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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the August 21, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
For EMBAs, a Hard Knock Lesson
The recession has hit one of the most prestigious degree
programs — the Executive M.B.A. (EMBA). Students in these pricey
programs, where tuition is rarely much less than $50,000 and can go
as high as $100,000 or more, traditionally have been sponsored in
full by their employers. EMBA students tend to be stars, middle to
upper-middle managers in their mid-to-upper 30s with solid track records.
In the past companies have been happy not only to invest in them,
but also to give them generous amounts of time off for classes and
With a new semester about to begin, most area EMBA programs report
fewer applicants, more last-minute openings, more 11th-hour drop-outs,
more students paying all or part of the tuition themselves, and restructured
programs that keep EMBA students away from their desks for as little
time as possible. Another change for this fall is that some schools
are beefing up their offerings in "soft skills" such as communication,
and are even providing coaches to encourage students and measure their
improvement in these people skills.
EMBA programs differ from part-time and full-time MBA programs in
a number of ways (U.S. 1, April 10, 2002). Classes are small, and
students move together through the program, taking the same courses
at the same time, and forming close bonds with one another. Where
MBA programs offer a number of areas of concentration and a plethora
of elective choices, EMBA programs generally have no electives. An
important part of the EMBA experience is that students work on many
assignments as a team. Another common bonding exercise is an international
trip, often of 10 days, to an economic hot spot.
Because entrance requirements are strict — most schools require students
to have from 5 to 10 years of business experience — students are
as likely to learn from their peers as from their professor.
The cost of the programs typically includes everything from books
and parking to meals, all required overnight stays, and all or part
of the international trip. "Students just have to show up,"
says one admissions director, pointing out that the cost of an EMBA
could be not all that much higher than that of a traditional MBA if
all the costs incurred in obtaining the MBA were added up. And the
EMBA generally takes only about half as long to complete as a part-time
MBA Perhaps most importantly, it offers the intangible — but potentially
priceless — benefit of intense networking with fast-track fellow
For all of the above reasons, some executives who find their employers
suddenly unwilling to foot the bill are now swallowing hard and writing
the check themselves. A precedent for this self-investment was set
at Wharton’s West Coast campus. Nancy DuPont, program director, says
that while 75 percent of that prestigious school’s East Coast students
are sponsored by their employers, only 25 percent of its West Coast
students are sponsored. That disparity can be laid at the feet of
the dot-com bust that hit California particularly hard. A similar,
but so far less dramatic, change in employers’ willingness to foot
hefty continuing education bills for even their most outstanding employees
is in evidence this fall.
This is the inaugural year for the
Executive MBA program at the Gregg Conference Center in Bryn Mawr,
the Main Line suburb of Philadelphia (814-863-8512, www.psuemba.org).
Tuition is $75,000. Dennis Sheehan, who teaches finance at Penn State’s
State College campus, is the contact person.
"This is a typical cohort-based program," he says. Smeal’s
State College professors will teach in the 22-month program. With
the third largest undergraduate business program in the country, Smeal
has seven academic departments and 10 research centers and institutes.
In addition to traditional subject areas — marketing, management,
finance, real estate, accounting and information systems — it
offers courses in converging economies, supply chain management, E-business,
"The students will learn skills and gain insights from world thought
leaders that are immediately applicable on the job," says Sheehan.
Sheehan says that sponsoring companies will also benefit from the
retention of their best talent and better succession planning. "Not
only does the company gain a more energized and motivated employee,"
he says, "but it also receives the opportunity to network with
other leading firms participating in the program."
This year, however, he admits that even those advantages are not enough
to persuade a number of companies to provide full sponsorship. "I
just had an E-mail from a student whose company is wavering,"
he says in a phone interview. With only four days left before the
EMBA’s first class, he says he does not yet know if there will be
30 students, 25 students, or some number in-between.
"My experience," says Sheehan, "is that companies have
gotten stingier." While this is the first year for his school’s
EMBA program, he has taught in other programs for more than a decade.
The stinginess he is seeing, he says, is a reflection on the economy.
Human resource people are telling him that their companies are "`watching
expenses like a hawk.’"
"We knew this was going to be a tough year to recruit," he
says, "but this is not a permanent feature. When business picks
up, companies will return to normal."
For now, only about half of the students in the new EMBA course are
fully sponsored by their companies. Most of the rest, says Sheehan,
are splitting the costs with their employers, paying somewhere between
33 and 50 percent themselves.
Classes will be held every other weekend, from Friday through Saturday,
with an overnight stay on Friday night. Sheehan has taught under a
number of possible EMBA schedules and much prefers the two-day overnight.
"With one day a week, it feels like a job — you go nine to
five and you don’t quite get the feeling of being in a campus setting.
