After closing down its full-time MBA program eight years ago, Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business has become the latest business school to launch an Online MBA option. The new $58,000 program will enroll its first cohort in July and expects to attract an inaugural class of 20 to 40 students but hopes to eventually expand the offering to hundreds of students.
Pamplin is joining a highly competitive and cluttered marketplace with at least 350 other online MBAs offerings in the U.S. alone. In the recently published U.S. News ranking of Online MBA options, the magazine placed numerical ranks on 295 online MBA programs but lists 324 online MBA programs. There are already more than a dozen online MBAs at universities in Virginia, including the highly ranked long-distance option at the College of William & Mary’s Mason School of Business which ranked 19th best in the world by Poets&Quants.
At a cost of $58,000, moreover, the Pamplin program is coming to market at a price that is more than twice that of the two disruptive online MBA programs at the University of Illinois Gies College of Business and Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, respectively priced at $22,000 and $24,000. Pamplin will be about $6,000 less expensive than William & Mary’s $64,300 online option.
MOST OF PAMPLIN’S ONLINE MBA STUDENTS WILL BE VIRGINIANS
Though online programs allow schools to break through natural geographic barriers to competition, most Online MBA programs still draw students from a 50-mile radius of their school’s home campus. The upshot: Many would-be students who could easily opt for more highly ranked business school brands still tend to enroll in programs that are close to home.
“Most of the students I believe are going to be Virginians around the area, because that’s where our brand recognition is the best,” Pamplin Dean Robert Sumichrast told The Roanoke Times in an interview. “But Virginia Tech has a national reputation and the nice thing about an online education is there’s no boundary to where the student will be.”
Sumichrast said his school’s abrupt shift to remote learning due to the pandemic helped to convince Pamplin to offer a fully Online MBA. “What was the spur that said, Do it today instead of six months ago? It’s true, it was the pandemic,” he added. “and the additional experience we were having with teaching online in a variety of settings and successfully being able to engage with students.”
ELECTIVE TRACKS IN DATA ANALYTICS, CYBERSECURITY, HEALTH IT & GLOBAL BUSINESS
The 22-month program, which will not require either a GMAT or GRE for admission, will be fully online without any required face-to-face immersions. Students starting in July 2021 will graduate in May 2023. Roughly half of the program will be delivered asynchronously, with the remaining half delivered through a synchronous live on the Internet component during periodic class weekends. The school believes this format provides students the flexibility to take classes from anywhere. The program’s cohort-based format will allow students to take classes in lockstep from start to finish.
The curriculum will provide a series of elective tracks in such areas as cybersecurity, health information technology, business data analytics, or international business. The school plans to combine existing students from its evening MBA and master of information technology programs with its new online MBA students in the elective tracks.
There’s also an optional in-person study abroad opportunity. Typically two weeks in length, the trips allow students to visit several multinational and international corporations, local businesses, and cultural venues. A Scandinavia study abroad program combined classroom study in international business operations and logistics with two weeks of travel in Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Students participated in corporate visits with companies such as LEGO, IKEA, Fiskars, Stora Enso, Vestas, Tetra Pak, Carlsberg and Marimekko. The locations for the course will vary and recent destinations have included China, Argentina & Peru, Germany & the Czech Republic, and South Africa.
Virginia Tech currently offers an Evening MBA, an Executive MBA and a hybrid Professional MBA. The school closed its full-time MBA in Blacksburg eight years ago due to declining enrollment. “This decision was made in part because of the lack of proximity of Blacksburg to major employers that would be key to a highly successful MBA program,” according to a university report on graduate education published last year.
At an expected price tag of $58,000, Pamplin’s online MBA will be priced at the same level as the school’s evening MBA. Final tuition rates for program are to be finalized by the university’s Board of Visitors. Applications for the program are due May 1. Among other things, the admissions process requires a two-minute video in which applicants must tell something about themselves or their experiences prior to a thirty-minute interview via Zoom with the director of MBA programs.