Wharton To Have Blend Of In-Person, Virtual MBA Classes In The Fall

Wharton plans to have some in-person classes in the fall, blended with remote instruction. Wharton photo

For more than a month, Blair Mannix has thought about little else besides what the 2020 fall semester will look like at The Wharton School. Now she knows: Classes will be part on-campus and part virtual, per a recent communication by Wharton Dean Geoff Garrett.

And in an additional bit of good news, for the first time in years there will be no tuition hike for incoming students.

Mannix, Wharton’s director of MBA admissions, has spent much of the past six weeks fielding questions about whether Wharton will open its Philadelphia campus in early September. Now she has answers, which she shared exclusively with Poets&Quants on Wednesday (April 29) before talking with admits: In-person classes will be mixed with remote instruction, with first consideration going to safe practices, and tuition will be frozen — in fact it will go down slightly because total fees will be reduced, bringing the cost for Wharton MBA Class of 2022 students down to $80,432 compared to $81,378 for the Class of 2021.

“We talk about this every day — I haven’t thought about anything else since March 19,” Mannix tells P&Q. “On Monday at 5:05 p.m. it was communicated to us in an email from Penn President Amy Gutmann that that the University is planning for a likely combination of in-class and virtual teaching depending upon the circumstances. I know that many in the industry have been going that way.”

Between 2018 and 2019, Wharton hiked MBA tuition 3.1%. The decision not to have a hike this year was discussed pre-pandemic: “We were very seriously close to that tuition freeze decision before March, but this obviously pushed us over the edge,” Mannix says.


Blair Mannix of Wharton: Wharton photo

In another piece of news that will come as a relief to international students, they will be able to defer until 2021 if they cannot secure a visa to come to the United States, Mannix says. Those with merit scholarships will not lose them if they defer to next year.

Deferrals, specifically whether to grant them, have been a thorny question for business schools since the coronavirus pandemic shut down campuses across the globe in mid-March, throwing plans for the fall into widespread doubt and disarray. But while Wharton has aligned itself with schools like Harvard Business School that have more liberal policies and will grant deferrals to internationals who can’t get to the U.S. — and judge others on a case-by-case basis — Mannix urges admits to not seek a deferral, and instead rally to attend in the fall.

“We are ensuring that our internationals, or other students that have health concerns about being in big groups of people, can participate remotely in the fall,” she says. “We have communicated this over and over to our international students: Anyone who cannot get a visa to study in the United States during this time will be granted a deferral.”

The Wharton MBA program is aiming for the same class size as last year, about 850 students. However, “If you want a deferral,” she told admits later in the day, “apply for it!” Deferrals will be granted to foreign students who seek visas “in good faith” but are unsuccessful, but those who seek a deferral and are not granted one for some reason will have their $2,000 deposit returned.

In another development, Wharton’s Pre-Term, a three-week orientation for incoming MBA students, has been pushed back by five days. Originally scheduled for August 10, it has been moved to August 15. Cost for Pre-Term will be reduced to $850 from $2,000.


“I’ve been a member of the University of Pennsylvania community for almost 15 years,” Mannix says, “and I know in my soul that Penn would never — and could never — take the easy way out on this. I think Penn will figure out the best possible solution to get the most amount of students on campus for the most amount of time, to deliver the most content and curriculum in-person as humanly possible. That is who the University of Pennsylvania is, and I know right now we have top health experts working on this at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

“And I do think the entire university ecosystem in the United States — colleges and universities across the United States — are moving toward this. It’s in everybody’s best interest to figure out creative ways to get students on campus. And I do believe we’ll be a leader in that charge.

“But unfortunately where we are right now is, we’re going to have to ask our students to make some decisions with incomplete information and some unknowns on the table. I think a lot of universities are saying this: ‘We want to support you. We want to make sure we can give you enough information to make those decisions with incomplete information.’ We’re trying to make decisions with incomplete information and it’s a tough time for all of us, but that’s what we’re going to ask our students to do.”

Mannix did not make an announcement about the status of Wharton’s San Francisco campus, where MBA students have had the option to study for a semester.


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