Wake Forest University’s School of Business is launching an online MBA program that will enroll its first cohort of up to 50 students this fall. The 30-month-long program will feature two extended weekend residences a year, including an on-campus orientation before the start of classes on Sept. 7th.
At steady state, the school hopes to enroll between 350 and 400 online MBA students, roughly equal to the enrollment in its working professional and evening MBA programs in Winston-Salem and Charlotte, N.C., according to Mark Johnson, assistant dean of MBA Programs at Wake Forest.
“We saw our students getting busier and busier with demands from employers and their personal lives,” says Johnson. “We felt this would continue and that students would want increased flexibility. That helped us arrive at a decision to add another iteration of our MBA program online.”
WAKE FOREST’S ONLINE MBA WILL COMPETE AGAINST UNC & NC STATE
Wake Forest is entering the market at a time when there are as many as 350 online MBA programs in the U.S. alone. When U.S. News published its latest online MBA ranking in January, a record 335 business schools participated. Yet, still more players are entering the market, including Boston University this fall.
Even though online education brings down geographic barriers to learning, the vast majority of students enrolled in long-distance programs live within a 150-mile radius of a school’s main campus. Wake Forest’s new program will, therefore, face significant competition from two strong, early players within that space: the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, with an online MBA offering priced at $125,589, and North Carolina State’s Poole College of Management, with an online MBA costing $44,955. Both programs are highly ranked, with UNC placing fifth and Jenkins 22nd in the most recent 2020 ranking by Poets&Quants.
The school is pricing its offering between those two rivals at $67,815, roughly $23,000 more than NC State and nearly $58,000 less expensive than UNC. Johnson says that Wake Forest based its pricing on the per credit charge for the school’s existing working professional and evening MBA programs. “We are not going to compete on price,” he says. “We are going to be consistent across our other MBA programs and compete on quality.”
THREE INTAKES OF ONLINE MBAS IN THE FALL, WINTER & SPRING
The school will have three intakes of online MBAs a year, with terms starting in September, January, and May. While Johnson expects enrollment to equal its 350 to 400 MBA level of the working professional and evening programs, he says that the ultimate size of the program will be dependent on the qualifications of its applicants. “We want quality in the program and we are not going to compromise on our academic standards for the sake of increasing the size of the program,” he says.
Wake Forest is encouraging applicants to its online MBA program to apply with either a GMAT or GRE score but is willing to waive the test based on years of work experience, an advanced degree, undergraduate GPA, or other criteria. Few online MBA programs mandate a standardized test and most waive it to build enrollment. At UNC, for example, only 10% of the enrolled online students submitted a GMAT or GRE score for admission.
“We want students to take the GMAT or the GRE,” says Johnson. “A lot of online programs are pretty generous in considering waivers. It’s hard to put an exact number on the number of waivers we will give. It is one metric among many to evaluate academic strength.”
WILL ENTER MARKET UNDER A PARTNERSHIP WITH KAPLAN
Wake Forest is entering the online MBA market under a partnership with Kaplan Inc., which has partnered with Purdue University for two other online MBA programs. Kaplan will provide online technology and analytics to support enrollment and student services.
The weekend residencies, scheduled twice a year in the fall and spring semesters, will be optional. “We’ll put on co-curricular content and provide networking opportunities for students during them,” says Johnson. “it’s to get them acclimated to the Wake Forest experience.” The school also will invite online MBA students to participate in the global immersion trips available to the school’s other MBAs.
Online MBA students will earn an MBA after completing 45 credits, nine credits shy of the 54 credit requirement for MBAs in its working professional and evening programs. Seven of the eight semesters in the program require six credits. In semester one, for example, students will take a 1.5-credit course on diverse teams, a 1.5 credit class on purpose and ethics in business, and a 3-credit course on behavior and leadership in organizations. Students also will have the opportunity to do a concentration in one of three subject areas: business analytics, finance, or strategy and leadership.
DOESN’T YET KNOW HOW MANY LIVE INTERNET CLASSES WILL BE IN PROGRAM
Johnson says the faculty is still working out how many live Internet classes will be held per course. “Some content lends itself a little more naturally to synchronous sessions,” he says. “We haven’t landed as a school on a precise number of sessions per course. The faculty will decide based on what they teach.”
This will be the second online degree program being offered by Wake Forest’s business school. The school will graduate its first online cohort in a master’s of business analytics launched two years ago. Some 70 to 80 students are enrolled in that program.
Wake Forest shut down the school’s full-time MBA program in 2015 after declines in both applications and enrollment over several years (see Wake Forest Exists Full-Time MBA Market).