Is B-School Worth It? Grads, Decliners Weigh In

Source: JWMI

What’s the bottom line on the business-school bottom line? Is B-school worth the investment in time and treasure? The Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University is looking for honest answers — and they’re offering a full ride in their online MBA program to one lucky respondent. That’s a $43,800 value, and a program ranked No. 11 in the United States by Poets&Quants.

Before they find their golden answer — more below on contest details — JWMI went looking for some data, casting a net among alumni of other MBA programs and potential MBA candidates. In a survey of 648 graduates and 484 MBA seekers, the school sought an objective response to the age-old query: Is obtaining your MBA worth what you would have (or have had) to give up? And if not, what would the result need to be to make it worth it?

The survey results were interesting, to say the least. Of the 484 who said they decided not to enroll in an MBA program, 42% cited money — specifically, the cost of the program — as the primary deterring factor. Just under 20% said time — in particular, the time they would lose out of their careers — was another primary reason they chose or would choose not to enroll in an MBA program. And of those who did decide to enroll in an MBA program, 41% also cited money, saying they wanted to earn a raise or increase their salary potential. (Among other goals was a desire for personal development and a desire to obtain a promotion or a more senior role.)


JWMI surveyed 1,132 Americans from Amazon’s “Mechanical Turk,” a virtual labor market for online human intelligence tasks. Of the respondents, 39% were female; they ranged in age from 25 to 61. No JWMI alumni were included in the survey.

The survey found that those with the primary goal of earning an increase in salary and then obtaining a promotion fared pretty well post-MBA, with 77% of grads reporting just that: an increase in pay, a promotion, or both. Surprisingly, online MBA students fared better in the realm of advancement, with 84% receiving a raise, promotion, or both, compared to 69% of traditional residential MBA students. In fact, of the 291 online MBA students in the survey who received a raise post-graduation, 90% reported at least a 10% increase in salary. A slightly smaller percentage of traditional students, 85% (among 177 respondents), reported a raise of 10% or more.

“Students who graduate from MBA programs are primed for success in the workplace,” says Judith Silverman Hodara, co-founder and director of Fortuna Admissions and former head of admissions at the Wharton School. “I rarely hear stories of students graduating with an MBA and not earning a raise, getting a promotion, or landing a job they otherwise would not have been able to get.”

Why the discrepancy in favor of online MBA students? Part of the reason may be that they often continue to work while earning their degree, and therefore may apply their knowledge to real business situations, thus adding immediate value to their company, says Kathryn Lee, human resources director for North America at Fiat Chrysler. “People who do online programs usually have a wealth of experience, work full-time, and balance the demands of their position with the MBA,” Lee says. “They display qualities that are important in people we hire — a strong work ethic, project management, and critical-thinking skills.”


Angela Guido. File photo

According to the MBA graduates surveyed by JWMI, 45% said the skills their program most likely improved were leadership and management; of those who said they grew in their leadership ability, 61% grew in decision-making and 41% grew in managing and motivating their team. Meanwhile, 35% of all surveyed MBA grads said they were able to improve their presentation skills and thereby their executive presence.

Angela Guido, founder & CEO of Career Protocol, an admissions consultancy, says almost any investment in leadership skills pays dividends in the long run. “Managers are the culture carriers of organizations — they improve employee engagement, experience, and productivity or they destroy it,” Guido says. “Employers need people who manage well, and they’ll take notice of anyone who signals their readiness to lead with integrity and empathy. Merely pursuing an MBA indicates that you have ambitions to lead well. And selecting an MBA course load that acquaints you with organizational dynamics, influence, and big-picture strategic thinking will prepare you even better to have a positive impact in the organizations you’re a part of throughout the rest of your career.”

Guido offers some advice to students on the fence.

“Look at the jobs you really want and look at the jobs you think you are most likely to get — these are your competitive and realistic scenarios, respectively,” she says. “Look at what your earnings will be over, say, the next 20 years under each scenario. Then look at what your earnings will be without an MBA. I guess that the differential will dwarf the MBA cost in either scenario, but do the math yourself to make sure you are comfortable with your assumptions.

“At the end of the day, you will get out of an MBA program what you put in. If you go in ready to learn, but also ready to make meaningful connections with professors and other students, and you take advantage of leadership opportunities, an MBA program will take you where you want to go.”


JWMI’s competition asks participants to submit a 500-word response to this question: Why are you considering an MBA at this point in your career, and why is an online MBA from the Jack Welch Management Institute the right fit for you?

The scholarship on offer is worth more than $43K. The deadline to apply is 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time on December 14, 2018, and the winner will be notified on December 21, 2018.

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