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PAB Accreditation

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Accreditation

Our two-year master’s in urban planning (MUP) degree is fully accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board, a Chicago-based organization that recognizes professional urban planning programs for performance, integrity, and quality.  Our program is accredited through December 31, 2014, and is undergoing its periodic re-accreditation during the 2013-2014 academic year.  You can learn more about the accreditation process at the Planning Accreditation Board’s website. 

As an accredited program, we practices transparency about important data, so prospective applicants can be well-informed in deciding whether to apply to us.  Below, we provide information about student evaluations, graduation rates, graduates’ satisfaction, graduates’ employment, and voluntary professional certification.   

How We Evaluate Students

Our MUP program follows the University at Buffalo guidelines in evaluation of graduate students.  These evaluations occur by instructors in classes that grade according to the standard A-F scale, in which an “A” is construed as a “4,” a “B” as a “3,” and so forth down to an “F.” (In a few classes, student performance may be graded  “S” for satisfactory or “U” for unsatisfactory.)

Over our 52-credit course of study leading to the MUP, students typically (there are exceptions) take fifteen three-credit courses, one six-credit studio, and one one-credit colloquium.  They undergo grading by each instructor based on exams, papers, group assignments, or studio performance. The average of those grades on the 4.0 scale is known as the “grade point average,” and must be no less than 3.0 for the student to remain in good standing in our program.

Of special note in our program is the “final project,” a three-credit capstone course, in which students have to demonstrate that they can produce a plan or report or professional quality in response to a municipality’s needs.  Alternatively, students may upon faculty approval elect to do a “thesis,” which is an intensive investigation in to a specialized topic of interest to the discipline or profession of planning.  Each thesis must be approved by at least two faculty members. Either by final project or thesis, students earn the MUP upon demonstrating synthetic ability in planning.

Typically, a student will have undergone 17 separate end-of-semester evaluations (which in themselves are usually based on multiple in-class evaluations) during their period with us.  It is through these multiple evaluations that we assure that our students receive a good education and attain the capabilities needed in professional practice or further advanced study.

How Much Does it Cost?

Our program charges the applicable State University of New York graduate tuition, which varies between in-state and out-of-state students.  We also charge some additional fees. For further information please go to our Cost of Study page. 

How Long Will It Take to Graduate?

Many students wonder: If I study full-time toward the two-year MUP degree at the University at Buffalo, what is the chance that I will graduate on time?   As you can see from attached table on graduation rates, about 80% of students who begin full-time study graduate within two years.

Why do some take longer?  Some switch out of full-time study into part-time study for one or more semesters.  For personal reasons, such as illness or employment or family needs, others students take time off from their studies.  In any case, as shown in the attached table, between 92 and 100% of students who enter full-time study in a particular academic year will graduate within four years.  In short, when you study with us, you can be confident that you are investing effectively in your future.

Are Graduates Satisfied with Our Program?

In April 2013, to find out our graduates’ perceptions after graduation, we surveyed graduates of the five preceding year.  Please see the attached results of our 2013 survey for full information on our methods, numbers of respondents, and actual results. 

Our survey shows that, of our students who graduated from 2008 through 2011, 79% were satisfied with their education and 15% dissatisfied, while 6% did not answer.  Of our respondents, a large majority agreed that the program had provided them with important planning capabilities.  Specifically, 86% said they agreed that our graduates were prepared for collaborative practice and client/community participation, 73% agreed that the program had prepared them on questions of ethical practice, and 82% agreed that the program taught them to analyze data qualitatively and quantitatively.  Overall, we believe that these data reflect well on the quality of our program.

Do Graduates Get Jobs?

For prospective students, one of the most important questions is about the job opportunities upon graduation.  Therefore, our survey asked alumni over a five year period about their current employment.  With graduates from 2008 through 2012 reporting, we find that 57% had a job in planning or a related field, 32% worked that they termed “not planning related,” 4% were pursuing further education, and 7% did not hold a formal job, whether for personal or professional reasons.  When the most recent (2012) graduating year is removed from calculation, since many were still on the job market, and focus on the previous four years of grads, we find (this data is not shown) even better results: fully all (100%) who answered the question were either employed or (a very few) were pursuing further education.

We also asked all graduates about their experience in obtaining their first-year job.  Those who had graduated two or more years ago had to think back to their first year.  Of these four-years of earlier graduates, 62% obtained a planning or planning-related job in their first year, 11% found employment in a non-planning field, 19% were either searching or volunteering in their first year, and 2% pursued further education.  Once again note that all these were memories of their first year.  Of respondents from the immediately past graduating year, all of whom were reporting on their current first-year experience, 55% had obtained a planning or planning-related job; 10% obtained another kind of job; and 20% searched or were volunteering.

Overall, though we would prefer to have more of our graduates find positions closely related to planning, we are impressed by our graduates’ very high employment rate after the first year from graduation.  The results are all the more a relief for us, because these five-years of our alumni completed their studies during a difficult time in the economy, a time or prolonged recession. As we write this to you, we are expanding the topics available to our students to include additional professional opportunities, including historic preservation and planning for health, for future graduates.

How Do Graduates Perform in Professional Certification?

The planning profession does not have mandatory national certification exam, like a bar exam.  However, the American Institute of Certified Planners does provide a certification system, including an examination, through which professional planners can be certified to receive the AICP designation.

Graduates of urban and regional planning programs work in a wide variety of fields, from economic development through nonprofit management, and in some of these fields the AICP designation is not as widely recognized as in others.  Some of our graduates associate with professional associations on partly related to planning.  Nonetheless, some of our graduates do go on to take the AICP exam.  How do they perform?

We examined pass/fail rates of our MUP graduates over the years July 2005 through June 2011.  Over this time, 22 of our graduates took the exam, and of them 18 passed on the first attempt, three passed on additional attempts, and one failed with no repeat attempt.  We do not know how this compares to other programs.  We do know from other AICP data that on the average our graduates score better than the national average.  Note: These results are slightly different from the department’s self-study accreditation report because those numbers adhere to more restrictive parameters and time periods.

How much externally sponsored research does our faculty do?

Externally funded research refers to planning research that our faculty performs because of grants from outside foundations and government agencies.  The resulting research spans community development, planning for public health, environmental planning, transportation planning, and other fields.  Through such research, our faculty contributes to the advancement of knowledge for the planning profession and urban affairs.  

Fisical Year Expenditures
2006 - 2007 $215,556
2007 - 2008 $285,219
2008 - 2009 $311,296
2009 - 2010 $204,853
2010 - 2011 $121,813
2011 - 2012 $200,099
2012 – 2013 (inclusive to 5/31/2013) $679,975
Grand Total $2,018,811

Table 1: Sponsored Funding Performance

We are committed to increasing the amount of sponsored research our faculty members perform.  To measure our faculty productivity in such research, we collected data on actual sponsored research expenditures per year.  Since many projects involve multiple investigators from many disciplines, we were careful to identify the funding attributable to just our own faculty members.  Also, we did not include in this data funds committed to research but not yet spent.  The results (see table 1) show substantial increase in research expenditure in the 2012 – 2013 academic year: up to $680,000 as compared to previous years which averaged around $225,000.  We expect significant continuing increases in research performance in the coming years.