I am looking to pursue an online master's in MIS starting next spring. I'm in the process of deciding on a school and I've narrowed it down to two choices: Florida State or Illinois-Springfield.

Both are accredited, but I'm trying to think about which would benefit me more in the long run. Florida State seems to be the more well-known, popular university, and, I would assume, would "pop" more on a resume. However, each credit hour is $810 and the program itself is upwards of $27,800.

In contrast, UIS is a much smaller school, and probably less well known. However, their program is $403 an hour and would come out closer to the $15,000 range.

I could probably pay for the UIS degree out of pocket, but FSU would require me to get loans.

Is it worth the extra money for a more recognizable name on your resume? Does anyone pay that much attention to the school?


Does anyone pay that much attention to the school? The answer is "yes". There are tens of thousands of universities in the world and even more programs / supervisors. No human can keep track of all of them. At some point, at least for non-academics (think recruiters), people will use your university's reputation as a proxy for how good the program is. The bias can actually get pretty substantial. Examples:

  • Alice graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles. Bob graduated from the University of San Diego. All things equal, some people will assume Alice is more competent than Bob. This applies regardless of topic and regardless of whether USD has a top-class program in that topic.
  • Charlie graduated from Nameless University in New Zealand, Denise from Sseleman University in Romania. Some people will assume Charlie is more competent, because NZ is a developed country and Romania is not.

In your case, Florida State will be more recognizable because even if one is unfamiliar with the university, it has "State" in the name, and state universities are generally more recognizable. Whether or not it's worth it to pay for it is up to you to decide. Some points to think about:

  • See calculations like this one and apply it to your own circumstances. The key takeaway is that there's a massive difference between having to pay interest on loans and earning interest.
  • If you intend to work in the US, chances are much better the recruiter will recognize both universities, in which case bias applies less (the recruiter might still not know which university has the better program in your field).
  • If you intend to pursue an academic job, the name of the university is less important, since you'll be judged by people who can understand your academic work.
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  • OTOH, UIS is probably not that bad compared with FSU. The University of Illinois does have quite some recognizability (ostensibly mainly due to the flagship campus in Urbana, though). – xuq01 May 16 '18 at 2:28

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