The residential component clearly adds $15,000 to $20,000 to the cost,
but the students get more involved." Faculty members join the
students for the overnight stay, and even a student who lives close
by must participate. They love it, says Sheehan: "I never found
a person who wanted to go home on Friday night."
While other schools report that employers are reluctant to give workers
every other Friday off to attend classes, Sheehan says this has not
been an issue in Penn State’s recruitment efforts.
What is an issue among prospective students, he says, is the overall
time commitment. As is the case with most other area EMBA programs,
Penn State’s typical participant is in his mid-to-late 30s. Most students
are male. This, says Sheehan, is in line with national EMBA enrollment
figures, which peg the percentage of females in the programs at 20
to 25 percent.
In speaking with prospective female students, Sheehan says he hears
that the timing is bad. EMBA classes are made up of employees who
have proved themselves on the initial rungs of the corporate ladder
and are poised to move into leadership roles. This stage of development
occurs at about age 33, an age, female prospects tell Sheehan, at
which they are planning to start families.
In his view, embarking on both enterprises at the same time is neigh
onto impossible. They’re already working full time, Sheehan says of
EMBA students. Adding the program means piling the equivalent of a
full-time school commitment on top of that. Parenthood — at least
for women — he says, would be just too much.
MBA program for medical, science, and technology professionals two
years ago. Applicants must have a degree in engineering, computer
science, or the natural sciences plus seven years work experience
with at least five years in management. Housed at the Bucks County
campus in Newtown, the 20-month program meets alternating Fridays
and Saturdays in Newtown. The cost for the program is $48,000, including
books, meals, an orientation weekend, the 12-day seminar in Europe
— and a Pentium laptop (215-951-5113, www.lasalle.edu/emba).
(LaSalle’s information was last updated in April. Requests for new
information were not answered by press time.
the overnight program and requires its students to stay on campus
(215-898-3430, www.wharton.upenn.edu/mba). One of the most selective
business schools, it accepted only 25 percent of applicants in 2001.
If the $114,900 tuition seems expensive, consider that the average
salary of a Wharton EMBA student is $174,000, with the range from
$53,000 to $4 million. Average increase in salary at the end of the
program is 33.5 percent. Tuition includes the ground expenses for
a week’s international study, but students pay their own airfare.
The deadline for application to Wharton’s next class is February 1,
2003. Tuition will increase, says Nancy DuPont, the program’s director,
but she does not yet know by how much.
There has been no decline in applications, she says, but there has
been a decline in the number of students who are being fully sponsored
by their employers.
of Commerce and Finance is $70,000 (610-519-6443). The average
student is 36 years old and earns $130,000 a year.
New this year is a rolling admissions policy with accelerated decisions.
Generally, decisions are made within two weeks after all application
material is received.
Classes begin in mid-August, and are held every other weekend, from
Friday at 9 a.m. to Saturday at 3:30 p.m. for 21 months. Students
are required to stay on campus overnight. In the spring of the first
year, students have a week-long international experience that focuses
on one of a number of targeted emerging economies and is designed
to provide a broader understanding of the opportunities, challenges,
and risks in global business relationships through site visits and
exchanges with key business and government decision makers.
<d>St. Joseph’s Haub School of Business offers two
EMBA options that alternate between Fridays and Saturdays (610-660-1692,
www.sju.edu/emba). A one-year, 30-credit weekend program is for those
who already have an undergraduate business degree; it costs $35,000,
up $3,500 from last year. A 21-month, 48-credit, five-semester weekend
program is $47,580, up $6,000 from last year.
The one-year program is a common sense response to the desire of students
with business degrees to skip the base courses they took as undergraduates.
John Panaseny, director of the EMBA program, says the logic behind
the shortened program is simple and obvious, but, to the best of his
knowledge, few EMBA programs offer such an option.
As for the fee increase, he says it is caused by a couple of factors.
He points out that, because the fee is all-inclusive and covers the
entire program, there is no opportunity to raise it on alternate years.
So, in effect, part of the increase is a defensive move. The other
important factor is a new item in the bundled package, which already
included tuition, meals, snacks, books, parking, weekend lodging,
and an international trip. This year, for the first time, each student
will be given a laptop computer.
But don’t most executives already have laptops? Maybe, says Penaseny,
but some companies don’t want them used for any purpose other than
work. More significantly, he says, the Haub School’s program is wired
to the hilt. Each seat is hard-wired for a computer and professors,
who include digital instruction in their lectures, found themselves
wasting inordinate amounts of time getting all of their students’
computers in synch for a lesson.
"Some students have Apples," Penaseny says. "Some have
Windows 98, some have Windows XP. The professors have software packages.
They had 25 issues getting it loaded into all the computers."
