Now that Columbia has officially released its 2018 MBA essays and application, and the essay questions are, as usual, focusing on career goals and “why Columbia?” with the second one asking about being at the center…. So given the focus on an “early” application that we often see at this time, we wanted to dig…
The estimated first-year costs for a Columbia MBA have risen by over $40,000 in under ten years.
That’s just for the first year of your MBA, which for this year’s entering class, is expected to set them back a cool $111,000 . JUST FOR THE FIRST YEAR. That’s a 50% increase from 2007, where the first-year fully loaded cost was estimated at $73,464.
That’s absolutely nuts.
A fifty percent increase?!???
We used to scoff at questions from BSers about ROI and the MBA. The MBA has long been an excellent investment, in terms of the increase of earnings you’ll get from it. But seeing this change in the published 2018-2019 estimates really gave us pause.
What business can get away with annual increases like this without customers balking?
Well, apparently businesses which have seemingly limitless demand, like business schools have seen in recent years.
Contrast that to law schools where they’re practically begging for students to attend.
Now, before we get too far into this rant, we do have to mention that it’s in your favor for a school’s cost of attendance estimates to be higher at least from one perspective: These are the figures that are used for all financial aid calculations. If you’ll be applying for a student loan, the lender will use the school’s published estimates in order to determine the highest amount that they might fund you.
If the school underestimates the actual costs you’ll incur, not just for standard school stuff like the books and fees and all that nonsense they’ll be hitting you up for, but for the price of just living in that town, then you’ll be stuck and living a much more frugal life than perhaps you expected to be.
Pro Tip: All of this is why it’s so important to be looking at these numbers NOW and evaluating your finances NOW and understanding what it will feel like to live for nine months at a time with NO INCOME.
You need to be saving today for this expense, and you need to recall what it felt like to be a student.
Double caramel macchiato with an extra shot?
Not every day, you won’t.
But coming back to this issue of inflation:
The U.S. economy has been in a period of incredibly moderate inflation — so much so, that some economists are worried. It’s not a state of the environment that we’ve seen many times before and there are all sorts of theories about what’s happening, how long it may last, and what might happen as we start to move out of it.
Moderate inflation is quite nice as a consumer. Starbucks prices stay consistently the same. You’re not surprised by the increasing bill each time you go grocery shopping.
It’s not nice for the worker, as it also means that wages have been suppressed, which is a main concern of many of those economists.
But in an era of moderate inflation, we still have seen these universities jacking up their prices every year.
Every damn year.
There’s nobody telling them they can’t. So they do.
This holds true at public and private universities alike.
At least for public universities, there’s additional pressures on the school administration in trying to rein in spending.
Here’s a quick comparison of some figures from just two schools, Tuck and Columbia, over the past four years:
Whenever we log these values in our own tracking systems, we always capture the actual tuition figure, plus any fees that the school is reporting as mandatory for all, so that’s what those first columns are reporting. Often schools have other fees that end up being mandatory for many students, such as health insurance fees, but we don’t count those since they’re not technically mandatory for each and every person. However, don’t overlook it in your own budgeting: at most schools, if you don’t prove you already have sufficient medical insurance coverage, they force you to buy into their plan.
We don’t have complete records on all schools but just for comparison purposes, UCLA Anderson — a state school — for the Class of 2020 entering this fall has an estimated first-year tuition and loan fees of only $61,302 and a total first-year cost including living expenses of $98,699. Los Angeles is a pricey city so you can expect to pay nearly as much in rent as you might in Manhattan. The difference in full-year cost is from the lower tuition charges from the school. We don’t really advocate using tuition prices as a determining factor in choosing your schools, as we do believe there still is a good ROI on the MBA even from what some would call a “lower ranked” school like UCLA (we don’t see them as “lower ranked” but we know many shrug off our recommendations to try for a place like that as below them). We do recommend looking at these important considerations now, though, and we also really want to call the schools out for this ridiculous racket of forever increasing the charges.
