George Clooney Has Nothing On These EMBA Road Warriors

Some even gain a sense of comfort from the compartmentalization the traveling provides. Stephanie Carlton, a health policy adviser for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, doesn’t mind the 3,000-mile roundtrip commute to the University of Texas’ in Austin from Washington, D.C., every other Thursday evening. “My job in Washington can be pretty consuming,” she says, “but traveling to Texas helps me separate work from school. When I’m in Washington, I focus on reforming Medicare and Medicaid. When I’m in Austin, I focus on Dr. Rao’s next corporate finance exam.” Carlton’s also going to Texas in part because the program is about $20,000 less expensive than Georgetown University’s offering, even after accounting for the travel costs. “There’s some economic logic to my commuting decision.”

Every other Thursday, Stephanie Carlton is doing a 3,000-mile roundtrip from Washington, D.C., to Austin, to attend class at UT's Executive MBA program.

Carlton budgets her time efficiently, working most hours on those flights back and forth from Washington to Austin. “I fit in study time whenever I can,” she says, “from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. before work, or maybe a couple of hours at the Library of Congress after work. But I get most of my studying done during the weekends. That still leaves time for a little bit of a social life in the evenings and on weekends, exercise two to three times a week, and church on Sunday evenings.”

These already hellish commutes have grown even more tortuous due to cutbacks in both flight schedules and corporate support for executive education.

When Christopher Bouck initially signed up for Cornell University’s Executive MBA program, airlines offered many direct flights to New York from the Cayman Islands where he lives and works as an accounting manager for ABN AMRO. The Dutch bank also had a tuition reimbursement program.

“I thought I’d have it relatively easy,” Bouck says. “But as the economy unraveled, many airlines cut down the flights so now I have to fly using connections.” His job also closed the window on tuition reimbursement, forcing him to foot the entire $145,380 cost of the 22-month program. “A number of my classmates had their anticipated corporate funding dry up during this time as well,” he adds.