The Big Brand B-Schools Tiptoe Into The Online MBA Market

NYU Stern School of Business

The big brand business schools are tip-toeing their way into the online MBA market. This year, for the first time ever, both UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business and New York University’s Stern School of Business will welcome online cohorts of 50 to 60 students in their part-time MBA programs.

They are entering what is already a cluttered market of online MBA players that include the business schools at the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon University, and Rice University. What’s more, Stern and Haas are making their online degree debut at a time when student enrollment in online MBA programs already exceeds that of the full-time, on-campus residential market in the U.S. (see In U.S., Online MBA Students Now Exceed Full-Time MBAs) and when employers are more accepting of online MBA degrees. A study released last December by the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy found that 71% of employers now view business degrees acquired online as equal to or better than traditional programs in quality.

Berkeley, whose full-time MBA is ranked ninth, and Stern, with a full-time MBA ranking of 13th, will most likely have elite company in the near term. A recent survey of B-school deans found that 89% of them predict that a top-five business school–Stanford, Chicago Booth, Wharton, Harvard, or Northwestern—will launch a fully online MBA within the next three to five years.

NYU Stern & Berkeley Haas Reporting Strong Demand For Their Debut Online MBA Cohorts

NYU Stern’s Isser Gallogly, associate dean of MBA admissions & innovation

So far, both schools report strong demand for the new online options. Jaime Breen, Haas’s assistant dean for MBA programs, told Inside Higher Ed that applications for the Flex option were “as strong or stronger” than the normal pool for the part-time program and that applications from women and active military members increased significantly.

It’s a similar story at NYU Stern. “The interest is very strong,” says Isser Gallogly, associate dean of MBA admissions and program innovation, at NYU Stern. “Over 25% of all the part-time applicants wanted it as their first choice option. This is the first intake but we have more women applying to it than men. About 51% of our applicants are women. This dovetails with something we’ve seen over the past two years where the yield rate for women has been higher for the part-time program. It may also be that the notion of having online classes is perhaps more important to working professional women than it is to men.

“It stands to reason because women have a few more things going on in their lives. They are obviously more involved in childcare and dual-income homes. It will be interesting to see if having online options allow more women to pursue their part-time degrees.”

Gallogly says that surveys conducted by NYU Stern found that more than 70% believed that having an online option was very important to their decision to apply.

“Clearly it’s important for people to have that flexibility,” he says. “The other interesting thing is the geographic breakdown: About 40% of the applicants live in the Tri-State area which to me indicates that part of the desire of this is the scheduling flexibility. They are working remotely so they may as well study remotely. For some people, having this option is really nice. About 20% are in the Northeast Corridor, from D.C. to Boston, while about 40% are outside the Northeast.”

How The NYU Stern & UC-Berkeley Online MBA Programs Compare

Details NYU Stern UC-Berkeley Haas
Total Price $159,257 $148,386
Duration 2 to 6 years 2.5 to 3 years
Cohort Size 50-60 (Plans to break initial cohort into 2 groups) 70-75
Program Name Online/Modular Option Flex Option
Core Classes All Online All Online
Electives Classes Online, On-Campus, or Week-Long Modules Online or On-Campus
Live Internet Classes Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday  7-9 p.m. ET Tuesdays & Thursdays 4-6 p.m. PT
In-Person Requirements 9 credits 3-weekend immersions
Program Start Mid-September & Early February (2 intakes) July

Over A Quarter Of Stern’s Part-Time MBA Applicants Picked Online As Their First Choice

No less crucial, they are doing so at the highest price points, a reflection of their brand power, reputations, smaller class sizes, and the fact that the online courses will be taught by the same faculty in their part-time MBAs. Berkeley positions the offering as the “same Berkeley MBA without the commute.”

The NYU Stern online option costs $159,257, while the Berkeley Haas option is priced at $148,386. That makes them the two most expensive online MBA programs in the world. Both programs exceed the price tag on what had been the most expensive hybrid online MBA at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. That program–lasting three years with many more in-residence sessions–currently is priced at $146,867 (see The Most & Least Expensive Online MBA Programs).

