Ford School Facts

Ford School Facts


The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan is one of the nation’s top policy schools, providing research, teaching and public discussion on current national and international policy issues. Our mission is to offer outstanding education for leadership in public policy analysis and public management and to excel in social science research that illuminates public policy issues and promotes better public policy. The Ford School offers masters degrees in Public Policy and Public Administration; dual masters degrees with schools and departments across the University of Michigan; joint PhDs with Economics, Political Science, or Sociology; and a newly launched undergraduate liberal arts degree, the Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy.


The Ford School’s history began in 1914 when the University of Michigan political science department launched a new program leading to a Master of Arts in Municipal Administration—the nation's first systematic public service training program with a municipality focus.

As World War II came to a close, the demand for trained public servants increased. In 1945, the Regents approved a plan to establish the Institute of Public Administration (IPA), officially launched in 1946. The IPA focused on training individuals with the public administration skills necessary to serve in state and local government in the United States.

In the mid-1960s, analytic methods from the social sciences began to be applied to the understanding of public concerns. The Institute, which was renamed the Institute for Public Policy Studies, re-designed its curriculum to include rigorous training in the social sciences, particularly quantitative analysis of economic, political, and organizational questions. The focus of faculty research and student training moved to national and international issues.

Recognizing the value of research and education in public policy and the academic excellence of its program, the University of Michigan established the School of Public Policy in 1995. Since achieving this status, the school has been on an expansion track.

The school was re-named in 1999 to honor President Gerald R. Ford, the 38th President of the United States and a 1935 graduate of the University of Michigan. In 2001, the school established joint doctoral programs with the departments of economics, sociology, and political science. Construction of a new home for the school, Joan and Sanford Weill Hall, began in the fall of 2004 and was completed in fall of 2006. A new junior-senior undergraduate Public Policy degree program was launched in 2007.

In the Fall of 2009, the Ford School celebrated its 95th anniversary.

Degree Programs and Curriculum

  • Master of Public Policy (MPP)
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA)
  • 14 formal Dual Masters Degrees with other U-M schools and departments, several other individualized dual degrees
  • PhD in Public Policy and Social Science (with Economics or Political Science or Sociology)
  • BA in Public Policy
  • Graduate Certificate in Science, Technology, and Public Policy

The Ford School is known for its strength in quantitative analysis of policy issues. It has long had strength in economic policy and in social policy. A major emphasis in recent years has been to expand and strengthen the international curriculum in the School, as well as create a set of new courses relating to science policy.

The BA in public policy is a liberal arts degree, based in the social sciences, that gives students the substantive knowledge and analytical skills to understand policy problems—and help create solutions. Students work with some of the University's most outstanding faculty members—in classes that average just 24 students.

The Ford School prides itself on offering educational opportunities far beyond the traditional classroom setting. All MPP students are required to participate in an internship in the summer between their first and second year. In the summer of 2008, 27% spent this time with an overseas organization, 30% were in Washington D.C. at a national or internationally-focused organization, while the remainder scattered across the country in a wide variety of positions. The Ford School also requires that its MPP students participate in a school-wide policy simulation exercise each winter.

In addition to classes, the Ford School hosts several regular seminar series and also schedules a number of speakers, many of them prominent public figures. Among those who have talked at the Ford School over the past several years include Marian Wright Edelman, Joshua Bolten, Paul Krugman, Senator Chuck Hagel (R, Neb.), and Lt. Governor John Cherry (D, Mich.). The Ford School also has a regular faculty exchange with the Renmin University’s School of Public Administration in Beijing.


Teaching and research faculty: 57 persons, 29.87 FTE

Faculty in the school have joint appointments with a wide range of schools and units: economics, political science, sociology, math, information, law, business, social work, history, education, natural resources, the Institute for Social Research, pediatrics, and urban planning.
Ford School faculty are not only excellent teachers, but are well-known in both the world of research and the policy advisory world. Two Ford School faculty hold the highest appointment at the University of Michigan, that of Distinguished Professor. Thirteen other faculty hold named chairs. In academic year 2010-2011, 92 courses were offered within the School.

