The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business plans to expand its presence in the Washington, D.C., area with its first part-time MBA offering. The new program, which will enroll 65 students in August of 2022, will be based in the school’s Rosslyn, Va., campus. Candidates can begin to apply for that first class as early as this coming August.
The announcement follows the school’s growing presence in the DC area, where the University of Virginia and the Darden School have their largest groups of alumni. Darden already boasts 300 Executive MBA students in Rosslyn, an office campus that is also home to a new one-year Master of Science in Business Analytics program as well as a growing portfolio of executive education offerings.
Darden will enter a highly competitive part-time MBA market, with four existing business schools currently enrolling more part-time students than the anticipated size of Darden’s first cohort (see table below). The University of Maryland last year welcomed 231 students into its part-time MBA, while Georgetown University enrolled a class of 135 students. At steady state, Darden hopes to enroll two cohorts a year in the part-time program with a total enrollment of 130 students.
‘THE MOMENTUM FEELS VERY POSITIVE AND REAL’ IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
Heartened by the success of moving its two Executive MBA programs to the D.C. area, Darden believed the time was right to enter the part-time market. “The momentum feels very positive and real, and it felt like there is a need for some intermediate approach,” explains Yael Grushka-Cockayne, senior associate dean for professional degree programs. “The EMBA format is almost like a full-time program over 21 months with weekend residencies and pretty senior participants. The idea was to open our doors to a broader audience, perhaps not as senior, and also allow for a bit more flexibility for those who want to stay in the D.C. area.”
The school will price its new offering at roughly $140,000, the same as its full-time residential MBA program in Charlottesville, Va. That will make Darden’s part-time MBA the most expensive in the market, though it will likely rank among the top five part-time MBA options in the U.S. after the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, UC-Berkeley Haas, Northwestern Kellogg and NYU’s Stern School of Business. Georgetown’s part-time option is currently the most expensive at $127,260, while Virginia Tech’s 17-course part-time MBA is the least expensive at $49,200. George Mason University’s part-time program based in Fairfax, Va., is cheaper for in-state residents at $41,808 but is priced at $84,048 for those who live outside Virginia.
Classes will be offered primarily on weekday evenings, with a mix of fully virtual and fully in-person classes in Rosslyn led by Darden faculty. Grushka-Cockayne expects about 40% of the learning will be online, with the remaining 60% in-person. “The courses themselves are almost going to be 50/50, with one week in person and one week online,” she adds, “and then we have two residencies.”
PART-TIME PROGRAM WILL INCLUDE A PAIR OF WEEK-LONG RESIDENCIES
The format also will include two weeklong residencies–with at least one if not two in Charlottesville–and options for global study opportunities, allowing students to expand upon their classroom experiences with an immersive, high-impact trip abroad. Part-timers will complete the core curriculum–which will make up roughly half of the required credits–as part of a cohort. Darden will grant an MBA to part-time students in as few as 28 months or students may take up to 48 months to complete the program. The school believes the most common path will likely take 33 months to completion.
Darden is also putting a twist on the elective offerings, allowing part-time students to take electives with its Executive MBA students. “One thing we are really excited about with this vision and design is that there will be more opportunities for folks to be engaged with students across formats and cohorts,” says Grushka-Cockayne. “If a student wants to take an EMBA course on the weekend or vice versa there can be cross format pollination. We plan to build that presence and those relationships.”
Darden expects to enroll a slightly younger class of MBAs in its part-time program, expecting most students to have at least two years of professional experience before matriculation. The average age of its full-time MBA students is 27, while the average age for a Darden EMBA student is 34. But there will be no minimum work experience requirement for admission. Among rival programs, the average age of part-time students ranges from 29 at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business to 32 at Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business which has part-time classes in the Washington area as well.
‘THE UNDERLYING PRINCIPLE OF CASE-BASED, SOCRATIC LEARNING IS ALWAYS THERE’
Darden’s case method approach to learning will be a central feature of the new part-time program. “The underlying principle of case-based, socratic learning is always there,” adds Grushka-Cockayne.
The school’s decision to enter the part-time market occurred after doing a study of the needs of likely students. “We found out that these programs are rich and robust in the area,” says Grushka-Cockayne. “They attract many students. Demand is there. We found out that this is a great way to open our doors to a diverse set of students who would like to access a high end MBA but who haven’t been able to take two years off and move to Charlottesville. Manny schools have a robust set of students and the market looks for as much flexibility as they can get. We know from our research that students like the in-person experience and they don’t want everything online so there is a strong demand for an in-person component to create those bonds and relationships but still be flexible.”
Darden’s expansion into the D.C. market is occurring just as more high tech companies locate in the Northern Virginia. “We are excited about Northern Virginia,” adds Grushka-Cockayne. “It is drawing in a young crowd with a more diverse set of needs to develop. Amazon is there. Microsoft is building a new facility. Google has offices in the area. The presence of high tech companies is expanding which is drawing attention from other higher education players.”
PART-TIME ADMISSIONS STANDARDS WILL BE THE SAME AS THEY ARE FOR THE FULL-TIME MBA PROGRAM
The application to the part-time MBA will launch in August, with the first application deadline in the fall of 2021. Test flexibility options for the part-time MBA program admissions are expected to be in line with existing policies (see Darden Extends Test Optional Admissions For 2021-2022). Roughly 13% of its next entering cohort of full-time MBAs this fall will have enrolled with an approved test waiver.
The acceptance rates for part-time MBAs are typically well above a school’s full-time admit rate. At NYU Stern, which boasts one of the largest part-time MBA programs, the acceptance rate is 66%, well above its admit rate of 29% for Stern’s full-time MBA. At Darden, which accepts 35% of its full-time MBA applicants, it’s likely that the admit rate for the part-time program will hover between 50% and 65%, the latter of which is the current acceptance rate for Georgetown’s part-time MBA.
The part-time MBA is the fourth format of the MBA degree at Darden, joining the Full-Time, residential MBA based in Charlottesville, and the Executive MBA and Global Executive MBA based at UVA Darden DC Metro. The degree issued in each format is the same Darden MBA.