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When the going gets tough, the tough go back to school. That is the attitude of a number of city and county administrators taking advantage of special programs for public employees to earn degrees while working.

“Applications in our graduate programs are up significantly,” said Dr. Rich Callahan, associate dean of the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development.

Coursework at the private program for working professionals has been adjusted to reflect the current financial challenge facing city and county administrators.

For those facing their own financial challenges, USC offers financial aid fellowships and career transition placement support.

Both private and public institutions are reaching out to the government service sector to offer resources for all career levels.

UC Davis Extension programs have been customized to meet the needs of various government agencies, including the City of West Sacramento.

Gene Crumley, department chair of UC Davis Extensions Business and Leadership division, said, “In every case, the reasons were the same: it was a great way to build the bench, i.e., get employees ready to move up in levels of responsibility/authority.

Crumley added. “It was a great way to figure out how to actually do more with less.”

Sacramento State College of Business Administration offers a Master’s of Business Administration for Executives program. The 15-month, AACSB-accredited degree program is designed to support public, private and nonprofit employers’ succession-planning by preparing candidates for executive responsibilities. Classes meet on Friday afternoons and Saturdays with an emphasis on real-world applications.

Kathleen Guadagno, an information technology analyst II in Sacramento County’s Department of Finance decided after working for the county for 14 years that she wanted to learn more about public service through the Drexel University Graduate Studies Center recently established in Sacramento. The prolific volunteer for organizations such as KVIE hopes to one day pioneer a fundraiser to help the hungry in the area.

“I am investing in myself now,” Guadagno said.

Fellow Drexel student Lori Fox, an analyst for the City of Sacramento Dept. of Transportation, saw a master’s degree in business as a practical complement to the Ph.D. she already held in Jungian Analysis.

“It gives me context for negotiating contracts,” Fox said.

Plus, mandatory furlough days give both students more time to study.

Drexel, a private institution, offers 15 percent off tuition for any individual employed at least 20 hours per week in the public sector or a not-for-profit organization.

Perhaps more important in this economy, if a student is laid off, tuition is cut in half through the school’s Bridge to the Future program.

Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson called the public discounts, named Papadakis fellowships after the school’s former president, practical. “They recognize the critical roles that County employees will have in shaping the future and economic vitality of this region.” 

“Drexel University has invested a substantial amount of time working with the County’s leadership and learning about our region’s economic development plans,” said Rob Leonard, economic development director for Sacramento County.  “Everyone knows that we can only achieve our strategic goals if our public agencies are staffed with people with the knowledge and skills they need to facilitate and guide that development.”  

For more programs open to furloughed workers looking to make themselves more valuable during challenging economic times, click here.

JT Long can be reached at