On the wired front, a new addition to the Haub School this fall is
a live Wall Street trading room. On the softer side of business, the
EMBA program is officially introducing an extensive one-on-one executive
coaching component this year. There was a trial last year, and at
least some students pronounced it the best part of the program. Included
is a 360 degree assessment, through which students have colleagues,
superiors, and underlings rate them on a number of skills. After they
collect the results, coaches work with them on an action play to improve
any deficiencies, checking in on regular intervals throughout an entire
semester. Students who find the whole assessment component just too
threatening can opt out, says Penaseny. Most, however, are enthusiastic.
He recounts a story of one student whose boss was so impressed by
the improvement in his performance after the assessment that he raised
his EMBA reimbursement from 50 percent to 100 percent.
Students are admitted to the Haub School on "rolling" basis
(no particular deadline) and last year approximately 74 percent of
applicants were accepted. Maximum class size is 30, and there are
50 students in the two classes.
School of Management in Newark (973-353-5015, www.emba.rutgers.edu).
Classes meet all day on alternate Fridays and Saturdays at the school’s
Newark campus. Tuition for the 20-month program is $53,724 for New
Jersey residents and $63,896 for non-residents and is all inclusive,
including meals and one in-residence per semester at the AT&T Learning
Center in Basking Ridge. "All they do is show up, and we hand
them everything," says the program administrator.
Each class has about 50 people. Sixty-two percent of 2001 applicants
were accepted for the program, and 60 percent of them already hold
advanced degrees, while 90 percent of applicants live within 45 miles.
First-year students will go for 12 days to England, Poland, and Germany.
This trip, conducted in association with Cambridge University, costs
$4,000 and is optional now but will soon be mandatory. Students vote
on the electives to be offered in the second year. Courses might include
international trade, advanced financial management, entrepreneurship,
investment analysis, corporate marketing/product innovation, managerial
E-commerce, marketing strategy, and debt instruments.
Though most executive MBA programs require work experience, usually
five years, the Rutgers program requires 10 years of experience. Nearly
half of the students have their program paid for by their employers.
Fox School of Business and Management is $45,000, up $2,000 from
The big change at the Fox School this year is a cut-back on Friday
classes. In the past, students spent every other Friday and Saturday
on campus, but this year, there is just one Friday a month. There
are two Saturday classes, and the fourth class is now virtual
"Students can go online," says Jan Randel, the school’s marketing
specialist. There they will work on projects, attend cyberclasses,
and/or join in on chat room discussions.
"In this economy," says Randel, "employers really want
their employees to be there." Two Friday absences a month, albeit
productive absences, are no longer palatable to companies working
with slimmed-down workforces.
"We feel the economic downturn," she says. "This year,
almost every student funded at least some percentage of the tuition."
There are approximately 30 students in each class. This year’s group
is unusually diverse. "We have a woman who worked her way up from
receptionist at a vet’s office to the owner of the whole center,"
says Randel. "We have a student who taught in Tibet, and one who
biked across America — did the whole Forest Gump thing. There
are Ph.D.s, lawyers, doctors, and someone from the Franklin Institute."
www.drexel.edu) tuition for the executive MBA program is $49,000,
up $4,000 from last year.
The big news at the Lebow School is an entirely new format. In addition
to the traditional alternating Friday and Saturday schedule, students
can choose to earn the degree entirely in the evening, spending two
evenings a week — from 6 to 9 p.m. — at the school for 24
Laurie Cato, associate director of executive education, says "employers
were balking at Fridays. Yes, we did encounter that." The program
lost a lot of people, she says, because of the alternate Friday requirement.
"Companies are not supportive of being out on Fridays," she
says. Last year students resorted to using up their vacation days
to make the Friday sessions.
This year, about half of the Lebow School’s EMBA students will attend
the weekend sessions and half will attend the evening sessions. "It’s
the exact same program," Cato hastens to say of the evening school.
"It’s not like a part-time MBA program where you’re sitting with
people just out of undergrad." At the EMBA level, she says, students
expect to sit with experienced people and "throwing ideas back
and forth is an important part." Students report learning as much
from each other as from their professors, she reports.
Another change is the addition of communication coaches. "We asked
CEOs what was the most important skill," says Cato. The overwhelming
response was proficiency in written and verbal communication. "Yet,"
says Cato, "universities don’t spend time on it." So the Lebow
School has enlarged a short communications component. Now two coaches
will meet with students at the beginning of the program and will check
back in five or six times to check progress.
In terms of enrollment, the Lebow School is "doing better than
last year," says Cato, but still has a few spots available. Company
sponsorship is not an admissions requirement, and one quarter of the
students pay for the program out of their own pockets.
