For The ‘Free MBA’ Quantic, A Stratospheric Summer

The application picture is just beginning to come into focus at the top business schools in the United States. After much doubt and consternation over a spring and summer of coronavirus that followed a plunge in apps across the leading schools, we are seeing the first real evidence of what extended application deadlines, higher acceptance rates, bigger incentive packages, and more have wrought at the leading MBA programs. And the evidence should please those with a stake in the success of brick-and-mortar graduate business education: At the few schools that have released program data so far, we see waves of new applicants and overwhelming interest — even, some dare to hope, a full reversal of recent years’ decline. At Columbia, Dartmouth, and Harvard, MBA app volume is where it was last year or greater.

But the talent is hedging its bets some, too. Those doubts about paying top dollar for what amounts to an online MBA are still there — and that’s the space where Quantic School of Business and Technology lives and thrives.

Quantic, launched in 2019, styles itself as “The Business School of the Future” and it has a strong case: Even as traditional B-schools celebrate incremental gains and a hoped-for return to pre-recession numbers, this mobile-first school that offers a free MBA and an affordable Executive MBA has seen a 40% jump in applicants in the last five months. Through August, more than 30,000 applied.


Tom Adams, founder and CEO of Quantic.

Applications to top-10 MBA programs decreased by 5.9% between 2018 and 2019, and while the pandemic may not be having the expected compounding downward effect on apps, the long-term trend remains one of plateauing interest, in large part because of cost. At the top-25 schools, the cost of a two-year, full-time residential MBA never goes down year to year. Co-founded by former Rosetta Stone CEO Tom Adams, Alexie Harper, and Ori Ratner, Quantic is among the alternatives that have stepped into the vacuum created by the rising price of graduate business education even as the need for leadership and the skills cultivated by B-school remain as pressing as ever.

“The need for strategic leadership has never been greater — an MBA education is still very much in-demand, but the current model feels antiquated for so many working adults,” says Adams, president of Quantic. “Quantic opens up the opportunity for rising executives, technology leaders and entrepreneurs to earn an MBA through an approach that re-imagines online learning to meets the objectives of the modern workplace.”

Quantic is on pace to receive over 70,000 applications in 2020, a growth of 80% year-over-year. It received U.S. accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission earlier this year.

“Quantic’s innovative teaching model is built around a highly effective, interactive, personalized pedagogy,” says Leah Matthews, executive director and CEO of the DEAC. “It’s a model and approach that holds great potential for online education. We look forward to what lies ahead for Quantic as it continues to test the boundaries of pedagogical innovation to create programs that are not just highly selective, but highly relevant to today’s learners.”


A big misperception about Quantic and other disruptors in the biz ed space is that they lack selectivity. In Quantic’s case that is exactly wrong. Of the more than 30,000 applicants so far this year, just 11% were accepted into Quantic’s selective MBA and Executive MBA programs. Among them are over 350 students from Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. Quantic students are three times more likely than students in other selective MBA programs to have a product, R&D, or engineering management background, according to the company.

The 10-month Quantic MBA program is free — a benefit made possible in part by the $9,600 price tag on the Quantic Executive MBA, a 12-month program that is designed more for those in mid-career. The free MBA program doesn’t require students to quit their job or move to attend a top MBA program, Adams says: Quantic’s interactive technology is flexible in format, designed to make learning stick for professionals.

Quantic students participate in bite-sized, interactive lessons and an accompanying peer-learning platform. Seventy percent of lessons are completed on a smartphone by all students, who have an interaction in the learning engine every 8 seconds. There’s no video professor — Quantic’s model is interactive learning “like no one else is offering it, certainly not in higher ed,” Adams, a 2001 INSEAD MBA, told P&Q in May. “And then we’ve done a lot to create a fantastic peer experience, and we also run events around the world where students can come together.”

Bottom line: It works, and it’s popular.

“If you take the percentage of people who say they would give us a 9 out of 10 on the question, ‘Would recommend it to a friend?’ and then you take away what the formula says are detractors, which are people who give you between a zero and a six, we get between 64 and 70 consistently,” Adams said. “And that’s at a level higher than any of the top business schools in the world. So that’s kind of the disruptive model. It’s kind of a network-first, mobile-first, highly interactive, very differentiated learning modality. And we’ve only just officially launched.”


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