By David Dykes
South Carolina colleges are rebalancing their business school curricula to keep the luster on MBA programs, and some are adding online courses to expand their reach.
Several schools in the state offer MBA programs, though most still are campus-based.
Online learning is catching on, costing less and enabling students to learn without forcing them to interrupt their careers.
In 2017, growth among larger U.S. graduate business programs was driven by a resurgence of domestic applications, offsetting declines in international applicants, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, a Reston, Va.-based business-school association.
However, a strong economy and a disruptive political climate likely contributed to the downward trend in application volumes among smaller U.S. programs, said Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC president and CEO.
Across all program types, just 32 percent of U.S. programs reported growing international application volumes in 2017 versus 49 percent in 2016. Overall, international applicants represented 57 percent of U.S. application volumes.
Domestic candidates remained an area of strength for the larger, well-known U.S. programs. Sixty-nine percent of programs with class sizes of more than 200 reported growth in domestic applications, offsetting the fact that only 38 percent of programs similar in size reported growth in international applications.
Here’s a look at four South Carolina schools and their MBA programs:
Clemson in the fall of 2019 expects to begin formally offering an MBA degree through a new online program.
“The way education is delivered—higher education—is in a changing landscape,” says Greg Pickett, senior associate dean at Clemson’s College of Business & Behavioral Science and director of MBA programs and Greenville ONE. “That certainly includes graduate business education.”
Clemson, accredited by the AACSB (considered the gold standard for business schools) and other bodies, offers an MBA program with full-time and part-time options at the Greenville ONE Center downtown. The curriculum has 49 credit hours consisting of five foundation courses, 11 core courses, and three electives. The foundation courses can be waived based on a student’s background.
Elective areas include supply chain and information management, marketing analysis, entrepreneurship and innovation management, and international business.
The online curriculum will be similar, Pickett says.
The Clemson MBA program is assessed as a Tier One graduate program, which has tuition rates for Fall 2017-Spring 2018 of $723/credit hour for part-time residents, $1,466 for part-time nonresidents, and $1,183 for online.
“When we read the demise of the full-time MBA, we’re not experiencing that in this market,” Pickett says. Since 2010, the Clemson’s MBA program has grown from about 200 students to 650.
“We’ve been very careful in how we have branded our program and what we’ve offered and how we have introduced concentrations to the marketplace so that it’s additive and it’s not cannibalizing our existing market,” Pickett says.
College of Charleston
At this nationally recognized public liberal arts and sciences university, founded in 1770, Alan Shao has been dean of the School of Business since March 2009.
Since then, he has established an MBA degree program, obtained AACSB reaccreditation, developed new majors, elevated fundraising, created the School of Business “Wall of Honor” to recognize philanthropy and long-term impact, and increased globalization throughout the School of Business.
The college’s MBA program recently was ranked among the best in the U.S. for job placement by U.S. News & World Report, which said Charleston was one of only two ranked business schools that reported full employment three months after graduation. The other was Northern Arizona University.
Charleston has a one-year, full-time MBA. Started in 2010, the program has 40 to 50 students each year, from fall through mid-summer. There are 36 credit hours and a study-abroad requirement. Leading business executives talk to the students every Friday.
Students are required to take three online proficiency courses before they start the MBA program.
Some come to the program directly out of college, while other have up to 10 years’ work experience, Shao says. Typically, one of every 10 students drops out for one reason or another.
The program costs an average of about $31,000, including study abroad, tuition, and technology fees. The college doesn’t have graduate student dorms, so those students must find housing.
The program combines the long-held standard of case studies, but also asks students to deal with contemporary issues.
University of South Carolina
The University of South Carolina doesn’t offer an online MBA. It does, however, offer a Professional MBA, a combination of bricks-and-mortar education at one of seven locations in South Carolina and Charlotte and some online learning. The program is accredited by the AACSB.
“We do not consider the Professional MBA program to be an online program,” says Elizabeth (Libby) Hendley, managing director of the Professional MBA Program at USC’s Darla Moore School of Business. “We call it a distance-based blended learning.”
That means, she says, students have options: three-hour classes Monday-Thursday nights with faculty in Columbia teaching in real-time to regional classrooms, and any student watching online.
Students who miss a class can watch it on a delayed basis for the remainder of the term, beginning the next morning.
There also are residency days in which students come to campus, perhaps on Saturday, to complete a course. The PMBA is 48 credit hours – nine core classes and seven electives – and takes about 28 months to complete. It is designed for working professionals who need flexibility in their career and family lives.
The university offers a full-time, on-campus international MBA program, consisting of 68 credit hours with core classes, electives, and a consulting project or internship. USC also offers a full-time, on-campus MBA program, consisting of 48 credit hours, for those who want to concentrate or specialize in a certain area.
The PMBA program costs about $38,000 and operates at a flat rate for resident and non-resident students of $758 per credit hour. Students use personal funds, tuition assistance from employers, and federal student loans to pay the expense, Hendley says.
The program admits about 180 students each calendar year.
The MBA is a general management program that emphasizes an integration of the business disciplines within a Christian framework. It is designed for students with an undergraduate degree in either business or a non-related field. Leveling courses, or prerequisites, are offered for non-business undergraduates. Business undergraduates might not need leveling courses before beginning their graduate study.
The MBA program, which has grown 38 percent in the last two years, consists of 36 credit hours structured in a six-week class format. Professors with real-world expertise work with students to expand their knowledge and improve skills.
Students study the areas of human resources, financing, accounting, economics, management, and marketing. Courses are a combination of seminars, case studies, and simulations, and the entire program can be completed in less than 20 months.
Classes can be taken 100 percent online or through a hybrid version, with seated classes at the University Center of Greenville. No MBA classes are offered at Anderson University’s campus.
Students can add an online, nine-credit concentration in human resources, healthcare leadership, supply-chain management, or marketing.
The MBA program totals 170 students and costs less than $20,000, says Steven Nail, dean of the university’s College of Business.
Asked about the Christian framework, Nail says, “We’ll talk about the Christian moral and ethical principles and applying that in the secular business world.”
Anderson’s Board of Trustees approved a Master of Organizational Leadership degree in May. The 30-hour program will be offered by the university’s College of Business beginning this fall.