San Diego’s Knauss School To Pay For In-State Flights For Its New Flex MBA

University of San Diego’s Knauss School of Business new 120,000 square-foot building opened to students this fall. Courtesy photo

Three years after the start of the pandemic, amid a hyper-fast evolution of workplace preference and culture, business schools seem to be in the middle of what could be described as an arms race of innovation.

This September, Wake Forest was one of the latest business schools to launch a new hybrid MBA for working professionals while Emory Goizueta built its state-of-the-art Global Classroom in 2021 to combine the best of digital learning with real-time interactions in its pursuit of more flexible MBA formats. Meanwhile, The Wharton School raised everyone’s eyebrows this summer when it announced its new $214,800 Global EMBA which would be 75% online.

This week, the University of San Diego’s Knauss School of Business announced its own unique incentive for its new, relaunched Flex MBA: Free flights to and from San Diego for California students. (But hurry! Offer ends January 10.)


Knauss will welcome its first cohort for its new Flex MBA on January 18, 2023. The program was designed to remove as many barriers as possible to professionals considering an MBA, Kellyn Beltran, assistant director of outreach and recruitment for Knauss’ Flex MBA program, tells Poets&Quants.

Kellyn Beltran, assistant director of outreach and recruitment

Its 44 credits is among the lowest in the game, and it offers course waivers for students who have had relevant professional experience and course work. Its hybrid format includes 60% in-person classes with students coming to San Diego one weekend per month (Saturday and Sunday). The online portion is a blend of synchronous, asynchronous, discussions on Blackboard, and course reading and assignments. It’s a part-time program taking between 20 to 24 months to complete, and is also test optional.

In comparison, Knauss’ part-time MBA has in-person classes two evenings per week.

“We really wanted to make it even more accessible for our working professionals. Timing is something that these individuals really struggle with in addition to the financing. We wanted to find opportunities to make education a priority with all their other competing priorities,” Beltran says.


The Flex format – requiring travel to San Diego just once a month – will make it more feasible for people outside the area to take advantage. It makes the program not just more inclusive for people with demanding schedules and commitments, but also will help diversify the classrooms.

“We want to make sure that our San Diego population has different voices from different industries. San Diego is very heavy on biotech, life sciences, a lot of startups,” Beltran says. “But what can we learn from people from other cities that may be in different spaces and industries? How do we continue to not only collaborate, but make sure there’s a spectrum of different students in our classrooms. Because that’s really where the value is. You’re learning from each other as much as you are learning from your professor.”

That’s one reason why the school is offering the travel incentive to Flex students who enroll for the Spring 2023 semester. The incentive is good for one round-trip flight or train ticket (up to $300 in state) per month for the duration of the program so long as the student is continuously enrolled. Applications are still being accepted through January 10.

As of now, the program is only available to students who apply before January 10. But the school may choose to offer the incentive again, depending on how it goes, says Devan Sullivan, director of business admissions. And, it may consider expanding to regional locations outside of California.


Devan Sullivan, director of business admissions

Sullivan also notes that San Diego’s business ecosystem is changing as several Bay Area companies are looking at the southern end of the Golden State. Apple, for example, just spent more than $400 million to buy a new campus in the area, and will be staffing it within the next several years. Amazon has also invested in the area.

“We’re seeing these huge corporations coming and they need MBAs,” Sullivan says. “You don’t have to wait to get your MBA. You can start now, and we’ll pay for your flights. Or, you can complete it all from the Bay Area.”

Meanwhile, the space for part-time and hybrid MBAs is getting more and more crowded. Beltran notes that Google is now offering its own career certificates while Ernst and Young is teaming up with Hult University on their own MBA.

“I think we are seeing this in work environments too, but we all want more flexibility. That’s the whole point of this program – to make sure that someone who is working full time, or someone who is deployed overseas, can complete their degree,” Sullivan says. “At the end of the day, if you don’t keep up with the times, you’re going to fall behind.”


For fall 2022, the University of San Diego’s Knauss School of Business has also updated its entire MBA program. Its full-time residential, parttime, and flex programs are essentially the same MBA, just delivered in different formats, Beltran says. Changes to the updated curriculum include:

The entryway to the new Knauss Center for Business Education which opened to students in Fall 2022. Courtesy photo

  • Streamlined to 44 units, down from 53. It includes 30 core units and 14 electives. The change will save students over $14,000 in tuition. Tuition is now $68,860, or $1,565 per unit, for all three MBAs.
  • Both part-time and flex students can waive up to 14 units based on professional experience, previous coursework, and assessments. (At least 30 units must be completed at the University of San Diego to earn an MBA). Eligible students must have at least two years of work experience, a GPA of 3.0 or higher in their undergraduate degree, and relevant undergrad coursework within the last seven years.
  • Revised optional concentrations to focus on six in-demand areas. These include Business Analytics; Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Finance; Organizational Leadership; Marketing; and Supply Chain Management.
  • Expanded experiential learning opportunities to include Social Impact and International Consulting projects, designed to provide immediate impact to students’ careers.
  • Added a new flex class focused on emerging technologies and trends such as artificial intelligence and block chain. A capstone course focuses on the impact and relevance of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • Newly required Social Impact Consulting course that partners students with local organizations and microentrepreneurs to benefit the community or society. Business for Good is a core tenant for the Knauss School of Business and the University of San Diego — a Catholic university, and one of the first in the world to be designated a Changemaker campus.

“We still have the same rigor, the same focus on academic excellence. None of that has been diminished,” Sullivan says. “It’s just making it easier for our students to complete the degree in the sense of less credits, less money. I think it’s something that is really unique about our program.”


Flex students who take advantage of the new travel incentives will have a shiny new building as their destination for on-campus classes. The Knauss Center for Business Education opened for classes this fall.

Rivetti and Zocco Financial Markets Lab includes the largest Bloomberg site in the U.S. with access to 40 terminals. Courtesy photo

At 120,000 square feet – and with the recently renovated Olin Hall – the new complex is more than triple the size of the business school’s previous facility. It houses a suite to help seed student startups, a student success center, production studio, finance lab, and theater. The Rivetti and Zocco Financial Markets Lab includes the largest Bloomberg site in the U.S. with access to 40 terminals. The Berman Family Data Analytics Lab partners with local, regional and national companies to create real-world data projects for Knauss students.

The building was funded in part by a historic $50 million donation (one of the largest in university history) by USD Board Chairman Donald Knauss, the former CEO of Clorox, and his wife, Ellie.

“This is our investment in educating ethical and compassionate business leaders — leaders who enable a free enterprise system that creates wealth on a fair and equitable playing field,” Don Knauss said at the time of the gift’s announcement in December 2021. “Without the creation of wealth, no society can take care of its most vulnerable, lift the standards of living of its citizens or make the investments needed to preserve this planet for future generations.”


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