Archives for Bart

Summer School

Last year at this time I was halfway through my first term as an MPA student at The University of Texas. It’s a little unreal to see some of the incoming MPA class in that same situation now. Next month they’ll have their first career fair. It all happens so fast and is, in my opinion, quite a fun ride. For any of them reading, good luck!

It’s even more unreal to me that in less than three weeks I’ll be done with my master’s degree in accounting, I’ll have taken (and hopefully passed) all four sections of the CPA exam (finished the last Becker video lecture just this morning!), and I’ll have just arrived with Janssen in Boston to move into the great little apartment she found for us. And when I say “little,” I mean it. We have to get rid of several pieces of furniture just to fit in there.

Taking classes during the summer is great, by the way. It’s hot and beautiful outside, and really cool inside (I’ve resorted to packing a sweater in my bag–no kidding). And somehow, despite the fast pace of the classes, summer feels more laid back than other semesters. That might also have something to do with my only taking 9 credits Summer compared with 13 and 15 during Fall and Spring. Not to mention the demands of recruiting season during Fall semester.

In other news, I’ve been asked to continue blogging after graduation to give students an idea of what the first year as an auditor is like for me. It’ll be fun to stay in touch with UT that way and to blog of my experiences in Boston. As always, feel free to leave comments with questions, thoughts, etc. I’ll update every month or two. Until next time!

Video Interview

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Is It Worth the Debt?

Submitted Question:

“Hi Bart,

Thank you so much for your writings on the blogs of McCombs.  It is very entertaining and informative to read! [You're absolutely welcome. Glad you like our blog!]

I’m really excited to be accepted into the Texas MPA program [Congratulations!], and I know this is a great prestigious program that prepares you well for a career in accounting.  But it is so costly!  I’m from out-of-state, and have previous degrees in [omitted], so must pay $54,858 in tuition.  My other option is to attend the 1.5 years MPA program with full-tuition remission at [another university], which is where my parents live.  [The other university] does not have nearly as good placements for graduates as the top accounting schools.

What is your advice?  I want to get the CPA after graduation, and am not sure where I want to work yet (probably in [the state I'm currently living in]).  Does the prestige of my MPA program matter?  Or should I take out a loan, make the investment and go to UT?  How do you feel about being in debt? It must be very uncomfortable.

Thanks, and good luck to you and your wife.”

Answer: I received this excellent question from an admitted student who is trying to make the final decision of whether to attend UT or not. Here are my thoughts on the matter [Disclaimer: Take my thoughts for what they're worth, which might not be that much.]

I agree that tuition is expensive. Really expensive. And taking out student loans to cover tuition costs has been emotionally burdensome. My wife and I have never gone into debt before (besides our current home mortgage and car loans quite a few years back), and instead of paying loads in tuition to complete our degrees we could have chosen to just keep working and making money. Going to school is a double whammy in that you’re not only paying tuition, you’re also sacrificing the income you would be making if you weren’t at school. Depending on your situation, that opportunity cost can be considerable. It was for me.

It sounds like you also have at least two schools to consider as options. So did I, but the tution difference wasn’t as huge as yours seems to be (partly because I’m paying in-state tuition, and partly because I didn’t have another option that would pay all of my tuition). Free is something I rarely pass up.

That said, this situation could be one of those rare instances. It all depends on your goals and which program will help you accomplish those goals. In the end, debt can be paid off (fairly rapidly if you’re dedicated to it), whereas your first job out of college can’t be changed, nor can your graduate school experience or the degree on your resume be changed.

If you will be able to accomplish your academic and career goals by attending your local college, I recommend you attend school there. But if you believe that UT will give you a much better academic experience and is much more likely to open doors to your desired career, I highly recommend you attend the University of Texas.

I don’t like debt. But in the end, the debt will be gone, and I’ll have no regrets since I’ve had an excellent experience, have made great friends with impressive people from around the country (who enrolled in this program for its excellence), have gotten the job I wanted, and am well posed to accomplish my short and long-term career goals.

Good luck making your decision!

Teamwork and the MPA

A reader identified as C.P. asked two good questions in the comment section of my last post. The comment date was April 1, but I can’t see how the questions could be part of some elaborate April Fools’ Day joke, so I’m happy to respond.

Questions: How often does one have the opportunity to work in teams in the MPA program? How important is teamwork to the MPA curriculum?

One of the most important skills recruiters look for in new hires is the ability to work well with others. My own pre-MPA work experience taught me why that is the case. When people work well together–when they collaborate effectively to accomplish a common goal–their work output improves in terms of quality and quantity. They also find more satisfaction in their work. At least, that’s how it was for us (my coworkers and me).

From my perspective, it seems that the faculty and staff of the MPA program clearly recognize the importance of teamwork, and for the most part, do a good job of incorporating group projects into the curriculum. Most of my classes have required significant group collaboration for team projects and assignments, and I’ve had good experiences with those groups.

I asked a few classmates to see if they agreed with my assessment. One of them, Brian Morgan, thinks professors should make a more concerted effort to teach the importance of collaboration rather than just assuming we’ll figure it out ourselves as we work together on team projects. I think some students could benefit from that approach, especially if professors were able to communicate how group projects in school compare to teamwork in your average job setting. Then again, I think most of us have learned by now the importance of collaboration, so in my opinion, doing more than assigning interesting group projects would be just icing on the cake. Some people like icing, and some people scrape it off (like yours truly).

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Questions and Answers – Classes

When I visited campus last year as a prospective student, two MPA students were kind enough to answer the many questions I had for them. I wanted to know their experiences with classes, their career aspirations and MPA tracks, their experiences with recruiting season, their perceptions of MPA students and professors, and just about everything I could think to inquire about.

In an effort to be similarly helpful to prospective and incoming students, I invite you to submit your questions by e-mailing (mpablogger[at]gmail.com) or leaving a comment. I’ll do my best to answer as many of your questions as possible, and will make sure to get input from other students if I don’t have a good answer myself. I’ve also been asked by prospective students to post on this blog more frequently. You got it.

To get us started, here are a few Questions and Answers about MPA classes:

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