June 1, 2017

"To court a generation of M.B.A.-skeptics, business schools are creating narrowly tailored degree programs..."

The Wall Street Journal reports:
At Villanova University, students can earn a master's in church management. An M.B.A. program at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management is restricted to current and former congressional staffers. At Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, National Football League players can enroll in a program designed to help them transition to new careers. And starting next spring, students at New York University's Stern School of Business will embark on a one-year program in fashion and luxury-goods management....

As enrollment in general management programs across the U.S. declines, universities have augmented their graduate offerings with shorter, more specialized courses, ....

"In what other industry would you handle the problem of shrinking demand for your product by growing the supply?" said Andrew Ainslie, dean of the University of Rochester Simon Business School in N.Y., which offers four specialized master's programs.... 

33 comments:

Luke Lea said...

Then there is food service and the undertaking business.

Bob said...

> "To court a generation of M.B.A.-skeptics, business schools are creating narrowly tailored degree programs..."

Corrected headline: "To offset declining revenues, business schools attempt niche-marketing"

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

But have you seen this one, Professor?

https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/266372/

Bruce Hayden said...

@101N - as I understand, that was the subject of Ann's previous post.

Nonapod said...

"In what other industry would you handle the problem of shrinking demand for your product by growing the supply?

Yeah, I was gonna say as much. And the people making these decisions are supposed to be the teachers of how to be good at running a business. Pretty funny stuff.

Dave from Minnesota said...

Bob, possibly not declining revenues, but more to justify high prices. When I got my MBA, the tuition went up very materially between my first year and last year. A couple of the professors seemed to really be going out of their way to talk about the "cutting edge research" going on in the program and how we were part of it.

The combined tuition of the students sitting in an MBA class is about $6,000 an hour, or $18,000 for an evening 3 hour class. That's a lot of revenue for one classroom and one professor.

rehajm said...

"In what other industry would you handle the problem of shrinking demand for your product by growing the supply?

Bad analogy. Unlike a widget you don't assume a risk by producing the product before the sale. It's more of an attempt at product differentiation that will cannibalize some of the traditional MBA product and hopefully attract more customers.



Bay Area Guy said...

"In what other industry would you handle the problem of shrinking demand for your product by growing the supply?"

Democratic party politics -- shrinking demand across the board for their policies, so they grow supply by importing illegal aliens to vote in California.

What do I win?

Dave from Minnesota said...

I should say that an MBA program can be very useful. In my case, I was surprised at the caliber of the staff. Very accomplished people. Most were not full time professors, but instead people who ran things during the day, then would come into the classroom at night to teach.

At the other end of the scale would be my political science and some of my history professors at my undergrad. Basically equivalent to internet trolls who got a nice gig. I did not have any sociology or similar classes.

khesanh0802 said...

Trade school for college graduates. A great idea. A broad spectrum MBA is a nice thing, but after the first year ( which covers basic finance, marketing, leadership and quantitative analysis) it would be very much like this program. I assume that these specialized courses will teach enough basic finance, etc. so somebody's controller can't pull the wool over their eyes.

Bob Ellison said...

The Dean was probably being facetious. I can't tell. Paywall.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that you need both general and specialized MBAs. Mine, from maybe 35 years ago, was fairly general, teaching some of this and some of that. If I had a specialization, it was Operations Research, which in retrospect is pretty worthless unless you want to go into logistics or the like, but it does help me understand why CAGW claims are very likely bogus (when MBA OR statistics are used to look for what factors are most highly correlated with global temperature, CO2 has a neglible effect after solar energy, volcanic action, and pacific currents). It was a good general background that would have been useful for a middle manager in a big company. But a lot of my fraternity bros got more specialized MBAs, in accounting, finance, marketing, etc that seem to have been more financially rewarding. Always regretted not going in finance, because that is where the big money has been in the last 30 or so years, but it just wasn't sexy back then (think that I could have done decently, because I had the math background that they look for).

These though are very niche MBAs. I wouldn't want one, because every hour you spend on the niche is an hour that you aren't spending on more generalized learning, which may be useful later in your career. Kinda like the Ski Area Management degrees from Colorado Mountain College - fine if you want to be a ski bum all your life, but not really useful otherwise. Esp since you really need an MBA anymore to make a good living in the ski resort business.

Rob said...

The brief niche programs are more likely to be paid for by companies in the industry to give a leg-up to their up-and-comers, or in other cases to be attractive to people trying to enhance their resumes. Thus, these seem like intelligent marketing efforts.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Mr. Pants is an executive with a master's degree in cognitive psychology but no MBA. He's brought it up a few times but I always ask him what is the chance that at 47 years old he'll be able to make back the $100k it would cost us, plus the time away from his family? I don't know how necessary such degrees are to kids just starting out, though.

He's become involved in city politics, serving on a board of directors that manages many millions of dollars, which he calls his free MBA program. :-)

khesanh0802 said...

@nonapod I think this is a good answer to shrinking supply. Lower priced, shorter time commitment and specialized in a field of interest. Will create more demand because it is part of the solution to the problems faced by today's graduates. Many can't afford - or don't really need - a fulll time MBA program, but if they are going to make an investment they want to do it with a reputable institution.

This sounds similar, in concept, to the Advanced Management Programs that are intended to prepare senior managers in specific businesses.

bagoh20 said...

Here is the entire lesson:

1) work long and hard
2) make informed decisions (not emotional ones)
3) Take smart risks, but take them.


That will be 10 grand, please, from each of you.

Dave from Minnesota said...

Pants...MBA's have gotten very expensive. Due to tax laws, tuition reimbursement covers only a fraction of what you will need (at a certain point, its considered income and not expense reimbursement). A person has to decide if its worth having $500-$800 monthly student loan payments when you get done.

