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How to Advise Students On Employer Sponsorship of Executive MBA Studies

The EvoLLLution | How to Advise Students On Employer Sponsorship of Executive MBA Studies
Institutions can go great lengths to strengthen their executive MBA enrollment numbers by helping prospective students build business cases for employer educational support.

Choosing to enroll in an executive MBA program is a major decision for students, which is why many professionals drag their feet when it comes to enrolling. College advisers should reassure potential students that they need not go it alone. They can—and should—enlist the support of their employers.

In 2013, 41 percent of EMBA students were fully self-funded, up from 27 percent in 2011 and 34 percent in 2009. Only 24 percent of students received full financial sponsorship, according to the Executive MBA Council.

Reframe the situation

Students typically approach their decision to enroll as a strictly personal one. They weigh factors such as whether they can afford tuition, whether they can devote the necessary time to coursework and whether they can handle the workload.

While advisers are quick to point out the academic advantages to prospective students, they might better serve them by explaining how to “sell” EMBA advantages to the employer. Here are a few ideas you can give students to help build their (business) case for employers:

  • Show business savvy by presenting an executive summary outlining key benefits for the company, which can be shared with the C-suite and other stakeholders.

  • Illustrate how earning an EMBA will apply to current—and, more importantly, future—roles at the company. This highlights the student’s commitment to both career and company.

  • Relate how mastery of business concepts will help with retention of current customers/accounts and acquisition of new ones. A higher percentage of employees with MBAs makes the company look more favorable in the eyes of potential clients. In addition, a company with more MBA holders on its staff is more likely to attract—and retain—top talent.

  • Provide concrete examples of how the newfound knowledge will be shared with colleagues.

Demonstrate ROI

In the academic world, it’s about knowledge gained. In the business world, it’s all about the bottom line.

To demonstrate ROI, the student/employee should position sponsorship as an investment not just in the individual but in the company as well. Advise the student to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, taking into account tuition and other costs, and project how long it will take the company to recoup (and earn “interest” on) its investment.

The student/employee should emphasize the ability to apply classroom learning to real-time challenges the company may be facing. Even better, the student can use specific company issues as case studies.

Remind the student to assure their boss of loyalty to the company. Businesses often are hesitant to sponsor EMBA candidates for fear losing them to competitors once they’ve earned their degrees.

Participation in an EMBA program gives the employee a new perspective on their company and its industry. This can result in significant savings and efficiencies. EMBA graduates are well equipped to compare business practices within a vertical and across a range of industries. And EMBA grads have instant access to a highly connected personal network of advisers.

Advise students that support from an employer doesn’t have to be 100 percent financial. Other perks—such as travel, accommodations, PTO time, travel expenses, reduced business travel requirements or a slightly lighter workload—can be requested in lieu of tuition. Support doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If an employer won’t foot the entire tuition bill, perhaps it will share the cost.

Students must keep in mind, however, that a request for support is a two-way street. An employee who receives corporate backing for EMBA studies likely will be expected to sign a contract indicating they will stay with the company for a specified period after graduating, typically from one to five years.

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