To attract new revenues, a lot of private liberal arts colleges are investing heavily in graduate education. They are finding that many young professionals are willing to pay big bucks for graduate degrees, particularly the MBA. Moreover, in the past at least, employers have been willing to pay tuition costs for promising mid-level managerial employees to get MBA degrees.
To tap this market, colleges began rolling out executive MBA programs (EMBA). Most of these programs have two attractive features: 1) Classes are offered in intense weekend sessions, allowing students to continue working full time. 2) Many EMBA programs include international experiences, such as a two-week excursion to China, that expose students to the world of international business. Generally, the EMBAs include some razzle dazzle like catered lunches for weekend classes and upscale classroom settings.
And the colleges price their EMBA programs as high as the market would bear. Even MBA programs at public universities have become shockingly expensive. And, to wring out every last dime from the MBA market, universities all over the country began ramping up off-campus EMBA programs to tap urban markets, and they also rolled out online programs, which can be delivered inexpensively to large numbers of students.
But in their greed, the colleges may have killed the goose that laid those golden eggs. Some employers have concluded that the extravagant cost of EMBA programs is not justified and are pulling back from funding EMBA programs for their employees. And students are becoming more sensitive to price. LSU's EMBA program, for example, may be more prestigious than ones offered by Louisiana's regional institutions, but the regional degrees are much cheaper.
In short, I think American businesses and business employees have figured out that EMBA programs are all sizzle and no steak. One of my young relatives just finished an EMBA program that included a China excursion, and he told me that his professors often did not know as much about the subject they were teaching as he did. He was grateful that his employer paid for his degree because, in his opinion, the degree was not worth the cost.
And I know an attorney who thought he could enhance his marketability by adding an MBA to his JD. He borrowed money to get his MBA credential, and now he regrets that decision.
It is hard to know how to advise a young person who wants to obtain a post-graduate degree in order to land a better paying job. When I was young, getting a law degree was a no brainer; a JD degree from a reputable law school was a ticket to a good career. Now there are thousands of law school graduates who have six-figure student-loan debt and no job.
I think MBA graduates are beginning to experience the same disappointment with their graduate degrees that JD graduates have been experiencing for the last 10 years. Unfortunately, graduate education is not opening the door to opportunity for many bright young Americans; it is only leading to mountains of student-loan debt.
|Where's the beef?
Rick Seltzer. Deans see challenges for off-campus E.M.B.A. programs in the United States. Inside Higher ED, August 24, 2017.
Rick Seltzer. Marygrove College to end undergraduate programs after fall semester. Inside Higher ED, August 10, 2017.