Peter said...

I was thinking that universities still turn out far more PhD's in humanities than the academic market can consume, but, the excuse there might be that a humanities degree isn't obviously related to employment, whereas an M.B.A. is.

The obvious question would be whether there's a market for such specialized degrees. Would a business prefer to hire someone with a narrow specialization if that is a close match to the business, or (especially at the higher levels of management) wouldn't one expect a generalist to do better?

As a student I'd worry that a narrow niche could all too easily become a career cul-de-sac ...

TreeJoe said...

I obtained an MBA from one of the called-out universities. (and the cost of the 2 year MBA program - including an international excursion experience - was the cost of 1 year of undergraduate at the same university)

The professors who came from industry were almost universally very good to excellent and thought provoking.

The administrators who came from administration of academia were fundamentally not the sort of people who should be running anything business related.

Sometimes the two intersected - teacher/administrator - or sometimes you had a full time teacher forever. The result was never good.

Yancey Ward said...

I am guessing this is a change in the title of the degree and nothing else. Other than that, I think the idea is probably worse than useless to the student- which would you rather have on your resume long-term- "Master of Hotel Business Administration" or "Master of Business Administration"? The former limits the universe of potential employers to just that sector, and in an age where people often now change entire industries in the course of their lives.

As a commenter wrote above- it is an attempt to create niches that increase the total MBA demand overall. I just don't think it makes any sense for a student to take the niche product, even it ends up just being words on a diploma.

Ray said...

The ROI on MBA's now is harder. I got mine 20 years ago, and that was $70K in student loans, and I was working part time. It did immediately put me into a higher range of employment opportunities. I did changed how I looked at life, and I deeply appreciate the wisdom I learned from Peter Drucker. It was a tier 2 school. My MBA Program went into the niche area about 10 years ago.

The question is the 2 years, $100K or so in tuition, plus lost inoome of say another $120K, so $220K worth it? Does the credentialism matter?

I view MBA and Legal Programs as very similar, basically cash cows for the rest of the Colleges. Many degree programs are not income generators at the Master and PhD levels. MBA programs, where the only cost needed is a class room and an instructor has a huge ROI. There has been a huge growth in MBA programs, and they have become a dime a dozen. How does an MBA from National (tier 3) to USC (tier 2) to Stanford/ Berkeley / UCLA (TIER 1) on the ROI. And now there are online programs. My SWAG on rankings.

I believe the future is cheaper education delivered in a mixture of online and offline, unfortunately the value proposition is not there yet. I am currently discussing with my 23 year old daughter on should she get an advanced degree.

The Drill SGT said...

Bruce Hayden said...
If I had a specialization, it was Operations Research, which in retrospect is pretty worthless


For a lawyer perhaps, but the Army sent me to get an MBA(OR) and I got a lot of use out of the OR part. First in combat simulation work, then force structure optimization, and finally, data visualization.

The general MBA side is very useful in my consulting business.

Dave from Minnesota said...

Ray, now you got me thinking about the income the university receives. I wrote above what the tuition is for a single night class.

You take a classroom that would be empty otherwise. Put in 25-30 students. Bring in a very accomplished person (in one case, I had a VP from a Fortune 200 company). The class brings in $18,000 for EACH 3 hour class. Where does all that money go?

Ray said...

Using a Peter Drucker framework to analyze:

Who is your customer?
The hiring company and the student

What do they value/want?
Career change and a well paying job.

What can you provide to them they value?
Ability to get a well paying job.

The problem with many MBA programs, as with many degree programs is they forgot who is the customer. They university focused on how much money they could make off having a legal and/or MBA program, and forgot about their true customers.

What my program did was set up specialized programs that partnered with industry that supposedly have been very well received. An example of one of the programs is Art Management.

Ray said...

>The class brings in $18,000 for EACH 3 hour class. Where does all that money go?

Scholarships so the true cost for many is 50%.

Paying for other programs that are cash flow drains.

At some universities, paying for lots of administrators with super high salaries. At others lots of new buildings. At other places, state of the art gyms. At one private college I went on a tour with my daughter, the tour leader raved about how this college had the best pate she had ever had. It sounded more like a luxury resort, than a college. One of the top 10 universities in the US. And the more I read of the school in the news, the happier I am she did not get admitted.

Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit has written on this subject. I see the huge rise in college prices as a bubble powered by student loans for most students, and the question is when will it pop. The American Interest has also been following this.

I am very happy, and a bit prideful, that my daughter went to a state school (top ranked) and got a solid education with no student loans and then got a good job. She could have gone to a mid tier UC at twice the cost, but decided against it after looking at the available majors and the ROI analysis I did - thanks MBA. Another subject is how the California Higher Education plan is broken and out of date.

Tyrone Workman said...

In addition to training lawyers, law schools should jump into paralegal education with both feet.

David said...

"As enrollment in general management programs across the U.S. declines, universities have augmented their graduate offerings with shorter, more specialized courses, .... "

In other words, people are paying as much or nearly as much for a course of study that has less value, from teachers who may also be less qualified.

I suppose this should be free too?

David said...

"What my program did was set up specialized programs that partnered with industry that supposedly have been very well received. An example of one of the programs is Art Management."

And when the demand for art management has dried up or been overfilled by the flood of graduates, what is that degree worth?

Maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps you could explain what an art manager does, who employs them and how art managers create value.

Freeman Hunt said...

unfortunately the value proposition is not there yet.

University of London. Best value bar none.

Freeman Hunt said...

The International Programmes.

Mountain Maven said...

Only govt subsidize ones

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William Chadwick said...

I was around in the corporate world when the first wave of Yuppie MBAs invaded Cubicle World; and a bigger bunch of jackasses you'd never want to meet.