You’ve probably heard Disney World’s famous tagline: “The happiest place on earth.” You’d be hard-pressed to find many frowns there. While customers are lured by family fun with beloved childhood characters, Disney World sets itself apart with world class service that fosters a deep connection with its brand.
If you drive two hours north to Gainesville, you’ll find the MBA equivalent. That’s what The Financial Times recently discovered about the Hough Graduate School of Business at the University of Florida. In ranking online MBA programs, which are heavily decided by alumni surveys, Hough placed fourth worldwide, notching a first-place finish in aims achieved (student goal fulfillment), online interaction (faculty availability, responsiveness, and interaction), and program delivery (quality of the teaching, materials, and exams). Hough’s offering also ranked second in career services.
It was an impressive showing against the likes of more well-known rivals with bigger and more prestigious educational brands that range from Spain’s IE Business School to the University of North Carolina’s MBA@UNC program. After all, there are nine more highly ranked business schools in the U.S. alone with online MBA programs, including Babson and Northeastern University, but the Hough program has consistently been among the best in student satisfaction even though it is less expensive (see costs below).
What’s Hough’s secret? “It’s really not that complicated,” insists Alex Sevilla, the school’s assistant dean and director of its MBA program. He attributes the program’s success to the unwavering support of his dean (John Kraft) and faculty, a commitment to keeping their technology a step ahead, and maintaining a competitive price. The biggest difference, however, stems from a cohort culture, a collaborative “family” atmosphere where students grow deeply connected to their classmates, faculty, and the school itself–exactly what many consider missing from online learning.
TWO ONLINE OPTIONS: AN FAST-PACED 16-MONTH PROGRAM & A 27-MONTH OPTION
Hough offers both a one-year (16 months) and two-year (27 months) online MBA program. The accelerated program, which includes 131 students, is designed for professionals who earned a business degree within the past seven years. Before classes start, one-year students take an intense pass-fail foundational review to confirm their mastery of quantitative coursework. If students score low on even one subject area, they are placed in the two-year program.
The two-year program, which is comprised of 206 students, includes professionals who are, on average, 30 years old and possess seven years of professional experience. Their average GMATs and GPAs are 591 and 3.2, respectively. Overall, the program is 62% male, with a 35%-40% acceptance rate. Historically, most attendees are Florida residents. However, the school has drawn students from 41 states, mainly from Georgia, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, California, and New York. Overall, the cost of the two-year program is $55,000 (with the one-year program coming in at $48,000).