burners. Thus, an undergraduate student may complete a full, well-rounded education without leaving their laptop.

Finally, students who enroll in online public administration degree programs have the added benefit of flexibility. They may find it easier to pursue part-time or full-time jobs, and they can also find internship programs that don't cut into class time. Since their courses are as close as their laptop and a Wi-Fi connection, students can even travel to other towns to work in government offices.

Are Public Administration Programs in High Demand?

A degree in public administration can be applied to many different career paths. Students can choose a degree program that best suits their long-term career goals. Some may have their sights set on urban and regional planning, for instance, while others may wish to focus on community service, emergency response, or budget analysis.

Urban and regional planners are in a popular field these days. That career typically requires a master's degree but can provide nearly endless rewards. This field is growing by leaps and bounds, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They report a growth rate of 11% through 2029. That growth is characterized as much faster than average. The median salary for this profession is listed as over $75,000 per year.

Community service managers likewise are seeing a groundswell of demand for their work. The BLS reports their median salary at above $69,000 and their projected growth is 17%. While the typical education required for entry to the profession is reportedly a bachelor’s degree, those with a master's degree in public administration should fare even better.

Though we might wish their jobs weren't as vital as they are, emergency management professionals are commanding median salaries that exceed $76,000. Emergency professionals can also start their careers with a bachelor’s degree in public administration, but their field is expanding at a slightly slower rate compared to community service management.

Lastly, budget analysts are shown to command some of the highest salaries for public administration degree holders. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that their median salaries are over $78,000 and that the typical educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree. Their growth rate is slow, as BLS data shows a 3% rate of increase. However, students with a background in finance and accounting can find work under many different job descriptions.

What Can You Do with a Degree in Public Administration?

A degree in public administration can prepare a student for a wide range of professional career paths. The most obvious choice for these students is to seek employment in a state, local, or federal governmental agency. They might also seek to apply their skills and knowledge to working for an elected official as an expert in government administration. However, the degree can also help students find work in non-profit organizations. For instance, those who focus on emergency management might look for work with the Red Cross or other charitable organizations that help with disaster management and cleanup. The opportunities don't end there, however.

Since the degree focuses on management, students might look for a position in a private sector business. A public administration student who focused on emergency management might look to work for a local health system so that the hospital and EMS teams are prepared for the worst. Community service management students may also find that their resumes attract interviews in the healthcare sector.

Academic work in budgetary analysis is also helpful for all private enterprises, as is a focus on public policy. Those who have skills in finance and accounting are bound to have a wide range of potential job opportunities. After all, every sort of business needs finance professionals who can assess their business practices from a purely financial standpoint. Government and non-profit organizations will also have a great demand for financial experts. Students who wish to work on budget concerns should be sure to pursue accounting as a minor, if not a double major.

For those who focus on public policy, private enterprise needs these professionals to help with government regulatory agencies. A public administration degree may also be helpful for companies that make their profits through government contracting. They can act as a liaison between the government and the company, ensuring a mutually beneficial relationship for a very long time.

Public Administration Graduates Earn More After College

Every student is interested to know how much their degree might be worth in the marketplace. Those who are working towards bachelor’s degrees in public administration have many options upon graduation but reports their average earnings at over $66,000. At the lower end are administrative assistants who are reported to earn an average of $40,000 per year. At the upper end are chief operating officers who earn over $130k/year.

Professionals who gain a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree tend to focus on governmental or non-profit jobs. Thus, they are reported to earn slightly less than those with bachelor’s degrees who enter the private sector. These ideals-driven workers average over $64,000 with the top earners holding director or project manager positions for non-profits. Directors earn an average of $70,000.

These are not the only possible outcomes for a student with a degree in public administration, such as when some choose to take their administrative and managerial skills into the private sector. They may also decide to forgo an MPA altogether and instead choose a master of business administration. This degree option can open more opportunities because this degree is highly esteemed in the business community. Students may even opt for an MBA with a concentration in public administration, provided their program offers this option. Graduates from MBA programs are reported to earn over $90,000. With a concentration in public administration, MBA degree holders might seek work for a government contractor, if not somewhere in the upper levels of the federal government.


  • What are the requirements for a degree in public administration?
    To gain admission to a public administration degree program, students may need to have taken one or more introductory courses in public administration, management, or political science. Each program will have its own requirements, however, and those in smaller private colleges may not need to apply to their major degree program.
  • How much money can you make with a bachelor’s or master's degree in public administration?
    This is a tricky question, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows public administration professionals earning median salaries that start around $69,000 for community service management. Those who work in regional and urban planning hold master's degrees and earn a median salary of over $75,000, and budgetary experts are reported to earn median salaries that exceed $78,000. These numbers tend to go up for those who add a graduate degree to their resume or who earn other special credentials.
  • How long does it take to get a degree in public administration?
    Most undergraduate public administration degree programs are designed to graduate students in 4 years. However, there are programs that offer accelerated bachelor’s and master's degrees in five years, so a student’s undergraduate experience may actually encompass two degrees. A typical master's degree program for public administration should take around two years to complete, given a full-time schedule.
  • Will earning a master’s help you move up in public administration?
    Absolutely. A master's degree in public administration, including an MBA with a concentration in public administration is sure to raise salaries and provide access to higher-level positions. For those who continue to work in the public sector, their states may have graduated pay rates that are closely tied to one's educational achievements.

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