Accelerated MBA

The rise of the one-year MBA

July 10, 2012: 12:38 PM ET

A time when applications to most two-year MBA programs are down, there's renewed and growing interest in accelerated programs.

Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management

By David Bogoslaw

(Poets&Quants) -- It's no secret that an MBA is one of the most expensive gifts you could ever give yourself. Once you add in the lost income from quitting your job, the interest payments on student loans, and the ever-rising tuition and fees, the total cost of the degree can approach $350,000.

So at a time when applications to most two-year MBA programs are down, it's probably not all that surprising that there's renewed and growing interest in one-year programs. As Kate Smith, admissions director for Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, puts it, "The value proposition of the one year is great so there is high demand for it."

While overall MBA applications to Kellogg were down 7% last year, one-year applicants bucked the trend. They rose by 6% last year and are up 24% since 2009. This year, Kellogg has enrolled a record 100 students, up from 86 last year. Smith says the school plans to expand the class by 20% to 30% next year, bringing enrollment to as high as 130 students.

As the highest ranked U.S. school with a one-year MBA program, Kellogg believes it has an unusual opportunity to achieve significant MBA growth. Within three years, the school hopes to double the size of its one-year program to some 200 students.

Besides Kellogg, there are only two other top 20 U.S. schools with one-year options: Cornell University's Johnson School of Business, which requires candidates to already have an advanced degree, and Emory University's Goizueta School, which, like Kellogg, requires applicants to have an undergraduate business degree or a quant background.

And those schools are also reporting increased interest in the one-year alternative. At Emory's Goizueta School, applications this year are up 39% and the school has enrolled 48 one-year students, up from 39 a year earlier. At Cornell University's Johnson School, applications for its one-year MBA rose 15% last year while class size jumped 30% to 59 students. Johnson hopes to enroll 60 to 70 students in next year's class. Fueling demand for Cornell's 12-month option is the opportunity for students to do a dual-degree. "It's a unique opportunity for a dual degree, like an MD/MBA, or Masters in Real Estate/MBA," says Randy Allen, associate dean at Cornell. "Students can shave time off as well as cost in getting that [second] degree."

Viraj Mehta completed Johnson's accelerated MBA this year, between his third and fourth years at Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine, where he's studying to be an eye surgeon.

"It's a great way to round out my skill set and give me a better idea of how the business of medicine actually works," he says. "Eventually it will help put me in a position where I can make large-scale changes for the healthcare system."

The benefits of one-year programs are obvious: Getting the same degree in half the time brings considerable savings in tuition and fees, room and board, and the lost opportunity cost of not having a job for two years. And despite the shortened academic experience, MBA employers tend to award one-year grads the same starting salaries they pay MBAs of two-year programs. More

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