The Ford School has 38 staff members supporting administration, finance and human resources, student academic services, graduate career services, research administration, communications and outreach, computing services, development, and alumni relations.


The 2013 incoming MPP/MPA class was typical in the extent of its diversity across age, country of origin, and race/ethnicity:

  • Incoming class size: 118
  • Average age: 27
  • Age range: 22-46
  • Non-U.S.: 29%
  • Students of color (U.S. only): 32%
  • Female: 53%
  • Male: 47%
  • Countries of origin: 10

Our PhD program offers joint degrees with Economics, Sociology, and Political Science. Demographics for our current students, as of fall 2011, are outlined below:

  • Total number of students: 43
  • Number of students joint with Economics: 19
  • Number of students joint with Sociology: 8
  • Number of students joint with Political Science: 16
  • Average age: 28.33
  • Age range: 22–35
  • Non-U.S.: 12%
  • Students of color (U.S. only): 30%
  • Female: 63%
  • Male: 37%

As of winter 2011, we have admitted four classes for our new undergraduate degree. U-M students apply during their sophomore years for the two-year program. Here are the demographics for the BA class that started in fall 2011:

  • Incoming class size: 60
  • Students of color (U.S. only): 18%
  • Female: 50%
  • Male: 50%
  • In-State: 52%
  • Out-of-State: 48%

Research Centers

The Ford School houses four research centers, all new since 1999:

  • The National Poverty Center, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct and promote multidisciplinary, policy-relevant research on the causes and consequences of poverty and provide mentoring and training to young scholars
  • The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, which integrates research, teaching, and outreach to foster understanding of the problems facing states, cities, and metropolitan areas
  • The International Policy Center, which is devoted to interdisciplinary research in the areas of international trade and finance, international political economy, comparative economic development, and global health issues
  • The Center for Public Policy in Diverse Societies is a first of its kind initiative designed to shed light on how public policy can most effectively navigate the opportunities and challenges posed by societies that are becoming increasingly diverse locally, nationally, and internationally.

The school is also home to the Center for Social Impact, a joint initiative with the School of Social Work and the Ross School of Business, and to the Science, Technology, and Public Policy (STPP) Program, which hosts a seminar series in addition to offering a graduate certificate program.

Financial Resources

The general fund budget for the School has been increasing steadily, with the FY 2009 budget at $14 million. This contrasts to $7 million in FY 2003. Our total operating budget (all funds) in FY 2009 was almost $17 million. Under the University’s budgeting system, schools and colleges receive tuition income and overhead recovery from research that their activities generate, in addition to a Provost’s allocation to support programmatic investment.

Over the past 9 years, the Ford School has developed a professional fundraising capacity, working closely with the University Development office. Between FY2000 and FY2009, just under $51.5 million in endowment and gift income was generated as part of the university’s Michigan Difference Campaign, which went toward the construction of Joan and Sanford Weill Hall, endowed student and faculty support and outreach programming.


Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, the Ford School's new home, Joan and Sanford Weill Hall, opened its doors in August 2006. The 85,000-square-foot building, on the northeast corner of State and Hill streets, offers state-of-the-art classrooms and many areas for student-faculty interaction. Weill Hall's highly visible location at a gateway to campus enhances the school's role as a central venue for public discussion on current national and international policy issues.

The building contains five classrooms, one computer lab, two seminar rooms, and several conference rooms. It was built at a cost of $35 million, a little more than half of which was raised from private donations, with the remainder contributed by the University of Michigan. Almost all of the Ford School classes are taught in Weill Hall, and the classrooms are used to schedule other U-M undergraduate and graduate level classes when they are not needed for Ford School students.

Sustainability Efforts

The Ford School is an active participant in the U-M Planet Blue energy conservation program, the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, and a variety of waste reduction and recycling activities. Also, Weill Hall energy use is tracked monthly by Plant Operations. The school also has a committee dedicated to engaging the community in a conversation about sustainability and working toward environmental and energy leadership. More information about University-wide efforts can be found on the Office of Campus Sustainability website.

Ford School Recruitment Brochure