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Charting New Paths in Graduate Education

July 10, 2019

There are so many changes happening in higher education today that are shifting long-held paradigms. Escalating costs, the robust job market, the rate of technological change, and new student demographics are driving the need for alternatives in undergraduate and graduate programs.

In this post, we are discussing the decline in applications for traditional face-to-face MBA programs and the rise of alternative programs.

A new Kaplan Test Prep survey of admissions officers at more than 150 U.S.-based business schools found that 70% of MBA programs report that their applications went down in 2018. 31% percent said that international students are concerned about the US political climate, 30% cited that a strong job market was keeping potential applicants in the work force, 17% said it was due to the cost, 13% are questioning the value of an MBA, and 9% have other reasons.

Even Harvard Business School saw a 4.5% decline in applications, Stanford's Graduate School of Business saw a 4.6% decline, and Wharton saw a 6.7% decline. (Source: WSJ)

According to the Washington Post, some business schools, including those at Wake Forest University and Simmons College, have pulled out of the full-time, on-campus MBA market after years of declining applications and enrollment. Others have been cutting tuition to attract prospective students worried about leaving their jobs to go back to school.

Amid falling enrollments, respondents debate benefits of more costly in-school programs versus online ones. There is an opinion among business leaders such Mark Cuban and Silicon Valley angel investor Jason Calacanis that business school is no longer worth the investment.

However, not all MBA programs are having difficulty; in fact, some alternative online programs are growing while traditional face-to-face programs that have not transferred to online or diversified with new concentrations are struggling.

More people than ever are enrolling in online MBA degree programs. In fact, in the past year alone, the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business boosted enrollment in its online MBA program by 151% to 369 students from only 147 a year ago. The University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School saw a 78% jump in enrollment to 1,862 students from 1,047 a year earlier" - John Byrne, editor-in-chief at Poets and Quants.

Online programs are ideal for students that don’t want to (or can’t) leave the work force. They are accelerated and generally less expensive than the traditional route. Satisfaction among graduates is quite high.

Poets and Quants recently surveyed graduates of these programs and asked them whether they would recommend the program they completed to friends or relatives. On a scale of one to ten, with ten reflecting the most enthusiastic recommendation possible, graduates gave their programs an average score of 9.22.

The Rise of Focused Programs

There are a number of programs that are competing for the same applicants. They offer flexibility and credentials that validate that the student has gained the critical knowledge and in-demand skills for a competitive advantage for career success. Students are choosing these types of programs over an MBA because it is flexible, accelerated, and less expensive than a full time MBA program.

For example, the online MicroMasters Programs are a series of graduate level courses from top universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley, designed to advance student’s careers. They provide deep learning in a specific career field and are recognized by top employers for their real job relevance. Students are able to study finance, marketing, operations, supply chain management, data science, AI, and design thinking as well as many other concentrated subjects. Students earn credentials towards a master’s program while staying in the workforce. Some may choose to apply to enter an accelerated, on campus, master’s degree program at top universities that participate in the growing program.

Another narrowly focused program is the globally recognized Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. Young professionals that want a career in investments are now taking the CFA as an alternative to pursuing a traditional MBA. The exam measures and certifies the competence and integrity of financial analysts. Candidates are required to pass three levels of exams covering areas, such as accounting, economics, ethics, money management, and security analysis. It is narrowly focused, but is a desirable credential for professionals wanted to pursue portfolio management or equity research.

Determine What Works for Your Institution

Jenzabar has recently announced a partnership with Gray Associates. Together, Gray Associates and Jenzabar are offering Jenzabar Program Analytics to help institutions navigate which offerings and programs are the best fit for their students, community, mission, and institutional financial health. Jenzabar now delivers Analytics Models that evaluate an institution’s portfolio of programs. The models include a SaaS tool designed to evaluate revenue, direct cost, and contribution margin for each current program. It also includes a SaaS platform that enables institutions to analyze the attractiveness of local and national markets for over 1,000 academic programs. Importantly, this system includes data on student demand, as well as employer needs and competitive intensity. With this data, Gray’s experts help colleges assess how to free-up funds trapped in failing programs, invest in current or new programs, and ultimately increase enrollment.

Jenzabar Analytics

 

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