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Is The Full-Time MBA Losing Out To Shorter, Flexible Programs?

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There was a time when the MBA degree meant a full-time commitment with taking a break of at least two years from the workplace, staying at the school campus and spending an enormous amount of money by way of fees and other expenses.

The one-year full-time programs reduced the timeframe considerably, without sacrificing the rigour or commitment. But then, the rise of the Master’s programs, offering various specialisations at far less financial commitment as also the more flexible, low expense online MBAs started attracting droves of applicants away from the regular campus-based MBA programs.

  • Full-time campus-based MBA programs in the US are losing out to more flexible and far less expensive online options
  • The University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business has announced scrapping of its full-time, on-campus program. It will focus more on its online MBA option, the $22,000 iMBA, which has seen huge growth since its launch in 2015
  • Applications to the program are expected to touch 3,200 this year, up from 1,099 in 2016
  • Strengthening of the US economy, the rising cost of the programs and the unwillingness of the aspirants to take on huge amounts of debt burden are among the reasons for the decline in applications to full-time MBA
  • President Donald Trump’s stricter policies on immigration have resulted in a substantial fall in the number of international candidates. Availability of shorter, cheaper alternatives in the form of the one-year and online options to speciality master’s degrees in specialisations such as data analytics and entrepreneurship is yet another reason.

The net result is the drop in the number of applications to MBA programs at several schools. The lower number of applicants resulted in rising expenses in running the program for the schools forcing many of them to drop the full-time MBA in favour of the Masters or online programs.

The latest to join the list is the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business which has announced scrapping of its full-time, on-campus program. It will focus more on its online MBA option, the $22,000 iMBA, which has seen huge growth since its launch in 2015. Applications to the program are expected to touch 3,200 this year, up from 1,099 in 2016.

Compared to the applicant’s interest in the online program, Gies’ full-time program dropped to 290 this year from 386 in 2016. The school enrolled fewer than 50 full-time students in each of the past three years.

Gies is not the only school that have sub-optimally sized programs that cannot support the expenses required to deliver a quality program. The University of Iowa, Wake Forest University, Thunderbird School of Global Management, Virginia Tech and Simmons College are among those that closed the full-time MBA programs in recent years.

John A. Byrne, editor-in-chief of PoetsandQuants.com, in an article in Forbes, points out that at present, nearly 32,000 students are enrolled in the 25 biggest online MBA programs in the US.  He cites four factors for the decline in interest for a full-time MBA.

The first is the strengthening of the US economy that spells more employment opportunities even without the acquisition of an MBA degree. The rising cost of the programs and the unwillingness of the aspirants to take on huge amounts of debt burden are other reasons.

President Donald Trump’s stricter policies on immigration have resulted in a substantial fall in the number of international candidates who had been helping to offset a continual decline in domestic applicants for a number of years.

Availability of shorter, cheaper alternatives in the form of the one-year and online options to speciality master’s degrees in specialisations such as data analytics and entrepreneurship is yet another reason.

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