Full-time online MBA enrollment exceeds personal programming

In a watershed moment for undergraduate-level business education, more full-time MBA students enrolled in online programs than in residential programs in the 2020-21 academic year. According to the Association to Advanced Collegiate Business School (AACSB), the leading business school accreditation agency, 45,038 students enrolled in the online program last year, with 43,740 in person.

Transfers to online classes during the epidemic accelerated the growth of online MBAs, but trends have been pointing in that direction for years. AACSB data show that the number of accredited business schools offering full online MBA programs increased by 54 percent between 2012-13 and 2016-17 academic years, and increased by another 85 percent between then and 2021-22.

“Growth has been slow and steady,” said Shawn Gallagher, executive director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy. “Epidemics and the shift to online work and learning have embraced this trend that already existed and accelerated it.”

This helps employers to embrace more online MBA programs in recent years. A survey published last December by the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy found that 71 percent of employers now view business degrees earned online as equal to or better than traditional programs in terms of quality. This is 10 percent more than 2019.

“Today, a strong majority of employers will welcome your online MBA,” says Gallagher. “But it would have been a minority only seven or eight years ago.”

Early recipients

When the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign’s Gies School of Business launched its full-time online MBA program in 2016, there were only a handful of online MBA programs available from recognized, high-ranked business schools. The Kelly School of Business at Indiana University launched the first one-way in 1999, but only when the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill opened. [email protected] In 2011, it launched a “chain response” to similar programs at other high-ranking accredited business schools, Gallagher said.

W. Brooke Elliott, executive associate dean of the academic program at Gies, who was involved in launching the IMBA program in 2014, said the school was partly inspired by the growth of online MBA but it hindered a competitive market and isolated itself from applicants as well as major ones. The reason was.

“The traditional MBA market is extremely competitive, especially for public institutions,” Elliott said. “We were trying to figure out how to be innovative.”

Elliott emphasizes the accessibility of online programs compared to more expensive, less flexible residences. Tuition for IMBA costs about $ 23,000 a year – just one-third of the average cost of full-time residential MBA programs. As a result, Gies has seen its online MBA applicant pool make significant demographic changes.

“One-third of our pool of applicants are still ordinary MBA students বাকি the rest are outstanding students with great stories, but graduate education was not generally accessible to them,” Elliott said.

Cost was not the only factor that expanded the applicant’s pool for Gies. The flexibility of the program attracted many students whose plight would otherwise prevent them from pursuing a residential MBA, ranging from mothers of young children to those serving in the military. Elliott said they even have applicants living in submarines.

“This is one of the best things about online education. If you look at the students you draw, they are diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender, background and experience, where they live in the world,” Elliott said. “You’ll never see it in a traditional MBA program.”

Gies’ iMBA program has grown significantly every year since its launch, with more than 4,600 students this year from a primary group of 116 students in 2016. In fact, it has proven to be so successful and affordable that Gies stopped offering a residential MBA altogether in 2019.

If the online MBA continues to grow before COVID-19, the epidemic puts it on a hyperdrive. When Gies stopped offering residential MBAs, about 2,600 students enrolled in its iMBA program. During the epidemic, its enrollment grew by more than 2,000 students – thanks to Gies, who laid the groundwork for a successful online-only business education, Elliott said.

“The education market has changed dramatically by the epidemic,” he said. “Even the strongest residential programs with the greatest reputation did not have the skill or ability to deliver advanced and high quality in that flying state. [program] Which is designed for online. “

Top business school move online

In 2010, Nahit Nohrita, dean of Harvard Business School, was asked if the country’s top business schools would ever explore online degree programs. His answer was short and sure: “Not in my lifetime.”

This attitude was created by the assumption that online MBA programs were inherently inferior, Gallagher said, in part because of their affiliation with for-profit institutions without AACSB accreditation, such as Phoenix and the University of Davao.

“If you go back about 20 years, there are very few top-ranked business programs offering online degrees,” Gallagher said. “A few years later, the market changed so much that they started embracing it.”

In the mid-2010s, schools like Harvard and Stanford began offering some online classes for business degrees. But soon after the epidemic, when the spread of online education became a temporary necessity, the top-10 business schools began to explore flexible options for earning most or all of the MBAs online.

One of those new offers is from the University of California’s Haas School of Business, Berkeley. The school’s new Flex option, which will enable a group of students to earn their MBA online part-time and offer optional personal opportunities, is in the process of being enrolled in the inaugural class.

Jaime Breen, Dean’s assistant dean for the MBA program, said applications for the Flex option were “as strong or powerful” as the general pool for part-time programs, and that applications from women and active military members increased significantly.

At a top business school like Haas, concerns about undermining the school’s brand or providing substandard education can be expected to be raised over online program offers. But Brain said support for Flex was widespread among faculty, alumni and current students – in part, he believes, because of the epidemic.

“A lot of people were forced to do it [online] Experience, and it challenges their underlying bias, ”he said.

The Flex option is part of the Haas School’s weekend and evening MBA program, and to give more flexibility to the student population who already need it. These part-time in-person programs are more likely to be replaced by online alternatives in the near future, said Gallagher, director of the center.

“There will always be a market for a full-time, personal experience,” he said. “Most of the working professional, part-time visitors have moved online.”

Brin says that while there are no specific plans for a full-time online MBA program in Hase, the school is not blowing up those conversations. They are looking closely at the growing online MBA market, and the upcoming opening year of the Flex program, the signs they should have.

“It’s a way for us to learn and gain experience,” he said. Part of the reasoning behind it [Flex] We need to have that capacity to meet the market. “

Curve forward?

Business and business-related programs have long been at the forefront of online learning. According to a 2019 survey by the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy, in 2016, there were about 7,500 online programs in business, management or marketing – about 3,000 more than the nearest competing field.

Elliott of Urbana-Champion says the introduction of the IMBA program has inspired other online bachelor’s degree programs across the university, including the Granger School of Engineering.

“Business schools are a major indicator of what might happen in other areas of undergraduate education,” Gallagher said, adding that other undergraduate programs, especially professional degrees, may follow the same trend as MBAs.

In many cases, they already have. According to 2019 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, about one-third of all undergraduate students enrolled exclusively in the online degree program full-time before the epidemic.

“When all of these online programs started many years ago, there were narrative and strategic assumptions that distance learning was for students who would otherwise not be able to come to campus,” Gallagher said. “It has since been proven untrue.”

For Elliott, the dilemma and confusion over online program offers means more opportunities for disadvantaged and obsolete students to earn a bachelor’s degree — and, subsequently, to become more socially and economically mobile.

“Going online is one way to make higher education accessible,” Elliott said. “There are millions of people whom we do not serve as academic institutions. And I think if we get together and change our thinking about education, we can do real social good. ”

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