SMPA renames dual-degree program

Administrators in the School of Media and Public Affairs have renamed the school’s five-year dual-degree program after students complained the program takes longer than five years to complete, the program’s coordinator said last week.

The accelerated program, which allows students to earn both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SMPA, actually takes five and a half years to complete – a surprise to some students who had already enrolled.

The course was previously called a five-year program, but professor Kimberly Gross, the program’s coordinator, said SMPA has renamed the accelerated master’s program after the issue was raised by students.

“We have really tried to be clear now,” Gross said, adding that it is now called a “dual-degree” program, rather than a “five-year” program. “We needed to change the language.”

The program allows students to earn a master’s degree in media and public affairs or political management quicker than the traditional route, by double counting nine credits toward both the students’ undergraduate and graduate degrees.

But students in the program must take an additional 27 credits to receive both degrees, amounting to three graduate semesters rather than two.

Gross said it is still possible to finish in five years if students take more than three classes per semester or enroll in summer classes. Taking three classes is considered a full graduate level courseload.

Taylor Barden, a senior and participant in the program, said she was surprised to find that it would take her an additional semester to complete both degrees.

“I’m sure it said it would take longer in one of the million forms I had, but it was not clear,” Barden said. “It was not made easy to notice.”

Barden said she received an e-mail during winter break outlining her remaining requirements for the program and said her professors have been willing to listen to her concerns.

“My father wrote a letter to professor Gross, which she immediately answered,” Barden said. “She spent a lot of ways trying to fix it, helping me to figure out how I could do it in two semesters instead of three.”

Gross said the program is still a good investment, despite the extra semester.

“What you are really doing is paying for nine less credits than you normally would in a grad program,” Gross said. “In that sense, it is a good option for some people. For some students, this is a good move.”

Joe Sangiorgio, a junior and recent applicant to the program, said he was not deterred by the possibility of his master’s degree taking longer than initially advertised.

“I applied because I thoroughly enjoyed the undergraduate SMPA program and learned a lot from it,” Sangiorgio said, adding he hopes to continue at the graduate level.

SMPA Director Frank Sesno said it was “unfortunate” if it had been conveyed that the program would take only five years.

“The degree is just that – a dual degree so that students are pursuing their M.A. from the outset – and they can accelerate their studies and timeline substantially,” Sesno said in an e-mail.

Barden said she and other students now understand how long the program might take.

“There are different ways to do it, and you still save time and money. If it had been clear, people would have been okay with it,” Barden said. “I just wish I had been clear on that going in.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.