Another problem when you’re digging in try and make sense of these estimates is that these schools aren’t reporting their data on an apples-to-apples basis. You’ll soon notice this when, for example, you see a fairly wide variation in estimates for books at different schools. We’ve seen this range from around $900/year to more like $1,500/year. Wouldn’t you think that books would cost nearly the same at any top-tier school? It’s even worse when you see the variance in actual categories being reported.
We look at those Tuck totals, and from what they’re saying, it’s only going to cost a first-year less than $4,000 more a year to go to school in Manhattan as it will in Hanover.
That just doesn’t make any sense.
You look closer and you’re like, “What is a $15k ‘miscellaneous and health’ charge?” Like, you know the U.S. healthcare system is a mess, but it’s not gonna cost you $15k a year!!
It’s confusing. And the way the numbers are broken out is just not standardized.
Either Columbia is unfortunately keeping numbers like room and board artificially low — which is likely — or Tuck is playing sneaky with how they’re allocating things out to those categories.
But the issue is that the way they’re breaking their figures down just doesn’t let us do a natural comparison.
Another thing to keep in mind when you’re looking at these estimates: The figures for living expenses (housing, or room and board; they’re listed in different ways by different schools) are almost always only for the school year. These are not full-year estimates. Most people are off somewhere else during the summer in their internship where they’re actually earning money, so that certainly helps, but you’ll need to pay rent in whatever city you’re interning in, and those costs are not estimated in these charts. When you’re planning out your own budgets, you’ll need to keep these things in mind.
And if you like 99.9%* of other BSers want to intern in Silicon Valley then remember it’s one of the most expensive housing markets in America right now. You’ll likely end up in a roommate situation both for convenience but also because of the price. Be prepared for some sticker shock. Even those coming from Manhattan may be dismayed.
And in the Valley you’ll need a car… or maybe not “need” but it sure is convenient. If you target SF then no.
All these things will need to be considered. And of course you need to look seriously at what your earning potential will be in your planned future profession. For many people it’s still a no-brainer, and the MBA is well worth it (and the EXPERIENCES you’ll gain in bschool cannot be discounted even if you cannot put a price on them) — but we can no longer issue a blanket recommendation that the MBA will pay off financially for everyone.
*OK maybe it’s only 97.3% who want to work in tech.
We’re reblahgging this from the ancient past because the underlying idea we’re talking about here is kind of fascinating. And, we know many of you are kicking the tires on consultants! We have quite a few more posts in the category of the admissions consulting industry if you want to learn more on our perspectives on our peers and value on offer. We’ve had to issue a few warnings… errr, more than a few, actually (sigh).
Please take a moment and read through this:
It is axiomatic that outcomes will revert to the mean in a system that combines skill and luck. An extremely favorable or unfavorable single outcome is going to be followed by an outcome that has an expected value closer to the average of all results. If a system reverts quickly to the mean, you know that it has lots of luck. If a system is slow to revert to the mean, you know that a good amount of skill is contributing to the outcomes.
Read it again. (It’s academically-written, thus a little dense. But, if you’re interested in bschool, you need to get used to this type of writing!)
Here’s EssaySnark’s gross interpretation:
Endeavors that involve skill and luck, like playing poker, or getting a new job, or applying to bschool, where outcomes are independent of each other — like each hand in a poker tournament, or each decision by each bschool — can be said to involve either mostly luck, or mostly skill, based on how many outcomes are close to the average (mean).
In bschool admissions, the “average” outcome is to be rejected. Most people applying to most schools are rejected.
If in your attempts to gain admission (your “system”), of your, say, five applications, you get one interview invitation and one offer and the rest of your apps are rejected, you were lucky on that one offer. If you were more skilled in writing your apps, there would have been more variability in outcomes.
Conversely, if in your five applications, you get five interviews, leading to two offers, two waitlists, and one rejection, you can know that it was more skill in play for you.
The big problem with bschool admissions is that in many cases, you won’t know the results of your efforts until it’s too late to adjust course for subsequent attempts. In other words, you may not get the “reject” outcomes until you’ve already submitted all your applications.
