What exactly does one get for $50,000? Getting an MPH, part 1

A seat in very large lecture hall?  More letters behind one’s name?

Somewhere in the last 30 years, society decided that it was a good idea–or at least acceptable–for young adults to be saddled with a crippling amount of debt. I am not sure how this acceptance crept into our society, or why we take it lying down.

As I watch (with anticipatory dread) how friends or their children struggle with paying tuition, it astounds me how we all like sheep have gone astray. While a sizable part of the country is finally convinced–or at least it was in November two years ago–that government does have a role other than providing us with an army, police, courts, and a class of self-serving chest-pounders, we apparently continue to believe that post-high school education is largely an individual responsibility.

It is up to the individual to work hard and to use university education for something other than a four (or increasingly, a five) year reprieve from responsibility and accountability, but it is at the same time both selfish and short-sighted to say that society should not have an interest in the development of these young adults who (let’s face it) will someday be checking our nether regions for tumors, running our banks, teaching our children and grandchildren, and searching for ways to make our environment safer and our country more competitive.

Yes, we do have public universities, but the quality and cost vary widely. The question is whether or not we want a two-tiered society;  whether or not we want to restrict the supposed benefits of certain universities to the increasingly small group of students able to afford them or who picked the right state to grow up in; whether or not 18 or 21 year-olds–or anyone who has never really been in the adult job market–can truly comprehend the level of debt we used to associate with buying a business or a home.

(No, I am not a socialist, unless Milton Friedman was also a socialist. And while deploring selfishness seems to spit on the grave of the sainted Adam Smith, the last ten years have deprogrammed me from the party line I took hook, line and sinker from the good ol’ U of Chicago.)

In the next series of posts, I’m going to examine the Masters in Public Health (MPH) degree I received at the Boston University School of Public Health and if got what I paid for. Whether my experience can be extrapolated to the student body as a whole, or whether the BU experience is representative of all graduate schools of public health, I can’t say. However, it may provide a cautionary tale. Of course, to make this discussion more useful, it would be invaluable to hear the stories of fellow alums from BUSPH, as well as elsewhere.

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One response to “What exactly does one get for $50,000? Getting an MPH, part 1

  1. I think the degree is highly valued and I’m happy I did it but I’m not sure I can explain why (drinks at pour house thursday nights?). The MPH is good for people that want to apply a certain skill set to the subject area of healthcare/pharmacy/medicine. I’m not sure it’s worth it for people who do not like working with data or playing a chiefly admin role in coordinating programs or for those who desire one on one interaction with individuals, as in a clinician’s role. So let’s say you are a recent graduate with a specific skill set (e.g. econometrics, psychology, computer programming), you can immerse yourself in the broad field of public health, and learn more about the multidisciplinary aspects of the area where you will apply your skill. You still need to be creative and willing to have an undefined niche for a few years until you hone in on what exactly you want to do! Do I think it was worth it? still undecided. Most of the other analysts I work with have never heard of a “hazard ratio” or “confounding”…but they pick it up when they are forced to on day 1. I think I learn more on a daily basis at work than I did in whole course semesters, thousands of dollars later, at BUSPH. I think (hope) what we paid for at BUSPH is the perspective of weathered public health professionals/physicians, who have seen the the problems they describe first hand, and the ideas and opinions of classmates-the intangible items you cannot soak in from wikipedia/books/(traveling?) alone. Public health is about INTERDISCIPLINARY COOPERATION, and a grad program that mimics that field is necessary…and that’s BUSPH: a group of individuals from different backgrounds (career, education, age, nationality), coming with different agendas, and hopefully inspiring each other.

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