Look out, B-schools: Jack Welch is moving in

November 15, 2011: 12:51 PM ET

The former GE chairman aims to enroll 5,000 business students at his Jack Welch Management Institute, far eclipsing enrollment at programs like Harvard and Stanford.

By John A. Byrne, contributor

Jack Welch

Jack Welch

(Poets&Quants) – The legendary General Electric (GE) chairman Jack Welch believes his Jack Welch Management Institute will have more than twice as many MBA students than Harvard Business School studying for online MBA degrees by 2016. In an interview with Poets&Quants, Welch said he aims to to enroll 5,000 students within five years, far eclipsing Harvard's 1,800 MBA candidates or Stanford Graduate School of Business' 800 students.

Welch's ambitious goal comes in the aftermath of an announcement Friday that he is moving his institute from for-profit education provider Chancellor University to Strayer Education Inc. The deal is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

Welch launched his institute two years ago and currently offers a $30,000 executive MBA degree and a pair of executive certificates via online instruction. The certificate offerings -- "Becoming a Leader" and "Creating a Winning Strategy" -- last six weeks long and are priced at $2,400 each. The MBA program currently has 198 students, while another 75 students are enrolled in the certificate courses.

Welch said he believes Strayer's purchase of the Welch Institute will help it achieve its goal of becoming the "number one online business school in the world." He said Strayer has the reach, marketing muscle and know-how to increase the institute's brand value. "We're hoping to get 5,000 students by 2016," said Welch. "It's very doable."

The MBA program features video lectures from Welch, while the certificate programs feature two-way videoconferencing with the former GE chairman, whose involvement takes up between 10 to 15 hours a week of his time.

Unlike Chancellor, with its handful of campuses in Ohio, Strayer has 92 locations in 22 states and in Washington, D.C. "We have a chance to create a hybrid of in-person and online classes," said Welch, of his new partnership.

"The world is going this way," Welch said. "The thing about the online school is that the student doesn't have to pay the opportunity costs of quitting a job and yet still gets a recognized brand MBA."

Besides his goal of having 5,000 MBA students, Welch believes the biggest market in business education will be in shorter and more focused certificate programs. He said his institute will likely increase its certificate programs to a dozen within three years. Welch plans to offer courses in all the core business disciplines, such as finance and marketing, as well as industry-specific programs in a number of areas including health care.

"We enrolled 75 students in 60 days," says Welch, about the certificate programs. Welch said that the tuition for all of the certificate students have been paid for by their employers.

Welch said he believes certificate programs have potentially more upside because they don't require a large investment in time and money, making them more attractive for time-starved managers and executives who want to hold on to their jobs. "The decision [to earn a certificate] is much easier," he says. "It's only $2,400. It's a six-week commitment. The MBA is a deeper two-year commitment and a family decision."

The granting of a certificate is something that an upwardly mobile manager can put on his or her resume as a credential. There's also less competition from the major business schools in this area as only a few of the top B-schools currently offer certificate programs.

The University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School has a 60-hour Essentials of Business certificate, with six required courses in basics that range from marketing to business communications, for $3,200. Tulane University's Freeman School of Business and Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business also offer online certificate programs. But in general, the major brand name providers of executive education have steered clear of both certificate programs and online instruction.

More from Poets&Quants:

Join the Conversation
About This Author
John A. Byrne
John A. Byrne
Contributor , Fortune

John A. Byrne is chairman and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media Inc., a digital media startup that is launching a network of websites for the global business community, including PoetsandQuants.com, a website for analysis, news, and features on prestige MBAs and the best business education in the world. Byrne was until recently executive editor and editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek.com. Byrne is the author or co-author of eight books on business, leadership, and management, including two national bestsellers.

Email John
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.