How about pro-rating APA conference costs?



With the American Planning Association’s (APA) National Conference being held in the great city of Chicago this spring, I was hoping to attend the weekend portion of the event. Many of the programs, lectures and events sound very interesting. Unfortunately, the literature and webpage identify no other options than to pay for the entire conference – a.k.a. $695 ahead of time or $795 on site.

Upon further inquiry I was rather dismayed to learn that the conference organizers prefer to encourage attendance for the entire event. That may be all well and good, but most of us have hectic schedules, full-time jobs, and we and/or our employers do not have $700 to toss around for registration fees.  Add in travel costs and lodging and it tallies up much more than $700 – more like $1,500.

Has our profession become so enamored with itself that it feels the need to create two classes of urban planners – the haves who can afford four days of conference expenses and the have-nots who cannot? I certainly hope not.

To rectify this imbalance, I believe the APA needs to initiate as soon as possible some prorated options for attending the National Conference including single-day rates and two-day rates. Only then, can we truly say the conference is designed to serve and benefit all planners, not just those fortunate enough to have access to deep pockets and/or oodles of spare time.

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17 Responses to How about pro-rating APA conference costs?

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    i agree, Rick…we are two classes of planners here…


  2. I couldn’t agree more. Most small and rural towns, small consulting firms, and others can’t afford a $700 registration fee, $150 per night to stay in the conference hotel, $400 for airline tickets, and another $50-75 per day for other expenses. A total cost of $2000 is more like it. And given planner salaries, there are not many I know who are going to shell out as much as they would pay for a family vacation or a mortgage payment. This does not seem to be sinking in with APA. My impression is that attendance has been on a downward trend, especially since the recession. The old model of a national conference at an expensive convention center is not going to work.


  3. usecraigslist says:

    From my perspective, once you have planning training or pass the AICP exam, it’s of more use to attend CNU events than APA ones if you want a more holistic view of human settlement, transportation and environmental impacts. APA needs to figure out how to run smaller, more geographically dispersed, cross-disciplinary events and workshops if they want to keep people interested in maintaining their AICP certification. (When’s the last time you ran into an architect or retail expert at an APA event?) I don’t know if either organization publicizes their revenues or membership trends, but I hope that CNU is catching up to APA in terms of accreditation opportunities. Basically, I think APA is great, but even greater things can come out of a little friendly competition.


  4. John Seward says:

    Totally Agree. I work for a rural non-profit…always have as a consequence my decision to work in doing what I like…I don’t get paid the ‘big bucks’ and the APA conference has not been affordable for some years. I think the last one I could afford to go to was Philly since I lived 100 miles away. Sad, because I think they loose a lot of rural expertise due to the costs. Great post!


  5. John Wallace says:

    I think that different price options are a good idea. With different price points it may not only increase the number of governments/companies that will find it affordable, but also may entice more people to attend who will not be reimbursed by their employer.


  6. Cindy Paddock says:

    Excellent comment Rick! APA events should be as accessible as possible to as many as possible and facing the economic realities of the present dictate multiple options for event attendance. Here in AZ the annual state APA conference has offered pro-rated options and it has been very popular. I for one would not have attended recent conferences without a one day option.


  7. Dave Bee says:

    I am planning on attending the Chicago Conference. I’m embarassed to say that it’s the first time I’ve gone to APA’s National Conference in my 24 years as a planner and I’m looking forward to it, and will find ways to make it a little less expensive (anybody want to share a room?). While the state conferences offer a more affordable option, it’s nice to splurge once every two or three decades.


  8. Wanda Norman says:

    I am a recent graduate from EMU with a Master in Urban and Regional Planning. I have not landed a Planning job yet; and, I am no longer a student. I would like to attend conferences for networking and keeping up-to-date. I find it next to impossible to attend state or national conferences because I can not get the student discount and I am not working and therefor not sponsored by a company or municipality. It would be nice to have some pricing options for someone in my situation as well.


    • Rick Brown says:

      I agree with you, Wanda. With budget cuts in the past decade, fewer municipalities are funding trips to conferences and related events. Best wishes on the ongoing job hunt – hopefully something will turn up soon. Aside from the APA website, you might want to check the MML’s (Michigan Municipal League) classifieds.


  9. Rick Smith says:

    Good point, I have been to one conference in my entire professional life and that was due to the fact that I could drive to the site and return home each night. I know many Planners who have been in the field for many years who have never been to the convention because of the coast


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