Every now and then someone acts on an idea that we’ve been wondering about. tuition insurance may be a good purchase this year as colleges’ plans are up in the air and Covid-19 is spreading again. Here’s the article from Higher ED about GradGuard.
of the universities that have created lower-priced online graduate
programs in recent years have gone out of their way to make the case
that the digital versions are equivalent to their (more expensive)
“Online students learn from the same faculty and take the same
courses as those on campus in Atlanta,” Georgia Institute of Technology
states in describing the online version of its master of science in cybersecurity degree.
“Yes, this is the same degree as the on-campus M.B.A. degree, and
after successfully completing the degree requirements you will be part
of the Illinois alumni network,” the University of Illinois’s Gies
School of Business says in the FAQ for its online M.B.A. offered with Coursera. (Gies went so far as to end its on-campus program after this year.)
Oh, officials at BU’s Questrom School of Business believe the online
degree program will be of high quality — and in fact they believe the
on-campus version will have much to learn from the virtual iteration.
But the new online M.B.A. will differ from the in-person version in
many ways: among other things, it’s aimed at a different audience (“the
global learner” who wants to advance her career while still working
versus a career switcher who chooses to take a year-plus out of the
workforce to return to school), has a different curriculum (five modules
built around “capabilities” such as “data-driven decision making”
rather than courses such as marketing or operations), and allows less
“We’re differentiating our programs more,” said Susan Fournier,
Questrom’s dean. “At the same time, we’re launching a program for the
global online segment, having the most innovative and customized
offering to meet their needs. We’re doubling down to improve the
on-campus M.B.A., emphasizing and creating more value in the things you
will get in that degree that you won’t have online.”
As befits someone in her position, Fournier reaches to other
industries that appear in the business school’s case studies for
analogies. Steinway and Porsche, she said, are both high-end brands that
have found ways to offer lower-priced versions of their instruments and
vehicles, respectively, while maintaining their reputations for quality
— in large part by augmenting the services they offer on their
“There’s a big difference,” she says, “in the value propositions.”
BU Builds Up
As is true of many things in higher education, “new” initiatives like
Boston University’s low-priced M.B.A. were a long time coming (or at
least “long” as that is defined in the digital era).
The university has experimented with online education for nearly 20
years, originally through its extension programs and more recently
through a separate office of online education.
It was an early partner of edX, the massive open online course
provider founded by neighboring Harvard University and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology.
In 2017 the Questrom business school began offering “micromaster’s”
credentials in digital leadership and digital product management through
edX, part of the provider’s suite of mixed online/in-person programs
that could be stacked to form a full master’s.
All of that work has helped the university to do some of the hardest
work around online education, which involves creating the administrative
and policy infrastructure and getting faculty members comfortable
experimenting with new modes of delivery.
Then “boom,” Fournier said, edX approached BU about creating its
first fully online M.B.A. program — inspired, certainly, by the fact
that the MOOC provider’s rival, Coursera, had been steadily expanding its suite of low-priced online master’s programs, including the aforementioned iMBA at Illinois. EdX announced a set of such master’s programs last fall, but an M.B.A. was not among them.
Fournier said she and her colleagues were intrigued by the idea of
creating a fully online M.B.A. program with edX, for a variety of
First is edX’s status as a platform of 21 million learners
internationally and its mission of providing accessible, high-quality
education around the world, which aligns, Fournier said, with the
business school’s value statement of “creating value for the world.”
Second, she said, tapping into the MOOC provider’s enormous user base
could give Boston University a head start in building a program of
significant “scale,” which Fournier said she has come to believe is
essential for success in digital learning, “given the huge investment
you have to make in infrastructure, faculty acculturation, capability
development, studies and new staff, which are all very costly.” BU’s
full-time M.B.A. program has about 300 students, and its part-time
executive M.B.A. has about 640. The enrollment target for the fully
online M.B.A.: 2,500 to 3,000 within five years, Fournier said.
Aiming for a larger scale “also starts to suggest a pricing
strategy,” she said. Most selective institutions purposely limit who
they serve, and as a result tend to price their programs “super high.”
The alternative, she said, is to “try to use this wider funnel” to
attract more people, potentially allowing you to price the program
Online education “should be priced lower,” Fournier adds. “If we
tried to bring 1,000 M.B.A. students, 2,000 students, to Boston, the
cost would absolutely be higher. We’d need new buildings, and to scale
up the faculty five times. This way we should have lower acquisition
costs and lower costs of delivery.”
Reconsidering What’s in the M.B.A.