Like most EMBA programs, that of the Lebow School includes an international
trip. In April the class is going to China. Cato went on the trip,
also to China, last year and says it was "such a learning experience,
such a bonding experience." Students visited offices of American
companies and learned first hand that China is not an easy market.
For one thing, says Cato, many of the country’s six billion people
live in areas with poor or nonexistent transportation infrastructure.
One student, she reports, came back from China, told his superiors
what he saw, and on the strength of his recommendation, the company
decided it was not yet ready to brave that market.
Administration offers two executive MBA programs at a conference
center in Madison. (201-692-2000, www.fdu.edu). A two-year 48-credit
basic "management MBA for executives" program is for those
with at least seven years of management experience.
The application deadline was August 15 for the fall semester, and
sessions meet on Fridays or Saturdays. An MBA for health systems executives
requires five years of management experience. Both cost $42,750 for
two years and include everything, including a two-week seminar overseas.
FDU has other master’s degrees, including an unusual MBA in pharmaceutical
and chemical studies that can be taken in the evenings. Some companies,
such as Johnson & Johnson, run in-house MBA programs at their headquarters.
an Executive Masters of Technology Management at two locations —
Middletown and Morristown. A unique feature of the Stevens program
is that class locations change from year to year, based on where students
are traveling from. This year, Middletown was substituted for Piscataway.
In the future, says Pat Merino, associate marketing director, classes
may be held in Jersey City, or, in fact, anywhere there is significant
demand. Classes run Monday or Tuesday, 3:30 to 9 p.m. The program
runs six semesters and costs about $7,000 per semester.
There is no residential component, but two Saturdays per semester
are spent on campus. Five years management experience is required.
There is rolling admissions, but May applications are preferred.
This year, for the first time, Stevens is offering financial assistance
in the form of a payment plan.
"Look at what is happening," says Merino. The pool of students
from which her program — and every other EMBA program — draws
have been slammed by this recession. "Our student profile is 38
years old, with 10 to 12 years business experience," she says.
"It’s middle management and upper middle management. That’s the
group that’s been hardest hit in this climate. Telecom, dot-com, you
For Stevens, the slumping economy is "good news, bad news,"
says Merino. On the one hand, employers are no longer eager to reimburse
tuition. On the other hand, some career-changing lay-off victims are
using their down time to beef up their resumes with programs like
the EMBA Stevens offers.
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
Other Parttime MBAs
In addition to executive MBA programs, many area schools
offer traditional part-time MBA programs. Among the most popular options
is a three-year, part-time, evening schedule. Seton Hall, Rutgers/Camden,
Rowan, Ramapo College, Rider, the New Jersey Institute of Technology,
Monmouth University, and Georgian Court College all offer this option.
credit hour (609-896-5036, www.rider.edu). Most students taking evening
and weekend courses complete the MBA in three years. Concentrations
are available in finance, marketing, global business, healthcare,
and management. New this year is a concentration in entrepreneurship.
"A lot of people are starting small businesses," says Christine
Zelenak, director of graduate admissions. Overall, she says, applications
are up. "It’s a combination," she says, "of people finding
they need advanced degrees to build their careers and people who want
to change jobs altogether."
She is also seeing those who have been laid off and "figure,
what the heck, why not do it now? I have the time."
In addition to these experienced workers, she is receiving applications
from recent college graduates deciding to go straight to graduate
school. "Many find they need the MBA to get the job they want,"
The school has about 450 students are studying part time for an MBA
and about 50 studying full time.
MBA program in Newark costs $434 per credit for state residents, and
$597 per credit for everyone else. That amounts to an overall fee
of about $16,000 for residents, $22,600 for non-residents, plus $1,500
for other fees (973-596-3300, www.management.njit.edu/
www.camden-sbc.rutgers.edu) costs $428.75 per credit for state residents,
$640.75 for out of state. MBA tracks include international business,
E-commerce, finance, management, and marketing. A joint degree program
with the law school offers an MBA/JD. Most students here take classes
part-time, and classes are also offered in Atlantic County.
www.rowan.edu/mba) costs $295 and $472 per credit hour for state residents
and non-residents respectively. Overall program tuition is about $11,000
for residents and about $17,000 for non residents.
South Orange (973-761-9262, www.business.shu.edu) charges $646 per
credit for part-time MBA courses. Master’s degrees are also available
in law, international studies, health administration, and nursing.
660, www.georgian.edu) costs $340 per credit or $22,050 for the program.
www.monmouth.edu) costs $523 per credit. Up to 18 credits can be waived.
Programs include the general MBA, accounting, and healthcare, and
each requires a different number of credits, from 30 to 54.
charges $329 per credit hour for residents, $372 for non-residents.
It is known for its cooperative education program.
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