Archive for Sunday, September 23, 2012

KU business school positions itself to maintain strong MBA program

September 23, 2012


Across the world, fewer people are showing a willingness to set aside their careers to work full time on a Master of Business Administration degree.

Kansas University’s School of Business defied that trend in 2012, at least, but it’s forging ahead with an overhaul of its two-year full-time MBA program as competition grows fiercer for the best students.

“We are looking ahead proactively and making some changes,” said KU Business Dean Neeli Bendapudi.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that applications for two-year full-time MBA programs tumbled worldwide for the fourth straight year for the class of students beginning programs this fall. The median number of applications fell by 22 percent from 2011.

In the United States, 62 percent of such programs experienced a decline in applications in 2012, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council study cited by the Journal. In the Midwest, the numbers were even worse; 71 percent of programs reported a decline.

At KU, applications for its full-time program increased slightly in 2012, from 102 to 107. Though that followed a decline from 127 applications in 2010.

Much of the worldwide decline in applications is likely related to economic trends, Bendapudi said.

“These cycles happen in graduate education,” Bendapudi said.

The declines follow highs set shortly after the economic downturn late in the previous decade. As more people find jobs, fewer are willing to attend graduate school — especially for full-time MBA programs, Bendapudi said, which require students to set aside their careers for two years. (KU also has a part-time MBA program for working professionals, based at the Edwards Campus in Overland Park.)

Of course, if a program could pack its education into a shorter period, that would allow students to re-enter the job market sooner. And that’s exactly what the KU Business School will do, starting with full-time MBA students beginning in 2013.

The program’s new track will run only 16 months, and it will also include more hands-on business experience.

“All of these are ways to combat that trend,” Bendapudi said.

Education value

The shorter timeline could better appeal to prospective students who have already racked up a good deal of undergraduate student-loan debt, said Catherine Shenoy, the director of the Business School’s MBA programs.

“Students are coming out with quite a bit of debt now, so we have to be very sensitive to making sure they receive a lot of value for the educational dollar,” Shenoy said.

The new curriculum will require fewer credit hours, which means less tuition. And students can spend the spring of their second year working and earning money, rather than sitting in classes.

The full-time MBA students will also be required to find an internship during the summer following their first year. Semesters will include a weeklong break from classes for special projects. And a new program called the Kansas Issues Project will pair first-year students with Kansas businesses and nonprofit groups to help solve problems. One team this year will help Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center in Lawrence try to reduce “no-show” rates among people receiving help there.

“We want them to have opportunities to work on business problems beginning on day one,” Shenoy said.

Students will also have the option to stay for a fourth semester that would include more specialized hands-on experience.

The overhaul is the first the program has received in about 10 years, Shenoy said.

Quality assurance

The full-time MBA class beginning this year contains 42 students. The program is not as financially important as the school’s larger undergraduate programs, Bendapudi said, but it’s a big part of the school’s reputation.

“We want a great MBA program, not necessarily the largest MBA program,” Bendapudi said.

And the quality of the applicants for 2012 did improve, Shenoy said. In general, applicants had higher undergraduate grade-point averages, better Graduate Management Admission Test scores and more work experience.

And a long-awaited potential new building for the school definitely would not hurt recruitment efforts, Bendapudi said — for the full-time MBA program and others.

“It’s going to definitely have an impact in terms of attracting a higher-quality student and faculty,” she said.


Stephen Roberts 5 years, 8 months ago

KU has a unique view on their MBA program. I was told that if you want to attend classes in lawrence, you have to be a full time MBA student but if you want to go part time, you must go to the Edwards Campus.

I would like to get my MBA from KU but I live in Lawrence & work in Topeka so I would have to drive to Overland Park to get my MBA on a part time basis.

anon2000 5 years, 8 months ago

Personally I'm not convinced this sounds like a good overhaul to the program. Though an accelerated MBA program will allow students to enter the job market sooner, what value is the program if the students can't find jobs? Why is there no talk of placing higher standards on GMAT scores or pre-MBA work experience requirements? What about working with more employers for job placements? Everyone is aware of the placement issues the program has had in the past.

It is unfortunate the program is not taking any steps to become more competitive on a national level. However, it is clear the KU MBA program can barely compete with even most other Big 12 counterparts. What will make an employer hire a KU MBA graduate? It is most likely not the merits of the program itself. Perhaps the program should focus more on quality than quantity. Bring in quality students with quality work experience, employers will take you more seriously and have more interest in recruiting for the program, which should help to fix the lagging placement rates. Personally I don't think a new building or transforming the MBA into an accelerated degree will solve the long-term problems of the KU MBA program.

justmytwocents 5 years, 8 months ago

and do you think the lagging placements have anything to do with the students, or do you place the blame on the program??

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