We thought we’d be finishing this up over the past weekend. ‘Fraid not, Brave Supplicant. This is basically a continuation of that post (Part 7) (which is of course a continuation of our rambling around for over two weeks now – here is Part 1 if you missed it).
Last time, we were talking about Columbia, and how they’ve (perhaps over)expanded their EMBA program lately. And seem to be possibly scrambling for warm bodies to fill the classroom.
Other schools further down the ranking scales have been expanding their programs, too, mostly under the banner of “innovation.” Take the online-only MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Now, someone who’d normally be H/S/W material just won’t be applying to this program. And its costs are a lot lower (they say that tuition is $89k but it’s unclear if that’s per year or for the entire degree program). So what they’re doing is segmenting the market, are they not? A classic product management technique that any business does, especially when competing against bigger players. This strategy makes a bit more sense to us for a school like this (can you tell that we’re questioning the Columbia strategy?).
But all of it adds to supply — and not supply at the upper end of the market where everyone would appreciate it. The top 20 U.S. bschools had 79,000 applications last year — for about 8.300 seats. This includes schools like Cornell et al, who aren’t the highest ranked. It also of course includes HBS and Wharton and Stanford, schools that everyone wants to go to. Those top schools are NOT expanding. At least, not in their F/T 2-year track programs that are in the utmost demand.
At the lower levels — particularly as you move ever further down the rankings list — there’s plenty of spots to go around.
When there’s too much supply in a market, there’s a shakeout. In bschools, there obviously won’t be any consolidations or buying-up of weaker players, as you’d see in a regular commercial market. Instead, the programs would contract. It’s funny that the Rethinking book talked about a hollowing-out of the market at the second-tier programs (below the top 15) when we’re seeing more and more of them launch new educational initiatives all the time. Darden GEMBA. Cornell Queen’s MBA. etc etc
Which means that it’s easier to get into these offshoot programs because they have more capacity.
The bottom line: All this means that there are more choices for those interested in an MBA education. If you’re focused on the golden ring and will only be satisfied with a Harvard/Stanford/Wharton stamp of approval then yes, competition remains fierce for those top spots. Nothing’s changed on that count. But if you’re really interested in LEARNING SOMETHING and are flexible, there are plenty of good programs around that could give you a foundation in business with specialized training in key areas that can absolutely help you accelerate your career path.
We’re no academics, so we’re sure we’re missing something in all this. Bubbles shmubbles. It becomes frothy nonsense after awhile.