Two Roads Diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
By Jack Cashill
© ingramsonline.com - January 2006
A prospective MBA student, like Frost’s traveler, immediately finds himself—and increasingly herself—faced with an immediate and possibly unexpected decision. But there are not just two divergent MBA paths the candidate can take. There are at least four, and that first choice of paths will likely make “all the difference.”
The Traditional MBA
The University of Kansas offers a two-year option characteristic of the traditional MBA. “The premier version of the University of Kansas (KU) MBA program is a full-time course of study based on ots historic Lawrence, Kansas, main campus.” Students complete coursework over four semesters, often fulfill a summer internship, and devote their second year to an area of concentration. The conventional programs present a campus setting and a fixed schedule which often requires relocation and full-time commitment. This is true of such programs at Kansas State, Missouri University, Central Missouri State University and Emporia State University among others.
Not surprisingly, the diverging paths tend to attract different kinds of enrollees, and age is part of that difference. Students recently out of college are more likely than their older, more settled colleagues to choose a traditional program. These students have less need for flexibility and more focused career ambitions. Additionally, such programs require a significant monetary obligation from their students. At Washington University’s Olin School of Business, MBA tuition for the 2005-2006 school year is tagged at $34,500. Programs at public institutions are more reasonably priced, depending upon one’s residency status. Students enrolled in University of Missouri’s Crosby MBA program pay $255 an hour in-state and $657 out-of-state. At the University of Kansas Lawrence campus, residents pay a base tuition of $202 an hour and non-residents pay $500. Tuition becomes more affordable at public schools with smaller programs, such as those at Missouri State, where residents pay $164 an hour and non-residents pay $328.
How the Ten Largest Area MBA Programs Rank According to Percentage of Students Who Work Full Time
The Non-Traditional MBA
If the traditional program expects its applicants to adapt to institutional imperatives, the non-traditional programs adapt to the students’ imperatives. An obvious way in which these programs accommodate their students is scheduling. Established programs at major universities now offer evening classes regularly. The schedule for Avila University School of Business operates on Trimesters. Friends University in Olathe holds classes exclusively on evenings and weekends. University of Phoenix enrollment “takes place continuously with new classes starting every month. You can get the educational program to meet your individual needs and personal schedule.”
Convenience is just as critical. Most of the area’s non-traditional programs are located within sight of a major suburban interstate. The Kansas City campus of Phoenix is right off I-435 at Holmes, as is Webster University’s Kansas City Metropolitan campus. Keller Graduate School of Management is just down the street on Holmes. Avila is on Wornall, just south of I-435. Pittsburg State’s Metro campus is located hard by the Oak Park Mall at 95th Street and I-35. Baker’s is on College Boulevard, a few blocks south of I-435. Ottawa University offers the MBA at its Overland Park campus in Corporate Woods visible from I-435. And KU offers a non-traditional program at its Edwards Campus, “conveniently located near I-435 on Quivira Road in Overland Park.”
The non-traditional programs cater almost exclusively to working adults. For instance, 98% of Park University’s MBA students work full time as do 98% of Ottawa’s MBA students. For the University of Phoenix, that number is 100%. And yet, despite the part-time nature of the program, students can complete a meaningful MBA degree in as little as 15 months at Webster and 16 months at Keller. Those who prefer a more studied pace can take several years. Institutions like Keller, Webster and Phoenix—with multiple campuses around the country—allow students to change cities and resume their education without skipping a beat.
Though per-credit-hour tuition for non-traditional MBAs is not significantly reduced, students may find this option more affordable. The lengthened time frame dispels costs, enrollees usually retain employment and income, and many employers reimburse educational fees.
Distance Learning & Online MBAs
Distance Learning and the Online MBA have availed graduate business education to many who would not otherwise have access. Though it offers little campus atmosphere, it offers much convenience. At Park University, students have been able to obtain their MBA exclusively through online study since 2002. Kansas State’s Master of Agribusiness delivers first-rate education via the Internet to thousands across the country and abroad with an interest in food and agriculture. Most of their study is completed online, with an annual two-week visit to campus. Online course offerings can be found at many others, including The University of Phoenix, Rockhurst University and Central Missouri State.
The Executive MBA
The Executive MBA, which allows its students to continue full-time employment, combines features of the traditional and the non-traditional. Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas offers something of the prototype of the Executive MBA, featuring a “cohort (team) model.” In other words, the students move through the program together and, in the process, “build a powerful network of colleagues that benefits you during the program and long after graduation.”
Like the non-traditional programs, however, the Executive MBA is designed for working executives. At Benedictine, that means one intense class day a week, a choice between the Atchison and the Roeland Park campus, and the expectation of completion within one rigorous calendar year. The Benedictine MBA also comes with a set fee of $18,000 for three semesters, all library, lab and parking fees, registration, and even a continental breakfast and lunch on weekends.
The Executive Fellows MBA at Rockhurst University is Kansas City’s oldest and among the most prestigious executive MBAs. An ambitious program, “it is designed to assist regional firms develop executive capability in promising upper-level managers.” The Helzberg School of Management at Rockhurst University also offers a non-traditional MBA, a concept that Rockhurst pioneered in the Kansas City area.
“The Bloch Executive MBA program at UMKC makes a virtue of its rigidity, as it “features a lock-step, planned curriculum. Class members begin the program at the same point, move through the curriculum together, and complete the degree requirements for graduation as a group.”
MidAmerica Nazarene University’s MBA program for working adults is something of a hybrid. Like the Executive MBA, it features “advancement through the program with a cohesive group.” Students in this program meet once a week, but the program typically lasts two years.
From the students’ perspective, the paths to the MBA diverge more quickly than they can keep up with, but few complain about having too many choices. The up-and-coming programs that will succeed in the long run are those whose alumni got more out of their education than a credential and are eager to boast about it.