business school, higher education

The New MBA in a Virtual World (and Why it’s Worth it)

In a previous post, I weighed the worth of today’s MBA. A lot has changed since then, like COVID-19 making the world a truly virtual one, where even top business schools are fully virtual or employing a hybrid face-to-face/virtual classroom setting. That has become a game-changer in how prospective students look at an MBA, but it wasn’t unpredictable.

The forces were well underway pre-pandemic, with schools putting more and more resources into their online programs, and many top-flight business schools who viewed themselves as being “above” virtual degrees have since joined the fray. Michigan, Northwestern, Duke and UVA are all perennial top 10 business schools that recently started to offer online MBA’s. Of course, theirs are far more expensive (all in excess of $100k), but it still speaks to a much larger trend.

Illinois’ Gies College of Business may have been the first major university to go all-in on the online MBA, discontinuing its full-time, in-person MBA. Illinois found, like many other schools, that applications for its full-time MBA were dropping precipitously. They decided to do something about it, offering a new model that only a few schools have seemed to adopt in the meantime. Illinois’ online MBA costs $22,000, a truly disruptive price for a top 50 business school. Not to be outdone, Boston University’s Questrom School of Business started its online MBA in August 2020.

BU costs a similar $24,000 and these two are the only schools I know of that have highly-ranked and respected programs (with high average starting salaries post-graduation) to offer an affordable MBA. The disruption is obvious when you’re quickly able to minimize the cost/student loan perspective by $80-100k when compared to other top-flight business schools offering an online MBA.

When you add in the fact that even many students at top-flight full-time schools are not in-person, it becomes all the more obvious how much of a slam dunk this offering is. After COVID, in-person schools may truly be in a world of hurt when students find it more difficult than ever to establish any discernible difference or added value to an in-person degree (when taking into account all of the obvious drawbacks, like opportunity cost) and the more students know successful friends and colleagues with online degrees.

I don’t think it’s insane to say that the full-time MBA may be a thing of the past except for top-tier/Ivy League schools, as even many of them are starting to offer similar programs.

I am only a few weeks into my first semester at BU, choosing the latter as I felt it had a stronger brand and network locally (I am in NYC) and nationally. I am already loving the professors and course offerings. It is far more groupwork than I expected, and we switch groups every semester, allowing us to meet as many people in our cohort as possible.

I couldn’t be happier with my situation and hope more prospective degree-seekers offer to do the same in the future. If you don’t get a newer, higher-paying job you aren’t saddled with debt, and at the end of the day it offers plenty of potential both internally (with networking connections and opportunities from classmates and professors) and externally, as a resume-booster with the potential to stand out in a crowded field.