Higher Ed. Hidden Gems: James Madison

The millennial generation is displaying an unprecedented commitment to public affairs, evidenced by the more than 6.5 million young adults who voted in the 2008 primaries and caucuses last year.

In an effort to help college hopefuls eyeing a career in public affairs and policy, we’ve chosen to feature James Madison University

This Virginia state school, located two hours away from Washington, D.C., offers relatively affordable tuition and an impressive track record for helping place students in government and nonprofit jobs.  “We [recently] had a reception on Capitol Hill for people working in public policy," says Dr. John Noftsinger, the vice provost. "Over 160 people attended, almost all JMU alumni…who started as interns while students.”

A Passageway to D.C.
The proximity to Washington, as well as the school’s relationships with government agencies and nonprofit organizations, helps students land good jobs. Each office of Virginia’s 11 congressmen and two senators employs a JMU grad or intern. One of the school’s newest degree offerings is a bachelor of science in information analysis, which faculty members developed exclusively with government agencies. “We are working with the intelligence community to create internships,” says Noftsinger.  “A lot of our students end up working for either the state or federal government.”

Praise for JMU
Princeton Review recently called JMU one of “America’s Best Value Colleges” and a "College with a Conscience." James Madison also ranked No. 5 in the country for “great campus food,” in Princeton Review’s 2008 college guide.

Growing Interest
Applications for the 2009-2010 year surpassed 21,000 for 4,000 spots. That’s up from 19,000 applications last year. The increase may be due to students looking for more value for their money. Tuition is among the most affordable in the country, with in-state residents paying about $7,000 a year and out-of-state residents paying closer to $18,500 a year. The school is expanding, too. “It is definitely a growing school," says one student who finished in 2004. "The entire time I was there they were adding buildings and facilities, and [the school] continued to do so after I graduated.”


Consider a Business Degree
JMU’s business school is also top-notch. BusinessWeek recently listed JMU’s college of business as a great “return on investment.” Graduates with business degrees earn median salaries of about $50,000 a year.

Top recruiters at JMU include BearingPoint, IBM (Stock Quote: IBM), Accenture (Stock Quote: ACN), KPMG, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and Deloitte.

One notable young alumni, John-Paul Lee, founder and CEO of Tavalon Tea, remembers getting an exceptional education in finance. “My senior year I was accepted in a business class that only took in 20 students for the year and was taught by real-life professionals in the consulting field.” Everyone in his class, Lee says, received jobs from firms that participated in the course.  For Matt Fineman, a recent business school grad, joining a business fraternity on campus presented access to a great network for internships and full-time jobs.  Today Fineman, who graduated in 2007 with a degree in business management, works as a representative for a top manufacturing firm.

Quick Facts:

  • Ratio of in-state to out-of-state students: 70:30
  • U.S. News and World Report has ranked JMU as the top public, master's level university in the South for 15 straight years.
  • Average SAT (verbal and math only) score: 1,148
  • The school boasts the best graduation rate (80%) among both public and private colleges in the South.
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