The online Professional MBA program at the University of Texas-Dallas Naveen Jindal School of Management is basically indistinguishable from the school’s on-campus, full-time MBA, says Lisa Shatz, assistant dean and director of MBA programs. Created in 1999, the online MBA mirrors its in-person counterpart in most respects, with the exception that some electives are available only at the school’s campus in Richardson, Texas, also known as the “Telecom Corridor.”
This in itself would make the UT online MBA, if not unique, certainly rare among its peers. But what truly sets the program apart is its many options for pursuing a dual MBA/MS degree: outside of its concentration offerings that include supply chain, data analytics, finance, and marketing, the school offers 11 dual degree subjects. Among them are five STEM degrees: Business Analytics, Energy Management, Information Technology and Management, Management Science, and Supply Chain Management.
“Questions about the online MBA are always challenging for us because in our case, which is probably unlike the other top MBAs, our program really isn’t different between online and in-class,” Shatz tells Poets&Quants. “When people say, ‘How many people do you have in your online MBA program?’ We don’t even know that. We have to make some assumptions. Students can do part or half or all of their degree online, so we have to run some stats to get a number.
“Obviously the biggest change for our online MBA program (since 1999) is the same as the change to our MBA program: that we have grown so much as a graduate school and added so many MS programs that the MBA, even online, you still have the option of quite a few dual degrees.”
A HIGHLY SELECTIVE PROGRAM
Its many MS options are the reason UT Dallas is ranked No. 2 in Best Online Graduate Business Programs (Excluding MBA) by U.S. News & World Report. But its online MBA is no slouch, earning the magazine’s No. 7 ranking. The 30-credit program has an official enrollment of 325, and costs anywhere from $45,000 to $50,000, Shatz says, depending on how long students take to finish. They are allowed a maximum of six years.
Admissions selectivity is where UT Dallas earns its highest marks from U.S. News, landing at No. 1. Last year, only 39% of applicants were accepted. This year the percentage ticked up to 43%, but was still the lowest acceptance rate of all 35 schools to be ranked by Poets&Quants this year. The student population boasts a GPA average of 3.5 to go with a GMAT average of 621. A high number of students — 35% — submit GRE scores in place of GMAT.
However, like most online MBA programs, the GMAT (or GRE) can be waived for those students who meet the right conditions, in this case anyone with a 3.5 GPA or higher from an AACSB-accredited school and “sufficient quantitative ability through prior coursework or work experience.” According to U.S. News, the average work experience of UT Dallas online MBA students is 82 months. Then again, a GMAT score is required for consideration for the many scholarships UT Dallas offers.
A SINGLE MOM MAKES IT WORK WITH ONLINE CLASSES
Farah Waheed, who received her MBA from UT Dallas in the spring of 2017, considers the school her “second home.” It’s where she earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting information management, her master’s in accounting, and her MBA with a focus on organizational behavior. “I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend this great school,” she tells P&Q.
Waheed got a fast-track master’s in 2011 right after finishing undergrad, but even then “I felt like I wasn’t done with school, so I enrolled myself in the MBA program.” Working for an accounting firm at the time, things went well with the degree initially, she says, until her career began to interfere with her studies. Plus, she was single mom — the main reason she chose to take online classes despite living in Dallas. “As I moved up into my career as an internal auditor, it was hard to keep up with more than one course per semester,” she says. “That said, I had to still manage that one course and its requirements of completion, which was a struggle, being a single mom and all.”
Waheed needed five years to complete her degree, but “in the end it all worked out.” She now works as an internal auditor for an aerospace and defense company, and she says the MBA has made a big impact on her life. “It has certainly made a difference having higher education,” she says. “It shows employers that you are a committed person and you have worked hard to achieve your goals.
“I would certainly recommend this to others and I hope my son one day attends UT Dallas as well. I am not a student anymore but you never know, I may come back for another degree in the future.
GROWING NUMBER OF ONLINE STUDENTS COMING TO CAMPUS
Like Farah Waheed, a growing number of MBA students at UT Dallas are local, says Lisa Shatz, choosing to do their degree mostly online while taking advantage of occasional classes — especially electives — and other on-campus events. “They are seeking for the most part non-online experiences, and so this year we actually had quite a few of the online MBAs come to the on-campus orientation, and we’re starting to see more of them at the events we do,” she says. “On the general MBA side, we do a ton of events — golf, bowling, networking events, speaker events, lunches — and we’re starting to see more of the online students, which funny enough, a lot of them are local.”
Millennials, she adds, “just like to do things as convenient as possible. Any part of their schedule that can’t be flexed, they don’t like. They want to be able to attend their classes online and then be able to pick and choose the events that they’re wiling to make time for. It’s not the best route — I still think that the class experience, at least for some subjects, is very value-added — but some of our online MBAs will take a lot of the classes that are more foundational and more quantitative online, then when they start to look at the choice of electives, they’ll end up coming on campus because there’s an elective they want that’s not offered online, or because it’s a class like a Strategy class or a Policy class or something like that that you get a lot out of the instruction.
“I’m seeing many more of them come to the events, and it’s good to see them out and making contacts and they talk to each other for 10 minutes and go, ‘Oh my god, we’re on a project together!’”