Cost and effect in the business community.
What’s the safest investment for today’s twenty- and thirty-somethings? Probably education. But make no mistake, expanding one’s brainpower is a costly enterprise. Now the tight economy has made career prospects especially lucrative–and the number of applicants at many top business schools has reportedly dropped off.
Take the time to examine your yearning for higher learning. Are you looking to up your income? Influence corporate strategy? Learn how to start your? Work internationally? Before re-entering academia, you should have confidence that both the tangible and intangible benefits are still worthwhile.
Just the Facts
At many top-ranked B-schools today, tuition prices will set you back at least 50 grand. Almost $60,000 for two years at NYU’s Stern School of Business, to be precise. But don’t be discouraged. The average starting for this year’s new MBA grads, according to a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, was $63,110. Once you add the average sign-on bonus of $11,197 and other “negotiables” like tuition reimbursement, stock options, health club membership, and (believe it or not) dry cleaning–the compensation package offered by some employers is pretty sweet indeed.
You can save some money by pursuing your MBA dreams at a state school. The University of Texas MBA program, for example, charges just $7,268 per year for in-state residents. The University of Pittsburgh offers a one-year program, which splits two-year costs in half. There are also a plethora of online MBA programs available.
Kay Bonyak is the president of MBA Network, an employment Web site for grads and current MBA students. “For people who don’t live near a major university,” she says, “or who can’t afford to quit their jobs to attend school full-time, it is much easier now to get an MBA today through an accredited online program.”
Though distance learning may be cheaper, one obvious disadvantage is the loss of real-time, one-on-one, classroom interaction. The good news is that the use of interactive technology in online education is improving, according to Bonyak. “I got my MBA online, and at that time there was not a lot of chat-room discussion that took place,” says Bonyak, “but now there is. And I felt I had better access to my professors than when I was an undergraduate. I’d e-mail my questions and receive prompt answers.”
Diversity in Action
There’s no doubt that an MBA helps to level the playing field for women and minority groups in today’s market. Lester McNair is manager of chapter relations and membership services for the National Black MBA Association. His organization represents over 5,000 African-American MBAs worldwide and aims to create economic and intellectual wealth for the black community. “The specific training an MBA entails,” he claims, “enables our community to increase their earning power, affords them flexibility in their career and a wider access of job opportunities.”
Membership in the NBMBAA has tripled over the last decade, which is reflective of certain educational and business trends, according to McNair. “There are increasing numbers of graduating minorities with an MBA today,” he asserts, and corporate America has recognized the advantages of hiring such talent, specifically when it comes to their bottom line. “Too many companies market a product or service generically. There’s one message for everybody.”
The strength andof the NBMBAA mission can be credited to its strategic corporate partnerships (350 to date), scholarship programs, annual conferences and career fairs, a multi-tiered recruitment and employment network, and the dedication of its members to give something back to the community. “We have one program where our members target marginal high school students and try to turn these kids around in terms of their school performance,” said McNair. “We show them specific ways to improve their work habits and expose them to people like themselves who are successful role models.”