Ohio State Gets In The Online MBA Game

There’s a new Midwestern player in the OMBA game: Ohio State Fisher

There’s a major new player in the online MBA game in the United States. And though its initial launch is small, it has the potential to become a very big deal in a very short time.

The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business announced today (September 9) the creation of a new online MBA component to its Working Professionals executive MBA program. With a first cohort planned for spring 2022, the school is emphasizing the “mirror image” quality of the new program: a “personalized, experiential and transformational” opportunity to pursue an online MBA through a program that was ranked 10th in the country — and No. 5 among public universities and No. 1 in Ohio — by U.S. News & World Report.

In the fast-moving online arena, Fisher is the third prominent business school to unveil an online MBA option in little more than a month. In early August, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business disclosed that it would add a “Flex MBA” option to its evening and weekend MBA program for professionals. Haas will take in its first online cohort in July of 2022. Less than three weeks later on Aug. 23, the University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Business announced a merger of its part-time MBA programs with its existing online MBA option that already boasts an enrollment of more than 400 students. Tippie intends to put every single graduate business course in its catalog online.

GROWING A POPULAR PROGRAM 

Fisher College of Business Dean Anil K. Makhija

“I’m quite excited,” Anil Makhija, dean at the Fisher College, tells Poets&Quants in an exclusive interview about the launch. “I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that we will be successful.”

Dean Makhija says the idea to take Ohio State’s Working Professionals MBA online was born of a desire to expand a popular program beyond the confines of the school’s campus in Columbus, Ohio — to meet the strong and demonstrated demand for what the WPMBA offers, including top faculty and industry experts, a rigorous curriculum, and a wide range of electives and specializations.

“We have a highly successful Working Professional MBA program — ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News, Stanfords of the world included,” Makhija says. “So we figured that that was a good product to make available elsewhere, this being on-ground, in-person, residential was really limited to driving distance within Columbus. So our first outreach was naturally to the other large city in Ohio, which is Cleveland. But of course, Cleveland is more than two-and-a-half hours’ drive.

THE PANDEMIC LED TO THINKING MORE DEEPLY ABOUT AN ONLINE OPTION

“So what we decided is to offer the weekend option and in fact started to provide buses — and lo and behold, now it wasn’t just Cleveland, it was also Cincinnati and the routes for these buses. And we landed up attracting fairly quickly a whole class of about 50 students coming in from elsewhere. So great product, ranked so highly, and now we could see a demand elsewhere.”

This was in spring 2020. Then, the Covid-19 pandemic began.

“Unfortunately soon after we had created this first class of 50 students coming in, Covid hit,” Makhija says. “And now we couldn’t put the students in the buses anymore. And so we immediately started thinking what to do, and we started offering some classes online as were available. And that of course led us to think more deeply about an online option.”

‘I HAVE NO HESITATION IN SAYING THAT WE WILL BE SUCCESSFUL’

Indiana University’s Kelley Online Direct program is not only king of the online MBA space in the U.S. Midwest; it’s also one of the best programs in the country, regardless of format. That’s why Poets&Quants named Kelley Direct our Program of the Year in early 2021. Another major Midwestern player, the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, joined the part-time OMBA game a couple of years ago and this summer graduated its first class. Both programs belong to schools with top-25 full-time MBAs.

So it’s a crowded field. But Ohio State Fisher’s dean is confident in success.

“I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that we will be successful and I want to tell you why,” Makhjija says. “If you look at Michigan, that’s what defines you called correctly $125,000 price tag. IU is pretty high. Now IU’s been in this business a fairly long time. But you see, we come at it from behind, but we have a program that is ranked in the top 10 among all, ranked in the top five publics, and best in Ohio. And the reason we are able to do that is that the existing program has a level of intimacy and interactivity that is generally uncommon to online type programs. And in fact, what we are going to do is we’re going to replicate that in terms of the online program we are creating.

“We’ve created a new modality that draws directly from our existing WPMBA program, one that is highly ranked and offers students unparalleled intimacy and interactivity. It’s the latest step in our efforts to continuously innovate to meet the needs of business and its leaders.

“We’re excited by the momentum this new option has generated as we explore launching other online programs, such as a new supply chain management program, and collaborating across the university on convergent research and thought leadership initiatives, including FinTech. As a college, we remain committed to finding new and creative ways to meet the needs of a dynamic marketplace and workforce.”

SAME COST NEIGHBORHOOD AS KELLEY DIRECT: AROUND $75K

The new offering allows students to enroll in the program entirely on campus, online, or a mix of both. Students will pay the same price as their in-person colleagues: around $75,ooo, comparable to Indiana Kelley’s price tag for Kelley Direct.

WPMBA recruitment is currently underway, with the program accepting applications for spring and autumn 2022. Click here for more information.

“This is a new opportunity to meet our students where they are. The Working Professional MBA is already ranked among the nation’s best at meeting the needs of our working students,” says W. Randy Smith, Ohio State’s vice provost for academic programs. “The new online opportunities will continue to help Ohio State meet the workforce demands in Ohio and beyond.”

“The Ohio State University and Fisher College of Business are excited to be bringing this offering to our students,” says Steve DeNunzio, academic director of the Online WPMBA. “We look forward to providing the same program excellence, with added flexibility and convenience.”

See the next page for a Q&A with Ohio State Fisher’s leadership team, edited for length and clarity.

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