As BU and Questrom were dabbling with various forms of digital
learning, they were also re-evaluating the nature of business education,
through a series of global and regional conversations called the Business Education Jam.
The discussions, which involved other business education
organizations as well, involved several thousand academics and business
professionals around the question of what business education should look
like in the 21st century. And the bottom-line answer, Fournier said, is
that it “looks very different from our current core M.B.A.,” especially
for the group she calls “global learners.”
Rather than building expertise in narrow disciplines like accounting
or finance, she said, business leaders going forward need “five
competencies” that they can use in whatever field or setting they work
in: leading with integrity; creating a socially responsible business in
the digital age; developing an innovative mind-set; pursuing a global
business opportunity; and learning data-driven decision making.
The business school has begun slowly revising its traditional
curricula and degree programs, but that sort of change doesn’t happen
The new online degree, on the other hand, offers an opportunity to
remake the curriculum from the get-go — and to strip away everything
that doesn’t fit. The curriculum is made up of modules in each of the
five aforementioned competencies — period. “That foundation is what we
think the 21st-century learner needs to know,” Fournier said. “We are
not offering any electives,” which are very expensive because of the
faculty expertise required to offer them. “When you do those five
modules, this is it — you’re done.”
Fournier and Questrom recognize that that stripped-down curriculum won’t satisfy everyone — in fact, they’re counting on it.
“That’s why that degree is $24,000, and the other one is not,” she
says. Students in the fully online M.B.A. can’t take electives in health
care, as 28 percent of the university’s in-person business students do,
given Boston’s vibrant health sector.
They won’t have networking interactions or career counseling or in-person internships, as students in the in-person program do.
That’s where Steinway and Porsche come in, she says. Questrom will
have to find a way to “sustain product offerings at different levels”
and to persuade students that its M.B.A. programs have sufficient value,
whether they’re paying $24,000 or $76,000.
“It’s our responsibility,” she said, “to make that value proposition obvious.”
Two great sources of information for soon-to-be college-graduates seeking jobs are Inside Higher Education and NACE, The National Association of Colleges and Employers. From their posts and articles I’ve culled 5 tips.
1. A high percentage of employers find that college grads are deficient in oral and written communication. The fix: get help with your resume from either your college career office or a consultant who writes resumes. Do the same with prep for interviews. Be confident that you display top-notch communication.
2. Proofread several times and have someone else read your docs over, too. Documents without typos or other errors shows your attention to detail. No one wants to hire a slob.
3. Internships are important to potential employers. Even unpaid, you develop job-specific skills and gain accomplishments to put into your resume. You;ll have projects to discuss in an interview. Past performance predicts future success.
4. Volunteering is also important. Not only does volunteering give you experience but demonstrates what is important to you. Sometimes community service can make a strong connection to your future workplace.
5. If you decide to hire a recruiter or job placement expert, be aware that they work for the company with the open positions. The company pays so loyalty goes to the check writer. Job searching on your own can be as fruitful as hiring a recruiter. The gem in this tip is to stay in touch with your recruiter or with the companies where you want to work. Don’t depend on someone else to take the lead. Polite inquiries, brief messages or requests for information show persistence, a good quality to have.
Here are 5 ways you can help yourself acquire a job. If you would like help with resume writing, interview readiness or networking, lets get together. I want you to put your best foot forward! firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-212-6679
Considering the value of a getting your masters or doctorate right after college graduation? In some fields, such as teaching, it makes sense to continue, whether or not you have a teaching position.
However, employers are beginning to re-introduce tuition reimbursement as a perk for their employees. The following article from Inside Higher Education highlights the benefits to employers of offering to par part of the cost for pursuing additional education.
June 3, 2015 Inside Higher Education By Carl Straumsheim
Are colleges and universities getting savvier about pitching their programs to the private sector, or are corporations increasingly turning to higher education to train their employees? The answer, according to workforce researchers, corporate education providers and companies themselves, is somewhere in the middle.
In the last year alone, companies such as Anthem, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, McDonald’s and Starbucks have announced that they will pay to send their employees to college — or back to college. At the same time, many institutions have entered or are in the process of entering the adult learner market, offering programs catering to working adults or signing agreements with corporations to offer tuition discounts to their employees.
It’s a partnership that makes sense: companies need to train employees, and colleges need to increase enrollments. But when corporations outsource their training programs, they tend to spend their money outside higher education.
Institutions active in the corporate education market are quick to point to what others are missing out on: a share of $772 billion. That’s how much the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce estimates the U.S. spends on postsecondary education and training a year. Yet less than one-third of that sum, or about $248 billion, is going to four-year colleges and universities. Two-year colleges take a much smaller slice — about $40 billion. The rest goes to apprenticeships and industry-based certifications, among other programs.
