Rasmussen University entered the online MBA market last year with a simple proposition: Earn an affordable, competency-based MBA in as little as 18 months. Courtesy
Scrolling through his phone, Jeffrey Booth didn’t believe the advertisement’s headline. An online MBA for $10,000? It must be an error, he thought. Maybe a scam.
Booth, a facilities and environmental services manager at a large healthcare system in Minnesota, had been kicking around the idea of getting an MBA for a while. But at 44, with fewer years left in the workforce than, say, a 26 year old, he wasn’t sure he’d have time to recoup the investment, and most programs he saw were charging $40,000, $50,000 or more. Further, two decades removed from his undergrad degree, the thought of a traditional classroom just wasn’t appealing.
“So, when I heard $10,000, it was a no brainer. As a dad, a working professional, a husband, a person who has time demands that are incredible, I needed something super flexible and something that gave me the ability to drive my own learning,” he tells Poets&Quants.
He found that at Rasmussen University.
RASMUSSEN UNIVERSITY’S $10K MBA
In fall 2020, Rasmussen University entered the online MBA market with a simple proposition: Earn an affordable, competency-based MBA in as little as 18 months. The degree is priced just shy of $10,000. Its first cohort of students, including Booth, will graduate this spring, though some have graduated already by taking three courses per quarter instead of two.
Jennifer Moorhead, Department Dean of Rasmussen’s School of Business
As the cost of an MBA continues to rise, more prospective students are putting pencil to paper to calculate whether the hefty price tag is worth the investment. Expected salary, time left in the workforce, time to completion, and cost of the degree all come into play. Even in the online space, MBA costs at the top schools can reach six figures, and many are climbing, according to Poets&Quants’ look at the most and least expensive online MBA programs for 2021. For example, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business’ online MBA program cost $141,320, up from $132,000 in 2018.
Rasmussen isn’t the only player in the low-cost niche. Rogers State University of Oklahoma’s 18-month online MBA costs just $10,880, North Dakota’s Nistler College of Business is $18,391, and University of Massachusettes-Lowell is $19,650. While there may still be a stigma around a lower-priced, online master’s, it appears to be dissipating. Students who aren’t looking for careers in consulting, investment banking or other high-salaried industries can’t see the value in the expensive programs at top-ranked business schools. Online programs are often better tailored to their local markets because they are developed with the workforce, and the employers, in mind.
“Unfortunately, folks often have a negative connotation with a lower priced program, but we did not develop this to be an MBA Light,” says Jennifer Moorhead, Department Dean of Rasmussen’s School of Business and General Education. “Rasmussen follows a standardized curriculum and program development process agnostic of market price. The curriculum is built with just as much rigor and attention to quality regardless of the price.”
Rasmussen is a private, for-profit university with 23 campuses across six states. Its total enrollment is around 17,000, but doesn’t publish figures for individual programs, Moorhead says. It is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
The university caters to more non-traditional students who are older or from underrepresented groups, who already participate in the job market, and who are looking for skills and/or degrees to help them find a better job or advance in their careers. That’s who this online MBA targets as well. It requires no GRE or GMAT and offers four start dates per year. The school works closely with local industry to develop programs that are in demand in their markets, Moorhead says.
Central Pasco Campus of Rasmussen University in Odessa, Fla. Courtesy
Rasmussen uses a competency-based education model that gives professionals credit for what they know, allowing them to focus learning on new skills and material. Students have the flexibility to work ahead and demonstrate mastery of course topics to better balance the demands of their work, school and other obligations. Courses last 11 weeks, and it’s up to the student how fast they advance through.
“Competency-based education (CBE) introduces even more flexibility to students. There are still assignments, but there are no due dates. There is still access to faculty and instructors, yet there’s no requirement to sit and view a lecture at a certain time,” Moorhead says.
Instructors host live lectures, so there is the opportunity for student-teacher interaction if a student prefers, but the lectures are also pre-recorded. Each course is broken into key competencies, and assignments are created to measure those. The program also provides students with a downloadable portfolio of these competencies and related coursework to provide employers when they are looking for a job or seeking a raise or promotion in their current field.
Jeffrey Booth, MBA ’22, Rasmussen University
“I didn’t expect to be connected with students in an online program. I thought it was going to be a very private learning experience, but I’ve made some lifelong, amazing friends,” Booth says. “I’m just impressed with the level of staff who they are bringing into the program. I’ve had a wonderful experience with the quality of education that I would say is better than what I got in my undergrad, and I thought that was amazing.”
CBE makes this program possible for Booth, he says. He and his wife, who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. online, have four kids ages 12 to 20. They plan the heck of their calendars and make sure that they carve out time for family as well. For example, the whole family spent a week in Cancun this summer and just shut out all other commitments. He just worked ahead to make that time.
‘I SHOULD HAVE PAID $100,000 FOR THIS MBA’
Booth is now completing classes 9 and 10 out of a total of 12. In his career, his undergrad business degree has landed him jobs in all different kinds of industries, to big box retail, to corporate safety to healthcare. He’ll decide what comes next after graduation.
“I don’t think I could be finishing at a better time with an MBA, looking at the job market and what’s available, because even right now I’m having people reach out to me like crazy with opportunities,” Booth says. “I haven’t taken any of them because I want to leave that open for now. I just want to play that by ear.”
After he first saw the Rasmussen advertisement on his phone, he talked about it with a neighbor (who he also roped into doing the program with him.) How good could it be for $10,000? But then, they thought, it’s not the price tag of the MBA, it’s what you’re putting into it and, in turn, what you’re getting out of it.
“The MBA gets you the interview. How you apply what you’ve learned is where you sell yourself, that’s where the true learning comes into play. That’s when an employer will say, ‘That’s what I’m looking for,’” he says.
“I feel like I should have paid $100,000 for this MBA. It has been that impactful for me.”