In a recent interview with Yahoo Finance, Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Shiller told us, “I think we have too many MBAs now.” Shiller himself teaches some MBA courses at Yale, but he still thinks there’s some flaw in students’ rational. “I think that people think, ‘I can’t possibly be replaced in a management job can I? We’ll always need managers.’”
But just two states away at Yale rival, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania: it's taking a different approach. The school is in many ways doubling down on MBA education. Wharton offers a series of introductory business courses online via online course platform Coursera and has added a capstone program that allows students to get the kind of hands-on experience they’d get attending an MBA program.
While Wharton isn’t alone in offering discounted, non-degree classes online, the school has upped the ante. In order to attract MBA students that may not ordinarily apply to the program, Wharton will wave the MBA application fee for people who took the online course, and if you get into the school's (admittedly prestigious) program, Wharton rewards you with a $20,000 scholarship. Not too shabby.
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We should note that the Coursera courses are not necessarily free – if you want to earn a “verified certificate” for taking them, there is a $95 charge.
Wharton dean Geoffrey Garrett explained to Yahoo Finance Editor-at-Large Aaron Task that contrary to Shiller’s concerns, the job market for MBAs is stronger than ever. “Bob Shiller has now spent 20 years running against the pack. If I think about what’s happening at Wharton right now, we see tremendous demand for our MBA,” said Garrett. “In the last graduating class, we had more than 98% of our students who were looking for jobs get jobs.”
“We understand that there are lots of students who would like a Wharton education who can’t get to Philadelphia or San Francisco,” he said. “We think it’s the case that there are probably great students in the world that we don’t know about and who don’t know us. If Coursera provides an avenue for us to identify those students, we want to take advantage of that new talent identification opportunity.”
In many ways, Wharton’s decision to do this comes back to a basic case of supply and demand. Wharton is trying to increase demand for its degrees by broadening its outreach and applicant base – it’s almost like marketing in a non-traditional sense.