IN MAY, GIES College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced that it would no longer enroll new students in
its residential full-time MBA and part-time MBA programs. Pending
university approval, the college plans to focus its investments in its
online iMBA, specialized master’s programs, undergraduate education,
and lifelong learning.
The new direction is in response to a growing number of students
worldwide who are seeking more flexible, accessible, and affordable
educational options, says Jeffrey Brown, dean of Gies College. With its
total tuition costing US$22,000, the iMBA is not only more accessible,
but also more affordable for many students, he adds.
Since the school launched its iMBA,
applications to the program have nearly
tripled, from 1,100 in 2016 to a projected
3,200 in 2019. It currently enrolls
2,600 students, 75 percent of whom are
located outside the state of Illinois; more
than 20 percent are international. So far,
the program has graduated 342 students.
The iMBA is delivered via a stackable
structure, and it comprises a series
of business specializations that each
include three classes and a capstone
project. The program’s architecture
avoids academic silos, instead combining
material across disciplines in ways
that reflect how professionals will apply
what they learn in real-world settings.
Students can pursue special concentrations
in emerging areas of study,
including digitalization, globalization,
For the coming academic year, the
school plans to add more blended content
in the form of short courses, with the
goal of allowing students to more easily
customize their programs. The first short
courses will focus on business and technology.
The iMBA also will place greater
emphasis on experiential learning, via
a ten-day global immersion experience,
immersion projects within organizations,
and three-day micro-immersion
projects with partner companies.
In addition to doubling down on
its iMBA, Gies College will expand its
portfolio of specialized master’s degrees
in fields such as accounting, finance, and
technology management. Gies also will
focus on expanding the reach of undergraduate
programs such as its online
business minor, which currently enrolls
approximately 1,000 students.
As demand for traditional educational
formats continues to decline in the
U.S., demand for online options rises.
That’s why it makes sense for the school
to make this shift, Brown emphasizes.
“The iMBA is the right format for the
times,” he says. “We are creating what
I call the world’s MBA.”