An MBA Designed For Capitol Hill Staffers


The halls of Congress are known as a magnet for smart and ambitious young professionals who gravitate to Capital Hill from some of the best colleges and universities in the world. Now a business school located nearly 1,000 miles away the Washington beltway hopes to capitalize on that talent pool of some 13,000 Congressional staffers by offering a unique online MBA program.

The University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management is launching a one-year MBA specifically designed for Congressional staffers who want a deeper understanding of business to either help them in their current jobs or transition them into more lucrative post-Capitol Hill careers. It is the first new MBA program approved by the university since 1982.

The $75,000-program is a highly structructed, accelerated MBA that could be completed in one year. But it has been designed so that staffers, who work notoriously long and intense hours when Congress is in session, could stretch the workload out over two years, with the most difficult courses in such subjects as accounting and finance being held during the slower summer months.


Carlson priced its novel degree below existing alternatives in the D.C. area. Georgetown University’s part-time MBA program currently carries a $102,900 price tag, requires two evenings a week from Monday through Thursday, and takes 34 months to complete. George Washington University’s part-time options cost more than $90,000 in tuition and fees. The University of Maryland’s offering is priced at $87,500 and takes 30 to 36 months to complete in the evening or 24 months to finish up on weekends. American University’s part-time play costs $84,632 and required a 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. evening class once a week over 27 months.

Carlson expects to enroll its first class of about 25 students in June of 2016 and build the program up to as many as 70 a year. The work to complete the required 22 courses in 12 months would likely total between 15 and 20 hours a week in the evenings and on weekends. The courses are entirely online with the exception of a simulation exercise at the end that would occur live in either D.C. or Minnesapolis just before graduation in May. Carlson is currently working with Deloitte Consulting to produce a  war game scenario for a three-to-four day capstone course. The school also is planning faculty seminars and networking events four times a semester, along with a consulting project with a Twin Cities company.

Carlson is dubbing this acclerated program an “Industry MBA” because it will serve up two-credit courses in four different industries that are often the focus of regulatory efforts in Washington: financial services, healthcare, technology, and energy. In lieu of electives, the program puts a focus on those four industries because, says Steve Parente, an economist and associate dean at Carlson, “they are all highly relevant to a lot of the issues Congress deals with today. All of these industries are highly regulated and highly profitable.”


The big question is why the D.C. market for a public university based in Minneapolis? It’s not unusual for schools, of course, to expand far beyond their geographical boundaries. Babson College in the suburbs of Boston and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School both have executive MBA programs in California’s Bay Area. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Ill., has an EMBA program in Miami. And the University of Michigan has an executive MBA in Los Angeles.

“From the student perspective, if they take the time to look what Carlson has is the Twin Cities, they would find that it is a Fortune 500 headquarters town with all the key industries represented,” says Parente. “In D.C., it’s just not at the same level. There are at least 16 or 17 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Twin Cities along with big privates like Cargill and Carlson. We will be giving students an orientation view to those industries that will result in some real opportunities to extend their careers.”

Dean Sri Zaheer’s ambition is to get Carlson more broadly known and solidly into the Top 25 of U.S. business schools. “The school is not well known beyond the Appalachians and the Rockies,” reasons Parente. “The East Coast is a major potential market for us to get better known. It’s once slice of America and D.C. kids are transient. If you put a stake in the ground to operate in this space, the word would get out that we are doing something novel and innovative. We are deliberately designing this to serve the community.”

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