Facebook Pixel

Client-Based Projects

APA, CAP and IPA Proposal Submissions: We will be accepting proposals in early September 2018.

Every year, organizations engage Goldman School student consultants for policy analysis consulting projects.  During the spring semester, students analyze a policy problem faced by an organization, and – with faculty guidance—develop recommendations to address it, drawing on interdisciplinary analytic and problem-solving skills learned in their MPP/MPA coursework.  Depending on each student’s program focus, these skills will include a mix of economic/program evaluation/ benefit-cost analysis, data analysis, legal analysis, policy/political analysis, and implementation/management analysis.

GSPP offers three types of client-based projects:

  • Advanced Policy Analysis (APA) Projects.

    In their final (fourth) semester of study, MPP students work with a client to analyze and solve a problem, challenge or missed opportunity facing the organization as their final requirement to complete the MPP degree, which is ranked as the #1 public policy analysis program in the nation.  With faculty supervision and advice, each student conducts a thorough analysis of a major policy question facing a “real-world” organization/practitioner.  MPP students are highly qualified professionals, with an average of 4 years of professional experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors, both domestic and international.  MPP graduating students have all completed the MPP’s rigorous and quantitative core curriculum, which includes two semesters each of statistics and economics, as well as a course on the fundamentals of policy analysis and two or more courses on law, leadership, management, or politics.

    During the spring semester, MPP students spend 25-30 hours per week on their APA.  Their findings and recommendations are presented to the client and APA faculty in a professional-quality written final report. Typically, APA projects are compensated.

  • Capstone Analytic Projects  (CAP) Projects.                                          
    The Capstone projects undertaken by MPA students in their final (third) semester of study are very similar to the APA projects described above:  each student works with a client organization to analyze and resolve a problem, challenge or missed opportunity.  MPA students are highly-qualified mid-career professionals, typically with over 10 years’ experience in a range of professional workplaces that include consulting, government, military, philanthropy, social policy, the arts and tech.  Many already have an advanced degree such as an MBA, Law degree or MD degree.  The required coursework for the MPA spans the same disciplines as the MPP core but for fewer semesters and academic credits.   Like APAs, most CAP projects are compensated.

    During the spring semester, MPA students spend 10-15 hours per week on their CAP.   Their findings and recommendations are most often presented to the client and CAP faculty as a professional-quality written report, but may take other forms (a reorganization plan; a PowerPoint slide deck; etc.) depending on the needs of the client organization. 

  • Introductory Policy Analysis (IPA) Projects.                                            

    In the spring of their first year (second semester), Goldman School MPP students take a workshop class on the fundamentals of policy analysis (this course is called Introduction to Policy Analysis, or IPA). During the course, students work in three- or four-person teams to write a policy analysis for use by a real world “client,” typically an individual in a public sector organization confronting some policy problem or opportunity.

Which Client-Based Project is Right for Your Organization?



Introductory Policy Analysis


Advanced Policy Analysis (APA) or Capstone Analytic Project (CAP)

Prospective clients need not worry much about the differences between APA projects
and CAP projects.  The main difference is in the number of credit hours students receive, which is tied to the expected work hours (350-450 for APAs, 150-250 for CAPs).

We have found that proposals work well for either APA or CAP, so we encourage students to ask whether a proposal they are considering can be scaled up (into an APA) or scaled back (into a shorter CAP).


3 or 4 first-year MPP students with some guidance from a faculty coach


APA: One (1) graduating MPP student

CAP: One (1) graduating MPA student

APA and CAP students all participate in small weekly seminars to help them organize their work and where they receive coaching and advice from student peers and a faculty coach. 

PROJECT TIMINGMid-January to early May Mid-January to early May.  Occasionally the student and client agree to start project work earlier than January, but the coaching seminar runs January-May. 
# OF HOURS WORKEDOver the semester, each team will spend 300 to 450 hours on the project, depending in part on the number of students on the team.  Each student will spend a total of 80-120 hours.  

Projects are done over the course of the Spring semester, which is 15 weeks long:

APA: 25-30 hours per week (300-450 hours total – representing 9 credit hours)

CAP: 10-15 hours per week (120-240 hours total – representing 4 credit hours)



1 semester of MPP coursework already taken.  Most students have prior work experience before starting GSPP. 

APA for MPP Students: MPP students have completed 3 semesters (approximately 40 credits) of coursework in microeconomics, statistics and data analysis, policy analysis, legal and political analysis, leadership and management, as well as in topical areas and a summer internship.  On average, MPP students have 4 years of professional experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors (both domestically and internationally) prior to starting the MPP.  The MPP curriculum’s focus is on rigorous quantitative, analytical and leadership skills, preparing leaders to analyze and solve the most complex and challenging public policy problems.

CAP for MPA Students: MPA students are mid-career, with, anywhere from 6 to 30 years (on average, 11 years) of professional experience in settings that span consulting, government, military, philanthropy, social policy, the arts and tech.  Many already have an advanced degree, and have completed 20-30 credits of GSPP courses with a focus on leadership and analytic and strategic thinking and including coursework in economics and quantitative methods. 

COMPENSATIONClients are expected to reimburse the students for incidental expenses including travel, conference registration fees, phone calls, photocopies, etc. 

Clients are expected to reimburse APA and CAP students for project-related expenses. The School takes no position on compensation, and while these projects are not considered employment, in the past, many students have been compensated for their APA or CAP projects on average $8000 for the entire project - with some clients paying more.

NOTE: CAP projects represent fewer student hours than APAs (CAP: 10-15 hours per week; APA: 25-30 hours per week).  Compensation amount and method is negotiated directly between the student and the client.  
PROJECT NEGOTIATIONDuring the preceding fall, the IPA instructors work with potential clients to develop projects.  Several criteria apply, including match with student interests, project scope, and analytic challenge.  Projects are fully formed by early December, when students form project teams for the Spring course.  

For both APA and CAP projects, the client and student directly negotiate project goals and tasks.

The final project topic and scope is subject to faculty approval to ensure that it meets academic requirements.


A few projects selected by faculty for the “IPA menu” fail to gain enough student interest to form a team.  These projects can then be added to the APA and CAP lists of projects, although the chances of a second-year student selecting the project at that late a date are not high. 

GSPP faculty do not match students with APA or CAP projects.

The majority of proposals made for APAs are accepted by students and completed, and we expect the same to be true of CAP projects.  



More Information About IPA


Elizabeth Annis

IPA Course Coordinator
Phone: (303) 552-8797



Jane Mauldon

 Assoc. Teaching Professor of Public Policy
 Phone: (510) 847-1619

 Mia Bird
 Lecturer in Public Policy

 Meredith Sadin
 Lecturer in Public Policy


More Information About APA

For questions about APA:

Cecille Cabacungan
Managing Director of Career & Alumni Services and
Ph.D. Admissions & Student Affairs Advisor
Phone: (510) 642-1303


More Information About CAP

Annie Campbell Washington
Assistant Dean, Master of Public Affairs
Phone: 510-642-6318

For questions about CAP: 

Jane Mauldon
Assoc. Teaching Professor of Public Policy
Phone: (510) 847-1619

SUBMIT A PROPOSALProposal submission will begin in early September 2018. Proposal submission will begin in early September 2018.