What B-School Deans Say About The Cost & Value Of An MBA

Duke Fuqua Dean Bill Boulding. Carnegie Mellon Tepper Dean Robert Dammon. And Notre Dame Mendoza Interim Dean Martijn Cremers.

All three squared off in this wide-ranging and highly compelling discussion on the value of the MBA and the future of management education at the CentreCourt MBA Festival in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 20th.

Moderated by Poets&Quants founder and editor-in-chief, John A. Byrne, the panel explored the high costs of the degree, what people actually learn in an MBA program these days, and how what they learned has changed over the years.


Boulding explained that Duke Fuqua is looking for IQ, EQ, and DQ. “Absolutely your MBA experience should be transformational. It should change your life,” he says. “At the same time, it’s not that everybody has the capability to develop into the kind of leader that we need today. When we look at people at Duke, we need to have a certain kind of talent walking in the door that is going to be receptive to the transformational experience we can offer. That means we are looking for people who have IQ. The reality is if you are going to lead people you can’t be stupid. I’m sorry. I told our incoming class you can’t be stupid, and they all wrote it down.

“But you also must have EQ. You need to have emotional intelligence. how are you going to work with people if you can’t understand their emotions and If you can’t regulate your own emotions? But even that is not enough. What you need is DQ. When I talk about DQ. It is your decency quotient. To be the kind of leader the world needs today, you have to be someone who actually cares about others and who wants to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Dammon, dean of Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, believes the value of the MBA degree remains intact. “The MBA is a degree that is valuable because there is always ademand for people who have strong business skills, management skills and problem solving skills and that is what you get in an MBA,” he says. People who get the degree learn to become analytical thinkers and problem solvers, but they also learn how to leader and motivate others.”


Why does the degree cost so much? “I look at things not in terms of how much they cost but in terms of what am I getting for what I am spending,” adds Dammon. “At the Tepper School, last year’s graduating class gain jobs with a $125,000 starting salary. That’s not including a bonus. They left jobs where they were paid on average $60,000. So they are more than doubling their income. So it’s a payback period of slightly less than four years, especially once you account for scholarship awards. Don’t look at the sticker price. When you go in to buy a car, you don’t pay sticker price. You pay something less than that.

“But the real value is not just that short-term financial gain. Tt’s really that you are changing your career trajectory. You are going places with an MBA that you could never go without the MBA. So it is the long-term impact it is going to have on your career. Financially, it’s going to work out just fine. But the important thing is that you you are going to have the ability to affect not only your life but the lives of others. That is the real payback.”