The $22,000 online MBA program at the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business has been the fastest growing MBA on the planet in recent years. That trend looks like to continue based on a new record of applications the school has received for its just ended deadline of Sept. 15.
Applications to Gies’ iMBA program soared by 75% to 3,272 candidates, the school announced. The boom was helped no doubt by the introduction of a new October cohort. Last fall, Gies only had an August cohort to admit to the program. The online MBA program has gone from zero to some 4,000 students in the program from 2016 to this fall. In August, Gies passed the more than 1,000 mark for graduates of its iMBA.
The school also received 556 applications for its new iMSM program, a sum that is bigger than Gies’ first iMBA application cycle back in 2016. Those candidates are applying to be in the first cohort of the school’s online year-long master’s in management program largely for pre-experience students. The cost of that program is also disruptive: Just $11,000.
‘WE’VE BROKEN DOWN THE TRADITIONAL BARRIERS OF ACCESS AND AFFORDABILITY’
Brooke Elliott, the associate dean of online programs at the Gies College of Business, attributes the growth to both access and affordability. “When I think about what we do, and I talk about our mission, our mission is to provide accessible, affordable, high-quality business education to all who desire it and are committed to pursuing it,” she tells Poets&Quants. “We’ve broken down the traditional barriers of access and affordability to high-quality business education, and amazing things happen when you remove those traditional barriers.”
It was in the midst of the pandemic last May that Gies decided to open up a new October cohort for the iMBA. “We wanted to provide opportunities for individuals to continue to pursue this type of education,” adds Elliott. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in this environment. By increasing the number of intakes when a learner can start our program, we’re increasing access and flexibility.”
In June, Gies published a wealth of data on its iMBA program. The school disclosed that it received 3,517 applications for the 2019-2020 academic year and accepted 53% of those who applied. The average GMAT score, for an undisclosed number of enrolled students who provided that data, was 633, with an average undergraduate GPA of 3.25. On average, students brought 11.6 years of work experience with them into the iMBA program and took 2.4 years to complete the program and graduate. But work experience varied greatly, from 37 iMBA admits with less than a year’s experience and one with 43 years of experience who is actually 70 years old.
Gies has reported that the retention rate for the program is 95%, a number indicating the percentage of students who re-enroll after their initial term. The page also includes the names of Fortune 500 companies, including AT&T, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Caterpillar, State Farm Insurance, and Abbvie, whose employees are taking or have already earned their iMBA degrees.