This is one reason that it’s very wise to submit some applications in Round 1. Not only because you have a better chance of being admitted (we’ve covered this umpteen times before). But because you can rework your strategy and IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES with subsequent schools in Round 2 if your first applications don’t pan out.
The other important angle to consider? How much “skill” do you have in writing an application to bschool??? Do you have confidence in your ability to:
a) assess your profile against what the schools really care about
b) know what personal attributes are most important to highlight
c) understand which weaknesses are important to explain or offset
d) choose the right stories to tell to maximize those strengths and counter those weaknesses
e) choose the right details in each story to highlight
f) write it all up in a way that’s impactful without being nauseating
These are all areas that a (good) MBA admissions consultant will help you with. Beyond simply advising you on which schools to target in the first place.
A (good) MBA admissions consultant (should be able to) increase the SKILL at your disposal that will “contribute to the outcomes.”
This is not cheating. This is using a trusted advisor who is expert in the nuances and practicalities of a specialized process. Just like getting advice from a lawyer or an accountant, an admissions consultant can change the equation from mostly one of luck (odds are you will lose) to one of skill (you’ll put your best foot forward in the best way possible).
A (good) MBA admissions consultant will pay for him/herself many times over, by helping you maximize your chances for success.
(Caveat emptor of course — there’s a lot of “not-good” ones floating around the interwebs to fall victim to, and a “not-good” admissions consultant may do more harm than going it alone. So it’s tricky.)
Want to read (and re-read) that academic article on skill vs luck? It’s from a Columbia professor and it’s available here.
Also, we have at least one or two other posts on skill vs luck.
(Trigger Warning: We’re talking about ETHICS again today. If that just turns your stomach, click away now.) We’ve walked through our stance on ethics and applying in a school’s binding Early Decision round plenty o’ times before on the blahg. (Which isn’t really “our stance.” It’s more like, “This is how a person of honor…
We last blahgged about bschool deans and changes of leadership back in January 2015 when we talked about Geoffrey Garrett taking over at Wharton in July 2014, Matthew Slaughter taking over at Tuck in July 2015, and Scott Beardsley taking over at Darden in August 2015.
Since then, there has been another round of transitions in the top position at these schools:re
- Stanford’s embattled and scandal-weary Garth Saloner stepped aside and insider Jonathan Levin took over September 2016 (dang was it really that long ago?!)
- Michigan Ross’s dean Alison Davis-Blake resigned and they promoted from within by appointing professor Scott DeRue into the post in June 2016 (ditto the long-ago exclamation!)
- NYU’s well-regarded Peter Henry handed the reins over to Raghu Sundaram in January
- Berkeley-Haas’s beloved Rich Lyons will be stepping down in June and as far as we know, no replacement has been announced.
- Kellogg’s Dean Sally Blount has also announced she’s stepping down at the end of this academic year.
- Cornell Johnson is experiencing some turmoil. They underwent some radical transformation (for an academic institution) in 2016 where they merged three of their graduate schools under the umbrella of one. The Johnson School, where you would go if you were getting an MBA, joined with their world-renowned hospitality school and the Dyson School (economics) under a newly-named College of Business. Their Johnson School dean Soumitra Dutta took over as dean for this merged College of Business entity. But then Dean Dutta suddenly resigned at the end of January. They appointed an interim dean (Joe Thomas), but now it looks like they have promoted the Johnson School (MBA) dean (Mark Nelson) to permanently lead the merged College of Business… but we’ve honestly lost track of the plot.
So to discuss the question posed at the top of this post:
Does the dean matter?
In light of that convoluted web of Cornell confusion we just tried to summarize for you, we’ll have to say, yes it does.
But only to an extent.
