The University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business officially announced a new option to its Evening and Weekend MBA program this week. Dubbed the “Flex MBA,” Poets&Quants first reported about the new MBA option in July when Haas Dean Ann Harrison spoke about it at the CentreCourt MBA Festival.
The program will bump up the flexibility of MBA formatting options at one of the world’s highest-ranked business schools. Besides the full-time MBA and MBA for executives, Haas will now have three ways individuals can earn an MBA from what is essentially its part-time program.
Previously, the Evening and Weekend MBA program gave students the option to take classes in-person either on Monday and Wednesday evenings, Tuesday and Thursday evenings, or all day on Saturdays. Students in the Flex version of the program will take their first three semesters of core courses fully online. While those first three semesters will be online, courses will be given on a synchronous basis on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
The program will enroll its first cohort of around 60 students in July 2022. Applications to all three versions of the Evening and Weekend MBA program open on August 17.
THE ONLINE MBA THAT DOESN’T WANT TO BE CALLED AN ONLINE MBA
Though it will be possible to complete UC-Berkeley Haas’ Flex MBA program entirely online, Berkeley officials are not calling it an online MBA program. After completing the three semesters of online core courses, students will have the option to take electives with the other Evening and Weekend MBA cohorts, in-person on Berkeley’s campus on weeknights or on Saturdays. There are three required in-person immersion weekends with the option of tacking on two additional immersion weekends for five total. Evening and weekend students are only required to take two immersion weekends.
Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs for Working Professionals at Haas says school officials began discussing the Flex MBA option all the way back in 2014. Breen says there were already indications of interest in an online-based version of the Evening and Weekend degree in the applicant pool and market.
“We have a really strong applicant pool to our program,” Breen says of the overall Evening and Weekend MBA program. “But we also know from our admissions inquiries and studies and analysis of the market that there are people that would love to come to Haas and that Haas would love to have, but coming to campus either two nights a week or all day on Saturdays for three years is just hard. It’s a barrier to their ability to actually apply for and complete the degree.”
THE PANDEMIC SLOWED, BUT ALSO HELPED LAUNCH, THE NEW PROGRAM
UC-Berkeley actually approved the program in 2015, but plans were stalled because of budget shortfalls. “At that time, the university — not the Haas School — but the university was having some financial difficulties,” Breen tells Poets&Quants on a phone call. The investment in online learning infrastructure would be significant and the university asked Haas to hold off on it, Breen elaborated.
In 2018, Breen says, the school started plans again to move forward but was unable to get it off the ground before the coronavirus outbreak began in early 2020. The pandemic both slowed the implementation of the Flex MBA but also helped build the infrastructure and get faculty interested in the online learning space.
“We’ve built an entire Haas digital department that works with faculty to develop asynchronous and synchronous content,” Breen explains. “We built online classrooms last year during the pandemic that we intend to use for this program.” Breen also added many of the core faculty members have been developing and teaching online curriculum through the executive education program at Haas. “A lot of the faculty have had positive reactions to these different modalities and how it will continue to help them teach,” she adds.
PROGRAM WILL COST NEARLY $150K
The application, admissions process, and cost of the program will all be exactly the same as the other versions of the Evening and Weekend program. Breen says the school believes there are still many individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area to tap into for this program, but like the other Evening and Weekend programs, there will also likely be some coming from outside of the region. “We learned from the pandemic that students outside of the Bay Area and in the Bay Area like having that flexibility of not having to come to class,” Breen says.
While the plan is to enroll around 60 people for the initial cohort, Breen says the plan is to double that with another cohort within the next few years. The entire Evening and Weekend program currently has 314 students enrolled in the Class of 2023. All versions of the program will cost a total of $148,386. If students were to take the program fully online, it would be among the most expensive of fully online MBA programs.
Breen says seeing how these first couple of years of applications, enrolling students, and actually starting classes will impact how the program moves forward. “We’re about to test ourselves in the marketplace and that’s always exhilarating and scary.”