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Michigan Ross Enrolls Debut Online MBA Cohort Of 72 Students

Michigan Ross' new online classroom

Michigan Ross’ new online classroom

For the first cohort in its new online MBA program, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business has enrolled a class of 72 students. 

That’s a solid showing for what is now the highest-ranked business school to get into the online MBA game. It is a dozen more MBA candidates than Ross’ target for its inaugural online program. “We overshot our goal, and we’re happy with 72 students,” says Wally Hopp, associate dean of part-time MBA Programs at Ross. “We hit the mark on quality and quantity. We want to get comfortable serving our students in the online format.”

The inaugural class of 72, which is being divided into two sections for the live classes in the program, compares favorably with other highly ranked business schools at the top of the market. Carnegie Mellon’s part-time hybrid program at the Tepper School of Business enrolled 46 students last fall. When Rice University welcomed its debut cohort of online students last fall, it enrolled 26 students. Ross’ Online MBA program is yet to be ranked because the Poets&Quants‘ ranking seeks input from graduates.


The school’s leadership is especially pleased with the quality of the first cohort. Besides drawing a highly diverse class, Ross was able to attract students from all over the U.S. The largest single group—21%—hails from California. The school’s home state of Michigan accounts for 12% of the first class. Online students from New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts each represent 7% each.

The average years of work experience for the class is 7.6 years. “So they are sitting right between the MBA experience, which is five years, and the Executive MBA experience which is 11,” says Hopp in an interview with Poets&Quants. “The quality of the applicants was just so good. It just made for a more diverse and interesting class. The students will get a lot out of the interaction because of their backgrounds.

“The purpose of going online was to offer our part-time MBA program to a wider audience than we can get out of southeast Michigan,” adds Hopp. Mission accomplished on that objective. It’s a nationwide program. This is anything but an auto-dominated class. Every industry is represented.”


Ross’ first class of online students work for a wide range of organizations across the U.S. including Boston Consulting Group, Comcast, Disney, Exxon Mobil, Google, KPMG, JPMorgan Chase, Nielsen, Unilever, the United States Postal Service, Yelp, and more. 

The inaugural class includes:

•An assistant United States attorney who was also a Fulbright Scholar, doing research in South Korea

•A doctor of medicine who is a full-time medical/surgical ophthalmologist

•An NCAA Division III Final Four semifinalist in men’s basketball

•Current and former military members, including a captain in the Special Forces (United States Army)

•A finalist for the PR News 2018 Social Media Awards

•A New York City marathon finisher

•An emergency preparedness coordinator and former paramedic

•The winner of a $20,000 statewide entrepreneurial competition

•A member of the Board of Directors of American Indian Services, a nonprofit organization providing emergency mental health, food, shelter, and other resources to urban Native Americans

•A head of fundraising efforts for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

•A classical piano player


Hopp says that roughly 4,500 prospective students contacted the school and started down the application process, with some 600 applications in some state of completion. “When we got down to the full contingent of GMAT scores, letters of recommendation and everything, we were down to 132 applicants,” says Hopp. “Our selectivity was in the range of 70% which is typical of part-time programs and our yield (the percentage of admits who enroll) was up over 70% as well. So once people actually went through the process and took the GMAT, they wanted in.” 

Ross was able to assemble its first class without significant scholarship dollars, according to Hopp. “We used a little scholarship money because some of these students were just terrific and we handed our some merit scholarships but not a lot—nothing like the amount of scholarship money being offered in the full-time programs now.”

Ross has priced its online MBA experience at the high end of the market, with a total tuition of $116,000 for Michigan residents and $126,000 for non-residents. That’s roughly equal to UNC’s current price tag of $125,589 and USC Marshall’s $106,197 but a hefty premium over Indiana’s KelleyDirect program at $74,520. Carnegie Mellon’s online hybrid MBA, which includes nearly 50 days of face-to-face sessions, remains the most expensive offering at $137,720 in tuition and fees. Rice, meantime, has priced its online option at $106,900.


Ross is now only one of six Top 25 business schools with online MBA programs, with Carnegie Mellon, UNC at Chapel Hill, Indiana’s Kelley School of Business, the University of Southern California and Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business.

In addition to the live, online group classes, students in the Ross online MBA will also take self-guided courses they complete on their own time  and come together on campus for three in-person residencies over the course of their degree.

The three residencies are designed to offer rigorous, in-person opportunities for action-based learning, equipping students with a deep understanding of leadership, transformation, and innovation, and providing experiences that are unique among online MBA programs.

The residencies make it difficult for Ross to enroll international students who would need a student visa to attend them. “We have some people in the first cohort who are international but they are U.S. citizens,” explains Hopp. “The reason for this is the visa requirements. Students must have a student visa and they are generally not granted for part-time programs like this. Either you go 100% online or not. At least for now, we are offering the residences in Ann Arbor. In the future, we could offer them in a different country and a visa wouldn’t be required.”