We have yet to learn the circumstances around Dean Dutta’s sudden departure from the dean position at Cornell (supposedly he’s still on the faculty, but he’s never taught a class, so it sounds like a case of a golden parachute to us). We do know that the merger into the College of Business was not sold well to internal stakeholders and there were many protests and lots of dissension when it happened. We heard that the hospitality folks especially were unhappy. So as outsiders going on these two datapoints alone, all we can say is that there were issues with the way leadership has been done there. Is that enough to stop you from applying to Cornell? No, it shouldn’t be — but you DEFINITELY should travel to Ithaca and learn what you can from current students and ask direct questions of admissions folks to discover what type of impact there might be. There will still be professors showing up to teach classes and you still will be able to earn an MBA there. But innovate? No, that’s not going to happen. This place is going to be stalled out for the foreseeable future until they get their house in order…. and obviously when a school that’s supposed to be teaching you leadership demonstrates such an epic #leadershipfail then it does call some basic assumptions into question.
So that’s a cautionary tale, and we acknowledge that we don’t have all of the data, mostly because the school itself is playing very hush-hush. If we hear back from our on-the-ground sources we will update this post (or if any of you have actual knowledge of the situation — not more rumors and gossip but concrete facts — then we’d love to hear them!).
On the opposite end of the examples-of-leadership spectrum, we have a separate case:
We just learned yesterday that rockstar dean Ted Snyder will be stepping down from his leadership of Yale SOM next year. Our understanding is that he’s on sabbatical this year, so is already not on campus, and he’ll return to the deanship next year but thereafter will move back to teaching, which is what many deans do when they leave their deanship. Traditionally, deans were academics who started off as PhDs doing research and teaching classes, and eventually took on more and more administrative responsibilities in running their school before getting the top spot. Those people often are academics at heart and they may long to go back to their roots. Stepping down from the leadership position often means staying at the same institution and just moving out of the spotlight to resume a faculty role. Sometimes a dean “stepping down” means that they are resigning from the workforce entirely, or that they’re going to leave that school completely and go somewhere else, but often it means that they’re sticking around and just will no longer be the dean at their campus.
We’re going to make a wild prediction: Dean Snyder may initially take up a faculty role at the SOM but there’s a school that REALLY is overdue for some new blood in the high office and we’re going to place a bet that Ted Snyder eventually ends up at Columbia. This is total guesswork in looking at the graduate school landscape from a complete outsider’s perspective. If there were a school that could benefit from a makeover right now then Columbia is it, and if there were a dean who could do it then Ted Snyder is your man. Columbia’s Glenn Hubbard has been serving as dean since 2004 which by our count makes him the longest-serving dean at any top school. If it ain’t broke, then why fix it, but…….
So does the dean matter?
If you’re Chicago Booth in the first decade of the 21st Century, or Yale SOM in the second, the answer to that is h3ll yeah.
Ted Snyder made Booth into the school that it is (we keep waiting for current leadership to do more) and then after that, Ted Snyder worked his brand of magic again at Yale. Chicago and Yale were both excellent schools before he arrived but his tenure at each respectively made them more than excellent.
MIT and HBS are the other schools with a long-running dean. At MIT, Dean Schmittlein has been quietly creating a success story since 2008. Across the river, Nitin Nohria has been running the show since 2010. Duke’s Dean Boulding has been there since 2013 and was just reappointed to another five-year term. All of those schools seem to be doing fine (not necessarily seeing bold innovations of late from the latter two, but they’re both in good shape — no scandals!! — and no threats to their relative positions in the rankings, and MIT is doing just fine, thank you). We don’t expect big changes at any one but who knows. If Ted Snyder isn’t ready to retire yet (he’s only like 65 right now) then perhaps Harvard might try to lure him. But we doubt it. If he lands at another top bschool then we’re just wildly flapping our gums and crystal-balling that it would be at Columbia.
This has grown long. We have more to say. We will pick up with it again on the morrow (which is now posted HERE).
Columbia Business School is as you know a great school, but they do their entire admissions process differently. And this could trip an unsuspecting Brave Supplicant up. So every year around this time, we take it upon ourselves to educate you BSers about when is the right time to apply to Columbia. The biggest warning…
When an adcom issues interviews to lots of their candidates in Round 1, that means:
1. They’re being nice
2. They have a lot of uncertainty in how the season will play out
3. Lots of applicants were disappointed on decision day
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