The Democratization of the MBA Degree

March 8, 2010 · Leave a Comment 

Thanks to the Internet, the doors of MBA education are now wide open. There is no denying that revolution in communication technology has changed the face of business education.

Once the poor cousin of its campus-based equivalent, the online MBA has become a valuable alternative for students unwilling or unable to invest two years of their professional lives in the traditional classroom-based MBA experience. Suddenly, business and career opportunities once available only to the well-heeled and the elite are now available to the masses.

But has the concept of an online MBA spun out of control? The sector now boasts a dizzying array of programs from the most prestigious education brands like the Harvard Business School to super schools such as the University of Phoenix, with over 65,000 students enrolled in its online MBA program.

Online MBA costs also vary wildly, from as low as $8,000, to $37,500 for an executive MBA degree program at Harvard Business School. So are all MBAs created equal? Does price indicate the intrinsic worth of some programs over others? While it might be easy to scorn at the low-cost providers, do they perform a valuable function in democratizing business education?

But does quality drop when a program targets a mass market? The University of Phoenix views its admissions approach as being inclusive, arguing that bricks-and-mortar universities exert a form of elitism by using grades and standardized testing as a way of restricting class size, whereas the online university can offer places to a wider student body whose priority is simply to move ahead.

Harvard Business School, on the other hand, insists on the same rigorous academic entry criteria for all its executive MBA programs, regardless of class format. With its new Program for Leadership Development that combines online and on-campus learning, Harvard Business School is targeting a different market segment, focusing on experienced managers with no option for a two-year career break. This program offers them a good alternative and access to the world’s most prestigious business school.

So are online MBA degrees worth the paper they’re printed on? Absolutely. The key is earning your online MBA from an accredited, well-established business school. In a recent survey by, as much as 86 percent of employers reported a positive impression of online degrees, especially those issued by reputable institutions. If you’re hesitant about earning your MBA online, you can lay your worries to rest. Just make sure that your school is accredited.

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