Two days a week, Jamie Duello drives an hour after work to attend class at Webster University. She said working full time, having a family and attending school all at once can be challenging.
Webster’s accelerated Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, which starts in the fall, interests Duello. Students enrolled in the program are able to complete their MBA in one year.
“I’m ready to be finished with school, and I have a family and I’m ready to spend more time with them,” Duello said.
Duello will walk in May and graduate this summer with a degree in Business Administration. She works for an insurance company and attended Webster with hopes of furthering her career at that company.
But she said the program may not work for her personal life.
Duello has a husband and 4-year-old son. On Tuesdays and Thursdays this term, she goes straight to class from work. The accelerated program requires students to take two night classes each week. She said she is hesitant to commit two nights a week to class for another full year.
“On Tuesday and Thursday nights I don’t see my husband or son at all. That makes it challenging and I’m not sure I want to do that for an entire year,” Duello said.
The new one-year MBA program is one of several changes the Walker School of Business & Technology is making.
These changes came after the university predicted a shortfall for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014. The university came up $13.9 million short while balancing its budget for FY14, which ends May 31. It now expects to end the school year with a balanced budget.
Ninety-five percent of Webster’s revenue comes from tuition dollars. The MBA program makes up 40 percent of Webster’s total revenue. Currently, the MBA program has more than 6,300 students.
Webster’s total budget for FY14 was $221.4 million.
Benjamin Akande, dean of the Walker School of Business & Technology, said Webster’s business school enrollment has not significantly decreased. It has, however, leveled off. Webster maintained enrollment in the MBA program, rather than continuing to increase it.
Akande said just before the recession, more universities started investing in education catered toward adult learners, especially for MBAs. He said other universities began to catch up to Webster during that time. Universities made MBA programs more flexible, affordable and accessible with extended campus locations — just as Webster had done.
“Our competitive advantage was eroded, and that has impacted our enrollments over time,” Akande said.
In the fall, Akande formed a task force to evaluate the program and make recommendations for improvements. Debbie Psihountas, finance professor and director of the MBA program, was on that task force. She said the business school developed a short term and long term goal for the program:
Long term — Psihountas said the MBA will add concentration areas. She said the task force’s research found that students want a more specialized business degree. With these changes, students would leave the program with not only a general business background but an area of specialty, such as financial services. Psihountas said concentrations in MBA programs is a trend worldwide.
Short term — Psihountas said the MBA will offer more courses geared toward professional development and add cohort-based programs. The professional development courses will include focuses on leadership, presentation skills and career management. Those classes will be incorporated into the program in the fall. Students in the cohort-based program move through the MBA program as a class.
The task force looked at MBA programs internationally. They studied the curriculum at Cambridge University, Northwestern University, Yale and the University of Buffalo, among others.
The task force identified professional development courses as a critical aspect of the MBA’s future.
Akande said the specialized MBA program is a new product and will require resources to build. The school will need to create new courses and do market research on those courses. Akande said the accelerated MBA program will need a leader.
Psihountas, the MBA program director, is responsible for the the program on top of her faculty duties. Akande said that stretches faculty too thin.
“You need to have a level of focus and oversight (of a program) that demands a sense of commitment,” Akande said.
Akande said what the business school is hoping to do, Akande said, is to make sure it has enough resources to deliver a high-quality, competitive program.
Akande called 300 undergraduate junior and senior students in the business school last weekend. He talked about the new one-year MBA program and invited them to attend the information sessions on Monday, March 3 and Tuesday, March 4.
The business school will hold more information sessions about the accelerated MBA program throughout the spring semester.
Webster will offer the one-year MBA program on seven metro campuses. It is looking into offering it at three international sites — Vienna, Leiden and Geneva — in the future.
The program requires students to take two night classes a week. Students travel through the program in a cohort.
Duello said an online program might work better for her. However, she is not ruling out an onsite program. She said she is happy to see Webster add the accelerated program, but she has yet to decide if it is best for her.