The online MBA program at the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business is only a few years old, but already it has grown by leaps and bounds, says Rachel Blatchford, coordinator of the program. Its first cohort of 21 started in the fall of 2014, and as of the fall of 2017 the school had 99 students enrolled in the program.
Flexibility is one big reason for the program’s growth. Students can take all classes online, or if they’re local, they can attend classes on the school’s Salt Lake City campus. In addition, with its rolling admissions, the Utah Eccles program allows someone accepted into the program in the fall to postpone their studies for a semester or longer. “We don’t have hard deadlines,” Blatchford tells Poets&Quants. “We do have deadlines but if you miss one it’s no big deal because of the rolling admissions.”
Further, the school has a high acceptance rate, 68%, and prides itself, Blatchford says, on getting prospective students an answer whether they’re admitted or not within two weeks of their applications. Those who get in also get up to four years to complete the program.
A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO ADMISSIONS
Utah Eccles considers all applications “holistically,” Blatchford says, so there’s no minimum GMAT or GRE. Currently, the class averages are 570 on the GMAT and 155 on both the quant and the verbal portions of the GRE.
The strictest requirement, Blatchford says, is that all students must be working full-time when they start the program. They also must have at least one full year of work experience, though the average is closer to seven year, she says.
“With admit requirements, if you are lower in one area, you can make up for it in another, like work experience,” Blatchford says. “We consider every application, every student, holistically, meaning we want to find people who are the right fit and have the tools to succeed.”
Total cost of the program is $58,800, or $1,225 per credit hour for 48 credits.
‘ALREADY SEEING THE POSITIVE EFFECTS ON MY CAREER’
Brooke Vincent-Lewis found out about the Utah Eccles online MBA specifically after inquiring about the school’s professional MBA program. She had just moved back to Utah with her husband to care for her ailing grandmother after living for 10 years in Buffalo, New York.
“I knew being on campus 15+ hours a week would be tough with all that was going on,” Vincent-Lewis tells Poets&Quants. “I expressed my concerns to the director at the time, Johnathan Nichols, who insisted I attend an information session about the online program. After learning that the online program would be quite similar to the professional program, I sent in my application.”
Vincent-Lewis knew from the start she wanted to attend the University of Utah, where her grandfather, father, and two uncles went to school and where she started her undergraduate degree. But she has already seen the benefits of the MBA she will receive in 2018. For 12 years she had been in accounting but “what I learned was that I did not enjoy the repetition and redundancy of the jobs. I enjoy more of the analytical and strategic part of finance and accounting, but I knew no one was going to take me seriously if I didn’t have the education to back it up, which is where the MBA fits in.” Currently she is a financial analyst for Creminelli Fine Meats, a position she was promoted to in June, a little over halfway through the MBA program.
“I’m already seeing the positive effects of the program on my career, such as being able to apply topics from classes to real work situations, as well as my recent promotion,” she says. “I want to stay with Creminelli after graduating but I am comfortable knowing that I will have the education as well as the resources through the school’s alumni and career services to find a better position if it isn’t the right fit.”
‘LOT OF DIFFERENT THINGS’ GOING ON
Like Brooke Vincent-Lewis, most of the online MBA students at Utah Eccles live locally, or at least in the state, Rachel Blatchford says. Those who do are free to attend classes on campus. This is especially true in the case of electives, the roster for which Utah Eccles has grown considerably in the past three years. But that doesn’t mean the students have much spare time for events or other school activities — a problem all online programs face.
Still, Utah Eccles hosts networking and other events every month, and Blatchford attributes at least some of the online BA program’s growth to their popularity.
“The biggest challenge with an online program is budgeting time, because a lot of people choose an online program because they are very busy people,” Blatchford says. “Sixty to 70% of our students live locally, or at least within Utah, and they choose an online program because of their work schedules and family schedules.
“The other challenge would be that networking in the online program isn’t as natural as it would be in an on-campus program. We do some things to alleviate that, but obviously it isn’t the same as it would be if you were in a class at least two nights a week with your fellow on-campus students. We do a lot to alleviate that: all of our students attend an in-person residency their first fall semester, and we’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback about it. It’s just three days on campus, they get 1 1/2 credits for it, and they do networking events and they stay on campus or in a hotel, and they have sessions with the faculty, sessions with alumni they can network with, and they get to know staff and other students and that really helps. We also have an after-work social at least once a semester and we do women’s events every couple of months. We do lots of different things!”