The Disruptors: An Online MBA For Under $10K?

Rasmussen University entered the online MBA market last year with a simple proposition: Earn an affordable, competency-based MBA in as little as 18 months. Courtesy

Scrolling through his phone, Jeffrey Booth didn’t believe the advertisement’s headline. An online MBA for $10,000? It must be an error, he thought. Maybe a scam.

Booth, a facilities and environmental services manager at a large healthcare system in Minnesota, had been kicking around the idea of getting an MBA for a while. But at 44, with fewer years left in the workforce than, say, a 26 year old, he wasn’t sure he’d have time to recoup the investment, and most programs he saw were charging $40,000, $50,000 or more. Further, two decades removed from his undergrad degree, the thought of a traditional classroom just wasn’t appealing.

“So, when I heard $10,000, it was a no brainer. As a dad, a working professional, a husband, a person who has time demands that are incredible, I needed something super flexible and something that gave me the ability to drive my own learning,” he tells Poets&Quants.

He found that at Rasmussen University.


In fall 2020, Rasmussen University entered the online MBA market with a simple proposition: Earn an affordable, competency-based MBA in as little as 18 months. The degree is priced just shy of $10,000. Its first cohort of students, including Booth, will graduate this spring, though some have graduated already by taking three courses per quarter instead of two.

Jennifer Moorhead, Department Dean of Rasmussen’s School of Business

As the cost of an MBA continues to rise, more prospective students are putting pencil to paper to calculate whether the hefty price tag is worth the investment. Expected salary, time left in the workforce, time to completion, and cost of the degree all come into play. Even in the online space, MBA costs at the top schools can reach six figures, and many are climbing, according to Poets&Quants’ look at the most and least expensive online MBA programs for 2021. For example, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business’ online MBA program cost $141,320, up from $132,000 in 2018. 

Rasmussen isn’t the only player in the low-cost niche. Rogers State University of Oklahoma’s 18-month online MBA costs just $10,880, North Dakota’s Nistler College of Business is $18,391, and University of Massachusettes-Lowell is $19,650. While there may still be a stigma around a lower-priced, online master’s, it appears to be dissipating. Students who aren’t looking for careers in consulting, investment banking or other high-salaried industries can’t see the value in the expensive programs at top-ranked business schools. Online programs are often better tailored to their local markets because they are developed with the workforce, and the employers, in mind. 

“Unfortunately, folks often have a negative connotation with a lower priced program, but we did not develop this to be an MBA Light,” says Jennifer Moorhead, Department Dean of Rasmussen’s School of Business and General Education. “Rasmussen follows a standardized curriculum and program development process agnostic of market price. The curriculum is built with just as much rigor and attention to quality regardless of the price.”

Rasmussen is a private, for-profit university with 23 campuses across six states. Its total enrollment is around 17,000, but doesn’t publish figures for individual programs, Moorhead says. It is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

The university caters to more non-traditional students who are older or from underrepresented groups, who already participate in the job market, and who are looking for skills and/or degrees to help them find a better job or advance in their careers. That’s who this online MBA targets as well. It requires no GRE or GMAT and offers four start dates per year. The school works closely with local industry to develop programs that are in demand in their markets, Moorhead says.

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