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Defying the MBA Odds: Conscious Focus on Student Needs Central to Differentiation

The EvoLLLution | Defying the MBA Odds: Conscious Focus on Student Needs Central to Differentiation
Focusing on cost, time-to-completion and labor market value—and delivering on those expectations with conscious support and design—can be an important differentiator for programs in an incredibly competitive market.

Recently, there have been plenty of articles written about the fall of the traditional MBA program. Institutions have shut down their traditional MBAs and invested all of their resources into their online programs.

But what happens if you can defy the odds and your traditional MBA program is doing well?

For over 5 years I have watched an MBA program grow and flourish. From a small initial cohort of traditional MBA students, to a roomful — now to two full classes of students. I get asked about our MBA enrollment by colleagues at competing institutions all the time. When I give them the unembellished truth, I think it shocks them.

Trust me when I say that we are not the biggest player in our market. We are one of the smaller players that are doing well and we created this program.

Our MBA program is one of 27 offered in the area. The traditional full-time program is taught using a case-based learning methodology. The terms run in three 12-week terms and you can complete the program in just 10 months. We have in-takes in September and January, and all courses are taught by full-time faculty or seasoned professionals in their field. You won’t hear our ads on NPR or see them on TV. Our students come from inside the institution, through partnerships, articulation agreements, dual-degree agreements or from other countries. We have students from Brazil, China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Turkey, Columbia, and Bolivia to name a few. Some students are pursuing a joint MBA/JD program with us.

Everyone is so concerned with ROI today. So, our promise to learners is that they will study 10 months full-time, accumulate very little debt due to our affordable tuition, and start earning dividends immediately. How can you go wrong?

Service to the students is also a great niche to our program. As the dean and program director, I make myself available for all prospective students when they are on-campus visiting the admissions office. I show them our facilities and have a conversation with perspective students. It’s not every day where you can step onto a campus for tour and get to meet the dean, program director, and advisor all at the same time. I always ask students if they had the chance to meet the dean or program director on other tours, and the answer is quite frequently no. Career services are also very important. You must have a career services office that can assist both undergraduates as well as graduate students.

At the institution there are dedicated resources for our graduate students. There is also a dedicated MBA Student Center for them that is equipped with all the amenities. In addition, there is also The Center for International Programs and Services for the students from other countries. This Center is solely dedicated to servicing the international student population and providing them the specific programs and services to meet their needs.

So, what is causing the market for MBA programs to constrict? Is it due to the strong economy and low unemployment rate across the country? What happened to all those students who wanted a full-time program in a major city? Is shutting down your full-time program and moving to a fully online program the answer to this dilemma? Will the MBA program taught 100% online still be held in the same regard as the full-time program located on your campus? Will it still provide the same student and career services? Will the graduates donate to the institutions “annual fund” and help give back? There are dozens of questions to be asked.

If you put it all together, it comes down to a few things that can make your full-time MBA program a successful one. You should be providing a real-world and relevant program. A program that can be completed in a year or less, where the cost of attendance does not cause you to go into deep debt, and your services to students need to be without equal.

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