“Colleges, universities — they’ve almost ceded that ground and said, ‘We’re not paying attention,’” said Jayson Boyers, vice president of continuing professional studies at Champlain College, a newcomer to the corporate education market. “In the meantime, they run the risk of not having those relationships, those engagements to keep their curriculum current.”
Strayer University has tuition discount agreements with about 300 companies, but last month, the university announced a more customized deal: an exclusive agreement with Fiat Chrysler, which will provide free tuition for its dealership workers.
Strayer is not alone in tailoring its offerings to suit corporate clients. Starbucks also has a tuition discount agreement with Strayer, but partnered with Arizona State University last summer in an effort to help its employees finish their degrees. McDonald’s, meanwhile, is working primarily with community colleges to give crew members and managers access to courses in business and hospitality management, among other fields.
Other companies are picking more nontraditional partners. This week, health care provider Anthem chose College for America, a subsidiary of Southern New Hampshire University. College for America specializes in competency-based education, meaning Anthem’s employees will be able to work toward mastering the competencies of the degrees they pursue at their own pace.
Fiat Chrysler’s benefits are the most generous. The automaker will pay up front for its dealership workers to take however many Strayer courses they like, toward whatever degree they like — the only requirement being that they have been employed for 30 days. In comparison, Starbucks employees get reimbursed after each semester, while McDonald’s crew members and managers are eligible for $700 and $1,050, respectively, in tuition assistance a year.
Karl McDonnell, CEO of Strayer, said he expects companies will continue to be interested in both tuition discount agreements and partnerships to create customized curricula. To succeed in the corporate market, he said, colleges need to be flexible and willing to make long-term investments.
“What the companies say is — and I’m going be guilty of some overgeneralization here — for the most part, a lot of these [colleges] are way too slow and way too wed to their point of view,” McDonnell said. “These companies want customized or specialized content, they want it fast and they don’t want to pay a fortune for it.”
A ‘Changing Tide’ in the Market
For companies, the growth in tuition assistance programs is fueled by an increase in both confidence and competition.
“We’re at a point in time in history where, on the one hand, you’ve got some funky macroeconomic trends, slow GDP growth and all sorts of underemployment by college grads,” McDonnell said. “On the other hand, you’ve got all this massive industry disruption and innovation, and this is colliding in this new normal that companies are having to cope with.”
Higher education, McDonnell added, can help the private sector as it navigates this period of uncertainty. “The only way the U.S. can maintain its economic leadership role in the world is for companies and universities to partner together and build the workforce of the 21st century,” he said.
After emerging from the recession, some employers are now more willing to raise employees’ wages or expand their benefits after years of cutting back. More generous benefit packages are also a sign that companies are taking seriously the threat of having their employees poached by competitors. Tying continuing education to continued employment can therefore serve as an effective method of retaining workers.
It is, of course, also a public relations move. On average, only about 5 percent of employees take advantage of tuition assistance benefits, McDonnell pointed out. Still, if 5 percent of Fiat Chrysler’s dealership workers decide to enroll at Strayer, the university will gain almost 6,000 new students, he said.
Whatever the reason why more companies are offering tuition assistance, the development is a positive one, said Nicole Smith, a research professor and senior economist at the Georgetown center.
“What we might be observing is a changing tide from an employers’ market to an employees’ market,” Smith said. “There’s finally a recognition of employees as human capital worthy of investment.”
Compared to 30 years ago, colleges and universities are taking a greater share of the money that goes toward employee training, Smith said. But higher education is now training a larger and more diverse population — including workers who require remedial education or for whom English is not their first language — so the comparison is not perfect. Neither is a shorter-term comparison, due to the recent recession and the budget cuts that followed.
Generally speaking, Smith said, companies spend less on training each individual worker than they did two decades ago. At the same time, companies have shifted many of the job training responsibilities to community colleges.
While she said community colleges have “led the way” in corporate education, Smith said all sectors of higher education should recognize that they have a “market-based mandate” instead of worrying about students only while they are enrolled. “For far too long, universities have been able to get away with that,” she said.
Companies, too, can do their part to make it easier for higher education to serve the private sector, McDonnell said. If corporations in the same market could form consortia and agree on the top competencies they want their employees to know, he said, colleges could add those competencies on top of their existing curricula.
“Chrysler shouldn’t have to teach you how to express yourself thoughtfully or creatively,” McDonnell said. “Their appetite is to try to crack the code on tough change management problems…. Higher education could be a huge enabler of that.”