YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The importance of getting a higher education in today’s job market still brings people back for additional training beyond the baccalaureate degree – and the master’s in business administration remains the most popular advanced degree.
Since 2000, reports the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of those age 25 and over with a master’s degree has more than doubled to 24 million from 10.4 million.
One factor is pay increases, with the average annual salary for having a master’s degree $13,000 more than a bachelor’s degree, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says.
Getting busy professionals to return for an MBA can mean reaching out to people who completed their baccalaureates 10, 15, even 20 years ago.
“People are realizing education is more important than ever,” says Patrick Bateman, director of the MBA program at Youngstown State University, who emphasizes the importance of accessibility. “It’s important to understand what the barriers are that people face and then doing what we can do to address those.”
Some of the ways YSU has addressed access concerns is by offering the 10-class MBA for $13,500, taking the program online even before COVID-19 drove it there and by compressing courses into seven-week sessions.
While a challenging format, Bateman says MBA students receive “clean and quick take-aways.” They learn something today they can use at work tomorrow.
Those completing the program can do so in a year to 18 months, although for those working simultaneously Bateman recommends 18 months.
The YSU MBA program is exclusively online, with 275 students graduating over the past year. Bateman says that is significantly higher than where the program was just two years ago.
YSU is not alone in moving to or creating a fully online MBA program. According to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, an accreditation board, the number of fully online MBA programs more than doubled between 2016 and the 2020-2021 year rising to 682.
Thiel College, however, has gone in a different direction with most its MBA courses on campus.
After COVID-19, says Anthony Kos, chairman of the Arthur McGonigal Department of Business Administration and Accounting at Thiel College, many people are doing things online they would not have considered. But it is not working for everyone.
“We are maintaining the idea that a face-to-face education is great,” Kos says. “You develop relationships with faculty. You get an opportunity to do these things in terms of assistantships, internships and projects with the business community much better while you are there rather than working remotely.”
Working in the business world where more and more people are online can make it harder to connect with co-workers, develop relationships and bounce ideas off each other.
“It’s an environment that’s evolving,” Kos says, “and I’m not sure what the ramifications are. But our perspective is we want to make sure our students have the technology that they could work remotely, and also have the interpersonal skills to be a good organizational citizen.”
NEW PROGRAMS, FLEXIBLE SCHEDULES
To attract interest in MBA programs, area colleges and universities are offering new programs, flexible class schedules and opportunities to connect with the business world.
Grove City College now offers an MBA and a master of science in business analytics. While mainly online, the programs include a networking kickoff event and short high-impact on-campus residencies. This gives students a chance to interact and learn from professors, senior-level business leaders and each other.
“These are all adult learners and we want to make certain they feel comfortable coming back to school,” says Christy Crute, associate dean of graduate and online programs and a professor of business analytics.
The graduate cohort program at Grove City College strives to be highly relevant and modern, aiming to attract top-notch, working professionals, Crute says. Entry to the MBA program requires some experience.
Along with traditional MBA courses in accounting, finance and marketing, Grove City’s program offers leadership and strategy.
The program also offers an international component, Crute says, which she believes will give participants solid knowledge about doing business globally.
In May, students will travel to Dublin, Ireland, where they will study global topics such as supply chain concerns, economics and Brexit’s effect on business worldwide.
For some, weekend travel will deepen their understanding of international culture, Crute says.
In addition, students attending one- or two-week sessions will learn to face challenges at their jobs while working remotely.
“Even if they choose to stay abroad for two weeks, conducting their daily work from Dublin will give them a good opportunity to stay active in their respective business while they take international courses,” Crute says: “The trip is crafted to provide a true, global immersion.”
The new MBA program was well-received with double the number of enrollees Crute anticipated, she says. Additional programs could be added as soon as next year.
YSU offers three kinds of MBAs, allowing students to choose a general MBA or to specialize in marketing or health care management. Bateman says the health care management addition has led to a large increase in the number of nurses and health care professionals enrolling.
Taking the next step in their careers requires them to be more than excellent caregivers, he says. They also need to know budgeting policies and management skills.
Thiel College now schedules more evening classes, which opens the program to more students.
“We’re pretty excited because this year, we can accommodate working professionals,” Kos says of the evening courses, although it would take twice as long as the typical 11-month MBA program.
MBA students at Thiel are required to have a graduate assistantship, giving these students the opportunity to work on campus in areas of their interests. Additionally, everyone is required to perform an internship.
“The program is challenging. It’s intensive because it is compressed,” Kos says. “Our classes typically run seven to eight weeks long… It’s a way for us to accelerate the program.”
Many students at Thiel are fifth-year straight-through students, Kos says, so the school makes certain they have hands-on experiences to ensure they are marketable. By having classes only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, it creates time for the assistantships and internships.
“We also work closely with the business community,” Kos says, citing partnerships with Penn Northwest Development Corp., eCenter@LindenPointe and Hermitage Wastewater Municipal Authority.
Thiel College is partnering with other educational institutions to attract students to the program.
A recently announced partnership with Hiram College will allow students completing their baccalaureates from its Scarborough School of Business and Communications to receive conditional admission to the MBA program at Thiel College during their junior year.
Kos also talks about Pathway One students, who are incoming Thiel freshmen who are considering staying for the fifth-year for the MBA program.
“We pick the high fliers, the ones who are outstanding academically, talk to them and start to include them in some of the things we are doing with the MBA program so they feel like they are part of it,” Kos says.
Several student athletes, recently given an extra year of eligibility, are taking advantage of additional time on campus by earning a fifth-year MBA.
Additionally, Thiel is partnering with a couple of universities in India. Students there will take a couple of classes online from Thiel professors and then come here for the remaining classes.