By Marissa Payne
Without the school’s full-time M.B.A. program, some have expressed concerns that the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business will lack a “crown jewel.”
The UI announced on Tuesday that it would close the full-time M.B.A. program by May 2019, instead reallocating resources toward building its part-time and specialized master’s programs.
Tippie Dean Sarah Gardial said shifting market dynamics and a demand for those types of programs from students and businesses contributed to the program’s closure.
Gardial told The Daily Iowan that although the change would undoubtedly be positive for Tippie financially, that did not drive the decision.
“The future of graduate business education is asking for something different than what we’ve given it in the past and what was taken to the market,” she said.
While acknowledging that market demand largely prompted the decision to close the program, Tippie Associate Dean Amy Kristof-Brown wrote in a post on her personal Facebook page that full-time M.B.A. programs are “the most costly” programs. The program becomes a loss leader, meaning it is more expensive as the market shrinks and enrollment declines.
“[The losses] eat away at other programs and restrict you from being able to develop new programs to meet growing needs in other areas; they keep you from being able to hire new people and replace ones who leave,” she said.
Although there is a need to play into this market, said Bill Rue, who graduated from the program in 2014, a full-time M.B.A. program is a “flagship for any good business school,” showing the strength of its reputation in rankings and reflecting in the overall value of the program.
“If we have a highly esteemed undergraduate program, if we have these highly esteemed part-time programs, without a full-time M.B.A. program, you don’t have that crown jewel,” he said.
Students choose a Big Ten university for an M.B.A. program expecting it will last and they can continue to tell people about the program from which they received a degree, said Tyler Kieler, a 2013 graduate of the program. Kieler said that it drives brand value even if it does not drive revenue.
“… Now we’ll just have to sort of sheepishly or even embarrassingly say, ‘Yeah, the full-time program that I went to at the University of Iowa is now closed,’ so I think it’s going to hurt rankings,” he said. “I think it’s going to hurt the long-term value of the degree that we all got.”
Rue and Kieler also expressed concerns the program’s closure would weaken the Tippie alumni network and part-time students would miss out on the networking experience that comes with enrollment in the full-time program.
On the UI’s end, Kieler said, it might mean donations from alumni will no longer flow as freely.
The decision seems sudden to those affected, Kristof-Brown wrote, but she said it was considered for years with thoughts of “ ‘let’s try harder’ and ‘let’s just put a few more resources into it.’ ” The time to stop the program was now, while it maintained its strength, she said.
“We’re getting lots of positive feedback from other programs that are facing the same losing proposition,” she said. “Deans from all over the country are calling and indicating that they’re facing the same decision and want to figure out how to do it painlessly. There is no way to do it painlessly … I can only tell you that many of us are suffering with you as we grieve for this program we loved.”