Berkeley Offers MBAs Free Exec Ed Courses

Berkeley’s Haas School of Business announced (Jan. 31) that it will begin offering MBA alums free executive education courses. Berkeley is the second major U.S. business school to provide free training after graduation. The Wharton School made a similar pledge on Dec. 3 when it announced major changes to its MBA curriculum.

Haas School Dean Rich Lyons said alumni of all three of the Haas School’s Berkeley MBA programs – full-time, evening & weekend, and the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA program are eligible for two days of free executive education training within the first five years after graduation. This benefit starts with the Berkeley MBA graduating classes of May 2011 and the Berkeley-Columbia class that will graduate in February.

In contrast, Wharton–one of the largest players in the exec ed business–is offering its alums up to a week of tuition-free executive education every seven years throughout their careers (the Haas benefit is just for the first five years). With a one-week executive course at Wharton priced at $7,000 per person, not including room and board, the total “value” Wharton believes it is offering alums would come to $1 million annually. It remains to be seen how much of that $1 million in value will result in actual costs to the school. While some business schools, such as the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland offer free elective coursework to alums, Wharton became the first major player in business education to do so.

The new Haas benefit was inspired by the school’s emphasis on being “Students Always” – one of the school’s four defining principles, according to Lyons. The program was introduced to expand a tradition of providing alumni access to lifelong learning. Since 2004, Berkeley MBA alumni have come back to the school to take MBA courses for free, as availability allows, under the Alumni Audit Program. Approximately 200 alumni take advantage of the program each academic year. In addition, all Haas alumni enjoy a 15 percent discount for any open enrollment executive education course they attend.

“The culture at Berkeley-Haas is that we are passionate about learning, and we know we’ll always have plenty more yet to learn,” said Lyons in a statement. “That’s what makes the world exciting, and that’s what drives innovation in the marketplace.”

Haas’ Center for Executive Education provides both custom programs designed for specific corporate clients and open enrollment courses across a wide range of topics, from leadership and innovation to industry topics such as high-tech product management and energy. Haas has roughly two dozen open-enrollment courses, including a two-day $2,595 seminar on “Dynamic Coaching” to a two-day $3,200 “New Manager Boot Camp” on the art and science of effective management. Wharton lists nearly 40 open-enrollment courses at its Aresty Institute of Executive Education.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work more closely with our alumni,” said Whitney Hischier, assistant dean for executive learning at Haas, in a statement. “MBA graduation is literally just the beginning of our relationship with the student–we expect to connect with alumni throughout the course of their professional career. As ambassadors for the Haas brand, alumni participation in our executive education programs will enable us to more closely align with the needs of the market as well as provide ongoing feedback to our faculty on how we can innovate our content and teaching.“

Hischier told Poets&Quants that Haas is expecting that as many as half of its grads could take advantage of the offer. “We don’t yet know what the demand levels will be,” she said, “but we graduate approximately 500 students each year and given that many stay local, we expect strong interest.  I would estimate at least 50% will take us up on the offer. It could be more.” Wharton estimates that 20% of its alums would avail themselves of the Penn offer.

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