Would an online, tuition-free MBA be just as impressive as a traditional MBA to employers? University of the People certainly hopes so.
The tuition-free, online college recently announced the launch of an accredited MBA program, slated to begin in September 2016, that will cost students a whopping $2,400 from start to finish. At the end of each term, students pay a $200 end-of-course assessment fee. However, they don’t pay tuition and they don’t have to purchase textbooks.
The school already offers associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees, and has found support from such business behemoths as Google, Microsoft, HP, and Western Union, in addition to The Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation.
But what do employers think about an MBA obtained under these circumstances? After all, there are reasons first-year MBA students pay over $100,000 at Stanford, Harvard, and Wharton (University of Pennsylvania). But if you’re not obtaining your degree from one of the elite business schools, how much does it really matter?
Pros and cons of getting an online, tuition-free MBA
GoodCall spoke with Alex Noelke, career services manager at Employment BOOST, about the pros and cons of getting an online, tuition-free MBA. First, he says it is important to understand that employers who are looking for applicants with an MBA distinguish between a GMAT MBA and a non-GMAT MBA. GMAT is the General Management Admission Test, and the GMAT exam is designed to measure analytical writing, integrated reasoning, verbal (reading comprehension) and quantitative (problem solving) skills.
“Many of the top-ranked MBA programs require a pretty good GMAT score and that serves as a filter and barrier to many of the top programs,” says Noelke. He explains, “For many, the math in the GMAT is what hinders them, but you also have to realize that without great math skills, you’re going to struggle significantly in most quantitative aspects of a top MBA program.”
The other class of MBA programs does not require applicants to take the GMAT, and Noelke says some programs are available online at a significantly lower cost – or in the case of University of the People, for free. “Many employers are excited to see people continue education in general, so it is always a plus,” adds Noelke, but he wants to add that when comparing MBA programs, it’s not apples to apples.
“Employers look at the school attended more than anything, so some of the lesser known or more recently created programs may not be able to compete with, say, someone that went to a top 50 MBA school.”
Noelke says some of the pros of a free online program include, “access to a higher level of education without the financial commitment in the event that you know your life will be hectic,” And he adds that these students can study at their own pace from their desired location.
“However, one major con is the possibility of not having the same level of credibility as other programs and sometimes people experience a poor grouping of students if the barrier to entry for the program is low.”
University of the People’s MBA program may be able to sidestep some of the labeling that may hinder other online programs. The school’s Dean of Business Admission is a Professor of Marketing of the Stern School of Business at New York University. Several impressive individuals from the world of academia have volunteered their time and efforts over the years to help create the program, including professors from Wharton, Stern, and Oxford University’s Said School of Business.
While the jury may be out on employer acceptance, University of the People is already changing the game. The TED Talk presented by the school’s president, Shai Reshef, has already garnered over 2.5 million views. The presentation’s title? “An Ultra-Low-Cost College Degree.”