Paul L. Caron

Sunday, June 9, 2019

WSJ: More Universities Close Their Full-Time MBAs Programs, Shift To Online

Wall Street Journal, More Universities Shut Down Traditional M.B.A. Programs as Popularity Wanes:

Applications to traditional M.B.A. programs have languished in a strong U.S. job market, declining last year even at Harvard Business School, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and other elite schools. Administrators say millennials, saddled with more college debt than previous generations, have grown more reluctant to leave jobs for a year or more to pursue one of the nation’s priciest degrees.

Between 2014 and 2018, the number of accredited full-time M.B.A. programs in the U.S. shrank 9% to 1,189, with schools reporting 119 fewer two-year degrees in the most recent survey by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. [University of Illinois,] Wake Forest University and Virginia [Tech] are among the others to recently cut their traditional M.B.A. programs.

Against that backdrop, shorter and more-flexible graduate business degrees have proliferated. At the business schools in the same survey, there were 140 new masters programs in specialized subjects like data analytics last year, marking a 16% jump from 2014, to 981. The data show online M.B.A. offerings, meanwhile, doubled to 390.


“If you were able to get every dean in the U.S. under a lie detector, outside of maybe the top 20 M.B.A. programs, every one of them would admit they were struggling to maintain enrollment and losing money on the program,” said Jeffrey Brown, dean of the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois. After the incoming class this fall completes its studies, students will no longer be able to pursue part-time or full-time M.B.A.s at Gies, although it will continue to offer an online M.B.A.

Gies College said it had 49 full-time M.B.A. students last year, down from 74 in 2015, and 38 students have paid the $1,000 deposit for the program starting this fall—the last full-time M.B.A. class at Gies.

Applications to the online M.B.A. program have tripled at Gies since 2016. Around 2,000 students are now enrolled in that program, which costs less than $22,000 to complete, the school said. The full-time M.B.A. costs $58,000 or more in tuition and fees, and it is expected to lose $2 million this year, Mr. Brown said.

The Gies M.B.A. program was ranked among the country’s top 50 business schools by U.S. News & World Report this year. But with limited financial and faculty resources, and growing demand for the online M.B.A., the choice was clear to the dean.

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