Stern’s online MBA is nearly $34,000 more than the $125,589 price tag on UNC Kenan-Flagler’s online MBA and over $77,000 higher than the posted price on Indiana University’s KelleyDirect online MBA at $82,158. Yet, UNC and Indiana have been neck-and-neck at the top of the rankings of the best online MBA programs for years. And unlike Stern or Haas, Kelley has locked in its online MBA tuition rate until the summer of 2025. And some online several disruptively priced online MBAs are among the fastest-growing in the world at the University of Illinois Gies College of Business and at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business where the online MBA programs boast sticker prices of $23,040 and $24,000, respectively.

“It’s priced the same because it is the same program,” says Gallogly. “We are not offering an online MBA. It’s not one of these sit home and watch videos when you want. The courses are live. It’s not just prerecorded content. And it’s taught by the same faculty who teach our other courses. Some people are going to push back on New York pricing. We are not the least expensive MBA program out there but we think the price is appropriate for the quality of the program we offer.”

‘This is not an online MBA’

Both schools also go to pains to maintain that their programs are not online MBA programs because they contain some required in-person sessions in addition to the weekly online classes. But that is not unlike any other quality online MBA experience from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, the University of North Carolina’s MBA@UNC or many other offerings.

Even so, in Stern’s description of its Online/Modular Option on the web, the school states: “This is not an online MBA, but rather a hybrid approach that combines some online learning with in-person courses taught on campus in NYC.”

In truth, a student need only show up on campus for two one-week-long modules during the three years of the program to meet Stern’s requirement that at least nine elective credits must be completed in person.

The entire MBA core curriculum is online at both Stern and Haas

Berkeley’s new “Flex Option” requires only three week-end immersions on-campus starting with a Friday-through-Sunday orientation, a leadership communications course in the second half of the second semester, and a course on business communications in diverse environments at a resort in Napa Valley on Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday weekend in the January of the fourth semester.

In both programs, the entire core curriculum is online, with weekly live Internet classes. Stern students who choose the Online/Modular Option will have the option to rank their Fall 2022 class choice between a Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday class schedule. But as much as half or more of the content is delivered in an asynchronous fashion via videos, exercises, and readings that can be done at any time that suits a student’s schedule.

Each school, however, adds a twist to the online program for the electives. At Berkeley Haas, a student can choose to take elective courses either online or on-campus with other evening and and weekend part-time classmates after the first three semesters of core classwork. Students can select a mix or go completely online or entirely on campus.

Students in the new “Flex” cohort will take approximately half of their coursework in asynchronous format, or live instruction basis online, and half in an asynchronous mode via recorded content and discussion boards. The weekend residencies start with an in-person orientation, a leadership communications weekend immersion, and a mid-program academic review capstone course.

At Stern, electives can be taken online or in-person on weeknights or Saturdays

At Stern, students may do their elective work online, in-person on weeknights or Saturdays with other part-timers, in week-long, in-person, seminar-style modules. The only catch is that in-person requirement of nine credits. Stern plans to have at least five different modules, including Tech Innovation and Thinking Strategically, available during the 2023-2024 academic year and to add more over time. 

Meantime, some 16 of the school’s most popular electives will be regularly offered online, from Corporate Finance to Managing Change, while 13 specific-focus electives are also expected to go online, from Modeling Financial Statements to Biotechnology Industry, Structure & Strategy.

“When you look at the interest in this type of program, clearly the ability to do things remotely is there,” adds Gallogly. “People are working and shopping remotely and hanging out with friends remotely. Right now it is very important to people. The doors (to online learning) have been swung open wide and this is probably something that will be with us for a long time.”

The Most Expensive Online MBA Programs In The U.S.

School Full Pricetag Required Credits Cost Per Credit
New York University (Stern) $159,257 80 $2,434
UC-Berkeley (Haas) $148,386 42 $3,533
Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper) $146,867 192 units $758
University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) $125,589 62 $2,025
University of Michigan (Ross) $125,000* 57 $2,137
university of Southern California (Marshall) $119,822 51 $2,197
Rice University (Jones) $115,800 54 $2,100
UC-Davis $105,480 72 $1,465
George Washington University $109,253 46.5 $2,285
Pepperdine University $103,740 52 #1,995

* Tuition for non-residents of Michigan. The cost of the online MBA for residents of the state is $115,000.




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