Closed For Business (School)

Tippie School of business at University of Iowa closed its doors last month for full time MBA students after 160 years.  Will your target b-school be next?

The closing of full-time MBA programs has become almost contagious.  The ever-expanding economy has been great for stock prices and employment rates, but horrible for encouraging workers to return to graduate school.  Profitability of full-time programs is already tough enough to keep in the black, and with more and more schools losing money on their programs (Tippie’s last class was only 42 students large), many have been forced to seek alternative approaches or face shutting down the program altogether. 

Some schools are have followed the lure of online MBA programming.

The University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business, for example, recently announced the scrapping of its full time MBA program in favor of its online MBA option, which they call the iMBA, launched in 2015 and growing ever since. Online programs are scalable, more profitable, and more appealing to full time employees who don’t feel like walking away from a swanky full time job to go back to graduate school.

While it’s nearly impossible to guess which schools might be next to scrap their full time MBA program, it may be possible to guess.  It would be inappropriate to speculate in this blog post (after all, we don’t want to start any rumors), but a good place to start would be with investigating the enrollment of your target programs over the past three years.

If an MBA program has a diminishing class size, they may be in trouble.

Most schools trend about the same class size over a number of years, so if this average class size has taken a big dive recently, and particularly if they are starting to see class sizes with 75 or fewer students, it might be a sign they are in trouble. Another sign that a school might be considering scuttling their FT program would be if they have had rapid growth in their alternative programs.  Most schools who close their full time program do not scrap the entire MBA program, but will often just re-allocate faculty and staff resources to executive programs, part-time programs and online programs.

Never hesitate to reach out to the admissions committee directly to inquire about the health or longevity of their full time MBA program.

Schools will be upfront about any plans in place to dial-down their full-time MBA program and rest assured, they would never pull the plug between a cohort’s first and second year.  So while you can be certain you would be able to finish a program you start, you will not be able to guarantee the long-term viability of any program outside the tried-and-true top tier.  If long term MBA networkability is a concern, you may want to put some extra research time into any program you are targeting which runs a risk of altering their structure to limit the number of graduates.

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