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Department of Public Administration University of Illinois Springfield

Student Handbook: Admission and Prereqs

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The MPA degree requires considerable time and energy, thus students must recognize that the decision to seek this degree should not be taken lightly. Experience has shown that those who are not clear about why they want the degree tend to be those who have difficulty finishing the degree. Before you commit to the MPA degree, think hard about why you want it. MPA faculty are knowledgeable about the degree program and how it has fit into graduates’ lives over the years, and are willing to discuss your general situation with you, even though you may end up doing something other than enrolling in the MPA Program. If you want to set up a preliminary advising discussion, call the MPA Program assistant to the chair at (217) 206-6310. The assistant to the chair will put you in contact with the MPA Admissions chair, who will work with you to discuss your goals.

Required Prerequisites

U.S. Government Prerequisite: Successful completion of any standard introductory political science course in U.S. government meets this prerequisite Graduation from a U.S. high school or approved exam will also meet this prerequisite requirement.  Aside from such a course, a combination of political science courses may be needed to provide the breadth of coverage expected, including exposure to the U.S. Constitution, elections, legislative process, legal development of the Bill of Rights, federalism, separation of powers, checks and balances, and democratic theory. Required for enrollment in PAD 501-Introduction to Profession and PAD 504-Budget and Finance.

Economics Prerequisite: A microeconomics course or an approved exam fulfills this prerequisite.  For some students, a principles of economics course or some other economics survey course may fulfill the requirement.  The subject matter in these courses should include technical exposure to such concepts as interest rate determination in capital markets, discounting, and market demand analysis.  If your economics background reflects a liberal arts/political economy point of view, that is, it focuses on general or public policy issues without a strong technical analysis component, you will have problems in PAD 504 Budget and Finance and other MPA courses. Required for enrollment in PAD 504-Budget and Finance.

Computer Literacy Prerequisite: The computer literacy prerequisite may be met in a variety of ways, in or out of the classroom and in or out of the workplace.  Meeting this requirement includes the following competences learned in a spreadsheet package, such as EXCEL to accomplish the following basic tasks: (1) data entry; (2) data manipulation (sorts, column fills, editing commands); and (3) production of program generated graphics (pie charts, bar graphs, regression lines, scatter diagrams) from the data base.  If you believe you have met the computer literacy prerequisite, return the Computer Literacy Certification form (with relevant documentation, if appropriate). The form is provided as an Appendix to this handbook. Required for enrollment in PAD 504-Budget and Finance and for completion of the MPA.

Prerequisite Completion

When you received notification of admission to the MPA Program, you may note that some prerequisites you thought you had fulfilled through prior course work were not accepted.  This could be because the grade you earned was lower than “C” or the course title did not clearly reflect the prerequisite requirement.  You may need to provide the MPA office with a syllabus or catalog copy describing the course in question.   Should you believe that prior course work has not been acknowledged for a prerequisite that you have completed, discuss the situation initially with your faculty adviser and then the MPA Admissions Committee chair.   The best way to fulfill MPA prerequisite requirements is to complete them as part of your baccalaureate degree electives, since then they will count toward your undergraduate degree.  Courses taken to fulfill prerequisite requirements may not be counted toward the 40 credit hours required for the MPA.

If you need to satisfy prerequisite requirements in Springfield, either before you apply for admission to the MPA Program or as a conditional admission major, students may take the prerequisite courses from the university or junior college of their choice.  To assure the prerequisite course taken will count, please contact the MPA department chair and provide a description of the course.  Both Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC) and UIS offer courses tailored for your needs.  For local residents, the LLCC courses identified below will qualify.  Students who are UIS Graduate Assistants or Graduate Public Service Interns may only be eligible for UIS tuition waivers and may not meet LLCC requirements for resident tuition.  These students may find UIS courses a better choice for completing prerequisites.  The following is a list of MPA prerequisites and the UIS and LLCC courses that meet them. Other courses may also work, please check with your advisor.

Prerequisite Area


*POS 101 American Politics (LLCC)

*PSC 201 Intro to the American Political System (UIS)


*ECO 131 Principles of Economics (Micro) (LLCC)

*ECO 315 Economics for Administration (UIS)

Computer Literacy

*CMP 121 Computer Systems and Business Apps. (LLCC)

*CSC 317 Software Packages (UIS)

*CSC 318 Computer Literacy (UIS)

Any courses taken for the prerequisites must be taken for a grade, not credit/no-credit.  Credit for audited courses will not be given under any circumstances.  Grade points earned from completed UIS 300-level prerequisite course work are not computed into the total number of grade points for purposes of your GPA (grade-point average) for the MPA degree.

It is your responsibility to provide the MPA office with transcripts reflecting successful completion of your prerequisites.  You will be notified in writing upon completion of all prerequisite requirements; it is at this time that you will have achieved Full Admission status.

Give top priority to completing your prerequisites early in your degree program.  By putting off prerequisites beyond the 12- hour/one year mark, you risk having to stop MPA course work altogether until you finish the prerequisites.  You may also risk losing your financial aid (see Financial Aid and Other Support.)

Also, be aware that UIS policy includes a six-year rule on degree completion (see Time Requirements).  Courses creditable toward the degree and more than six years old at the time of degree completion risk not being counted toward the MPA at that time.  Your MPA six-year “clock” starts running when you enroll for your first graduate course to be applied toward the MPA degree.  The clock is not running as long as you are taking only prerequisites.  Thus, from both points of view ― orderly degree progress and the six-year limit ― getting prerequisites out of the way first makes sense.

See the departmental web site for specific application information.