P&Q: Have applications and enrollment increased, decreased or remained the same in Minnesota’s EMBA program?
Robyn: Applications have been flat. Which tends to be right there and consistent with other competitors. There was a decline about five years ago but since, the applications have remained flat. Enrollment numbers have actually been strong. We are doing a lot more one-on-one outreach and finding the right fit for candidates early on. Our recruiting doesn’t involve going out and trying to get 600 applications for a large pool. We like to go out to events and spend time getting to know applicants and advising them if they are a good fit to our program.
Phil: For example, enrollment before the recession was always around 55. This year it is 54. That is really what we shoot for. Right around 55.
P&Q: How do you see the EMBA market changing in the next five to 10 years?
Robyn: Overall, the growth in the market has been in Europe and Asia. We see huge demand for our EMBA programs in those markets. In the U.S. market the growth we see is in niche programs. Like EMBA programs with a specific track for healthcare, or other programs that cater to a specific industry or market. But I don’t know if this will be a huge trend or continue.
Phil: I think on the lighter side, like we mentioned earlier, we are seeing a lot more community amongst the students and it is being shaped by the larger amount of students paying out of their own pockets. We are finding the EMBA students are acting more like the full-time students in terms of their relations with each other. They want to do community events with each other. They are making funny shirts and doing 5K races with each other. Traditionally, the EMBA students have been more detached. Now we are seeing they want to be a part of the university community as a whole. It seems to make no difference if they have children, are married, or are single. The only pattern is they increasingly like to spend time with one another. I think it might have to do with more millennials entering the market and obviously this will continue to happen as millennials get to that level in their careers.
Robyn: I do think it also relates to the fact they are paying for their degrees. Now it doesn’t matter if the company might not like the funny t-shirt you are wearing while running a 5K because they are not paying for you to be there.
P&Q: Are EMBA students requiring more career management service? If so, exactly what kinds of help are they seeking and getting?
Robyn: We have offered career management services for a long time but we don’t require our executive students to participate in it. If they do choose to use it, we have a specific coach available for them. The coaches are doing everything from interview prep to resume tweaking. Many of the students who use the services are the ones who have had one career but now want something different. All of our full-time services are available to the executive students but they are utilizing it much more as an executive coaching model.
Phil: I would say the majority of the executive student demand is for broadening and enrichment for improvement within their current companies or careers. The rest are interested in assistance in completely switching careers or accelerating. A lot of what the career coaching looks like is helping our students answer questions. What does your network look like? What does your leadership style look like? What types of assignments in your classes are going to help you improve?
P&Q: Who or what factors are your program’s primary competitors?
Phil: What has been very interesting to me is our biggest competition has been the decision of doing or not doing our EMBA program. There doesn’t seem to be one school pulling our applicants from us. There are a lot of schools we admire but we are not losing students to them in droves. It just comes down to the decision of the applicant. We have seen a student who decides not to come here is usually because of timing, commitment, or budget, or a combination of all of those factors.
Robyn: I would echo that. We know students go other places on occasion but it is not in droves. At the U, there is a huge presence of students wanting to be here and a lot of passion attached to the university community. It is just helping the applicants decide if this is the right time in their lives or if they have the money.
P&Q: If you could make one thing happen in the EMBA marketplace, what would it be?
Phil: I would change the fact companies are consistently under-investing in their employees. They should begin paying for their employees to get these advanced degrees again. We see the companies who do still sponsor have a significantly higher retention and loyalty from their employees. I think the companies are really missing a beat and missing out on important investments.
Robyn: I’d like to see it become easier for students to utilize the education benefits their companies offer. In many cases, it’s become harder for students to get approvals and reimbursements and this can create a barrier to pursuing the degree.