The University of Iowa Tippie College of Business announced last year that the Spring 2019 graduating class of the full-time MBA would be the school’s last. Much has been made of the wisdom and significance of the move, but now the school has announced that — even before it’s gone — the Tippie MBA experience will take on a new form.
Remember that while Iowa Tippie may have dropped its full-time residential MBA, it still has an Executive MBA, MBA programs in Italy and Hong Kong, and a Professional MBA, the latter of which is ranked No. 22 on U.S. News & World Report’s latest list of top part-time programs. Now, in what is functionally an expansion of the Professional MBA, Tippie will offer a fully online MBA starting in the fall of 2019.
“Adapting to the market is key for growth in any organization, and we’re seeing clear shifts in what students and businesses need,” said Sarah Gardial, dean of the Tippie College, in a statement September 12 that echoed her August 2017 announcement of the end of the full-time MBA program. “What’s most exciting about our new online option is that students no longer need to be near a classroom to access the Iowa MBA. Now, they can be anywhere in the state, or around the world.”
WRITING ON THE WALL
Tippie’s announcement of a new online MBA comes as the final cohort begins its last year in the full-time MBA program, once ranked among U.S. News’ top 50. The decision announced in 2017 to shutter the program was seen by some as a signal of serious problems, if not exactly doom, in two-year residential MBA programs, coming as it did on the heels of similar decisions at a handful of other schools, including Wake Forest University and Virginia Tech.
Because Tippie was different: This was a widely respected program, a regular in the rankings top 50 even if it had fallen on hard times of late, suffering three consecutive years of declining overall applications and slipping 19 spots on U.S. News’ list, from 45th to 64th, between 2016 and 2017. Before the announcement of the closure of the full-time MBA, Tippie was still No. 38 in the Poets&Quants ranking.
But as Gardial said last year, there has been a clear shift in student interest away from the full-time MBA and toward more flexible options. As of last year, enrollment in Tippie’s Professional MBA and Executive MBA programs made up more than 91% of all MBA enrollment at the school; enrollment in the school’s Master of Science in Business Analytics degree, launched in 2014, grew 517% in less than three years. This fall the school also launched a master’s program in finance. “The college has always been an innovator,” said Sue Curry, Iowa interim executive vice president and provost, “anticipating the business education that students and employers need to thrive in a changing economy.”
‘LESS CAREER DISRUPTION & GREATER SPECIALIZATION’
Tippie’s new, 45-credit-hour online MBA will enroll its first students in August 2019, and the school is planning to begin accepting applications in January 2019. Cost will be $1,995 per course, or $29,925 for the entire program. The program will capitalize on the strengths of the in-person program, says David Frasier, associate dean of the Tippie College of Business. “The online component will be little different from an academic standpoint than the classroom-based program,” he says. “The same faculty who teach in the classroom will also teach online.”
Nor is the school a newcomer to the online MBA space. The first online MBA course was offered in 2003, and more than half the in-person part-time MBA program is available online today. What’s new, says Colleen Downie, assistant dean at the Tippie College of Business and one of the architects of the online MBA, is that the degree can now be earned fully online from anywhere.
“We’re thrilled about not having a location constraint,” Downie says. “The online MBA gives us a rural footprint and a global reach at the same time, whether a student is in Sidney, Iowa, or Sydney, Australia.”
Gardial says that the strength of more flexible, focused programs shows the wisdom of the school’s strategy in jettisoning the full-time MBA. “Students are increasingly drawn to flexible methods of delivery and the focused education provided by master’s and certificate programs in specific subjects,” she says. “They’re asking for less career disruption and greater specialization, which we are positioned to deliver.”