If you ask Carson College MBA graduates what they value most about their degree, their answers are strikingly similar, no matter if they earned their degree in the early years of the program or 60 years later. Consistently, graduates say outstanding faculty and life-long relationships, course design, skills that are immediately applicable and help them advance at work, time management, networking, and above all, quality are most important to them.
But sometimes quality just isn’t enough to keep a program afloat. Many business schools and public universities across the country are struggling to sustain their full-time MBA programs. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, last year 64 percent of U.S. MBA programs reported application decline, and 75 percent reported drops in international applications.
Elite U.S. business schools affiliated with private universities (the Harvards and Stanfords) continue to see strong application numbers for their residential two-year programs. But many public universities have had to develop new strategies, especially in light of significantly reduced state budgets. Recent efforts include more aggressive and international recruiting, greater investments in career and student services, smaller class sizes, and tuition freezes and substantial discounts. Arizona State University, for example, now offers a full tuition scholarship to every student admitted to its full-time MBA program, albeit with donor support.
Despite these strategies, many U.S. business schools are faced with the same question: “What is the future of the full-time MBA program?”
NEW STUDY REVEALS WHAT FUTURE MBA STUDENTS WANT
To help answer this question, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), the Executive MBA Council, and the International Consortium for Executive Education commissioned a recent international study to determine what students want from future MBA offerings.
Nearly 80 percent of the study’s respondents wanted a more self-directed approach or indicated just-in-time courses identified with their employer would be more attractive than an established program model. The study also found that nontraditional education options, such as certificates or digital badges, are gaining credibility and interest, with over a quarter of respondents noting these credentials could substitute for a formal degree, and 90 percent reporting some value as a substitute or complement to degree or nondegree education.
CARSON ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS MEET LEARNER EXPECTATIONS
The college has strategically managed its MBA offerings and is well ahead of most other public universities in evolving its programs as students’ needs have changed. Phasing out face-to-face MBA programs that were not well matched to its campus locations nor meeting expectations of today’s students, the college offers the MBA and Executive MBA exclusively online. The success of the online programs is consistently noted by U.S. News and World Report: the college ranked number 12 in the nation for best online MBA programs and number 8 for best online MBA programs for veterans in 2018.
As a leader in online delivery, the college is meeting the target needs students and employers identified in the study. The online MBA offers concentrations in finance, international business, marketing, and hospitality business management; the college also offers a general MBA and an Executive MBA tailored to people who have at least seven years of experience at the managerial level.
“Dedicated support teams guide students from application to graduation, and students become part of a worldwide network of accomplished business professionals,” says Cheryl Oliver, associate dean for professional programs.
Programs cater to learners who want an accredited MBA at an affordable price but don’t want to leave their jobs in order to earn it. Some companies pay in-full or in-part for their employees to enroll, and the college has several tuition assistance partnerships that offer eligible MBA students 10 percent in tuition assistance and a waived application fee.
Offering students affordable, high quality, relevant education has resulted in impressive enrollment numbers: as of April 2018, 527 students were enrolled in the online MBA, and 128 were in the online Executive MBA.
WHY CARSON COLLEGE ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS ARE SUCCESSFUL
The college’s online MBA programs are successful for several reasons. Foremost, they are central to the University’s mission to provide an education accessible to all who are able to benefit from it. They reach people where they are, on their time, and save them the opportunity costs of things like childcare, commuting, and parking that can be prohibitive for many working students. “I think mission realization is the number one reason for schools to go online,” says Oliver.
Aligning with the University’s core competencies to serve specific industries and workforce development is another reason the college’s online delivery is succeeding. For example, the WSU College of Pharmacy and the Carson College established a partnership in 2015 that allows students to take the programs concurrently in fall 2018.
Offering the best online degree programs in the Pacific Northwest is one of five major goals the college has identified; from most perspectives, this goal has already been reached, and the current challenge is to stay on top.
“While the approach to coursework varies, our MBA programs offer a high level of quality students can always count on, like high-level peer-to-peer engagement, responsive faculty, and rigorous learning outcomes,” says Tom Tripp, Carson College senior associate dean for academic affairs. “These and many other qualities that align with students’ values are a catalyst for the success of our MBA programs.”