USC Marshall Is Latest To Offer Online MBA — The Price Tag: $93,502

Marshall online

There’s yet another prominent business school in the online MBA space.

The University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business today (April 2) announced that it hopes to enroll an inaugural class of up to 25 students in a $93,502 online MBA program that will start this fall.

After only three other business schools—Carnegie Mellon, North Carolina and Indiana—USC is the highest ranked business school to now offer an online MBA. The school, whose residential MBA program is ranked 26th best in the U.S. by Poets&Quants, is pricing the 21-month program near the high-end: $93,502 for total tuition and fees.


That’s just $3,000 less than the cost of the online MBA program at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, whose residential MBA program is ranked 18th, and it is roughly $28,000 more than Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business online MBA which costs $65,000. Kelley’s rank is 20th.

The highest priced online MBA is a 32-month hybrid program, which includes in-person weekend classes six times annually, at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. It costs $118,080, nearly $25,000 more than the new USC offering, from a school whose residential MBA program is ranked17th.

USC’s MBA program includes a one-week orientation at the school’s Los Angeles campus. Otherwise, the entire program is delivered online, with two-thirds of the nine contact hours a week taken at any time and the remaining third in live sessions where students are face-to-face on a computer screen with a faculty member. All told, online students are expected to spend 25 hours a week in class, interactive exercises and study time.


A unique feature of USC’s approach is that there will essentially be only one class in each of the required five semesters. The integrated classes, taught by three to four professors, will delve into several core business disciplines, giving students a more holistic view of things. The first semester, for example, features a course entitled The Fundamentals of Business that incorporates economics, accounting, analytics, statistics and virtual teams.

With USC’s entry into the market, there are now seven business schools in the Top 50 now offering online MBA programs in the U.S., including Maryland, Penn State, and Arizona State University. And there are at least another 14 online MBA programs in the second half of the Top 100, including offerings from Babson College, the University of Florida, and Northeastern University.

The field continues to grow rapidly. Carnegie Mellon, whose latest intake numbered 38 students, is expecting as many as 60 students in its next cohort to enroll this August. Only a day before USC’s announcement, American University’s Kogod School of Business said it would offer its first online MBA program this fall as well. It’s offering, dubbed MBA@American, is being priced at $72,576. It is the third online MBA developed in partnership with education provider 2U Inc. which also works with the Kenan-Flagler School and Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management.


USC’s decision to enter the online market is the result of three years of planning and research. “It’s very clear that online education is going to be a big part of higher education,” said John Matsusaka, Marshall’s Online MBA academic director. “We decided to get out there and do it. That was at the kernel stage three years ago.”

For slightly more than two years, Matsusaka led a USC task force to study the growing online market, come up with a set of recommendations for out to proceed and then design the actual curriculum and program. The group interviewed and did tours of other USC schools that were already offering online degree programs in such fields as education, social work, engineering, and communication. It spoke with business school rivals at both UNC and Indiana. And to get a better grasp of the customer side, met with members of Marshall’s Corporate Advisory Board, high-level executives at companies that hire its students) as well as advisory board members of Marshall’s Institute for Communication Technology Management.

It was direct feedback from the corporate meetings that played a role in USC’s decision to interweave communication and analytics throughout the program, as well as the school’s creation of so-called e-portfolios for online students because some board members said they often wished to see more than grades when considering job applicants, wanted to see actual work produced during studies.

Matsusaka says a key finding of the group’s research was that “online programs made a school’s residential programs better. That came up over and over again,” he says. The reason is because of all the advanced planning required by faculty to design and teach their online courses.


“Because you have to produce so much of the materials in advance, you can’t make much up as you go,” he says. “So you can better coordinate what is taught across disciplines and our classes are highly integrated. The conversations among faculty led to a lot of opportunities to share new ideas and best practices. In some cases, for the first time, faculty from different departments were sitting down together and figuring out what the learning objectives were for each course and how they could be delivered.”

Another finding: Online degree programs are not only here to stay, they will continue to grow. “I have been a professor for almost 30 years and come from a pre-iPhone, pre-iPad generation,” adds Matsusaka. “But my kids live in front of screens. Everything they do is on screens. My personal view is that we have got to get a handle on that because there will be a continued appetite to learn on screens. The market for online will continue to grow. The residential market will never go away. For some students that is an ideal experience. They want to be in the room, face to face, with fellow students and a professor every day. But for other students, an online experience is clearly preferable.”

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.