Gies College Makes Strategic Shift with Its MBA

The business school will put its full attention on its online MBA, specialized programs, and lifelong learning.
Gies College Makes Strategic Shift with Its MBA

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, and innovation.

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.”

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