The online MBA degree continues to grow in legitimacy and popularity. Top business schools like the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management have all launched programs either within the past couple of years or not much before then.
Schools such as the University of Illinois Gies College of Business, meantime, have double-downed on its $22K online MBA and have seen applications grow from a few hundred to nearly 4,000 all within the past few years. But Illinois Gies, which declines to participate in rankings, isn’t the only school to see some seriously substantial growth over the past few years. As part of our annual ranking of online MBA programs, we ask schools to report total annual applications and enrollment. For the first time, we’ve compiled three-year trends for most of the 47 schools ranked this year.
No other school has seen more growth in applications than the Jack Welch Management Institute, which has seen its application pool grow by more than 40% over the past three years. The online school named for the late and legendary CEO of General Electric has seen a three-year application increase of 3,414 candidates, surging 148% from 2,307 applications in 2018 to 5,721 this past year. Washington State University’s Online MBA program saw the next biggest increase in applications, jumping by 111% to 611 applicants from 546 in 2018 to 1,159 in 2020. This year’s No. 1 ranked school–Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business–posted the third-highest growth in applicants, going from 572 applicants in 2018 to 1,013 in 2020, a 77% jump in percentage terms.
APPLICATIONS UP AN AVERAGE OF 81 OVER THE PAST THREE YEARS
Overall, applications to our ranked programs have gained by an average of 81 applicants since 2018. Among all programs to submit data, average applications have increased from 356 in 2018 to 437 in 2020. But the real surge came between 2019 when application averages dipped to 353 to 2020 when they lept to 437. Of the 38 schools to report data for 2018 and 2020, 24 reported application increases. Some schools, however, did see significant drops during that time. Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business had 180 fewer applicants in 2020 compared to 2018. American University’s Kogod School of Business had 160 fewer applications and the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School had 130 fewer applications.
While applications grew dramatically at many schools, that doesn’t always translate to increased enrollment numbers. On average, the 38 schools to report entire three-year enrollment data had an average increase of just two students. Jack Welch Management Institute, for example, actually had 47 fewer students enroll in its online MBA program in 2020 compared to 2018 despite receiving an additional 3,400 applicants during the same timeframe. Washington State experienced the largest enrollment increase, gaining 448 more students into its program between 2018 and 2020. The University of Cincinnati had the second-highest student increase, going from 86 students in 2018 to 225 in 2020. Louisiana State University saw the next highest jump, increasing student enrollment by 118 spots.
Of the 38 schools reporting enrollment data over the past three years, 24 had enrollment increases, 13 saw decreases, and one stayed flat. Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School had the largest student population decrease, dropping 98 students between 2018 and 2020. UNC’s Kenan-Flagler had the second-largest enrollment decrease of 85 students. Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business had 69 fewer students enrolled between 2018 and 2020.
See the next two pages for the entire application and enrollment data.
The 2021 Poets&Quants Online MBA Rankings Package