Quality Education To-Go: Online MBA Ranks in Top Third

By Ashley Smith

Youngstown State University has recently been ranked 21 of 68 on a list of the best online Masters of Business Administration programs by Affordable Colleges Online.

The organization assessed over 500 online MBA programs based on the following criteria: accreditation standings from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; faculty with actual business and management expertise; low student-faculty ratios; and affordability.

The online MBA program at YSU was implemented in fall of 2013, and the first round of graduates are expected this summer. This is the program’s second year appearing on the list.

Patrick Bateman, assistant professor in the Williamson College of Business Administration’s management department, attributes the high rank to the program’s constant updates, revisions and care, as well as the flexibility granted for students with nontraditional schedules.

“The [program is a] product of much time, analysis and work. … In the fall 2014, a revised Williamson MBA program was introduced on campus and online,” Bateman said. “In fact, we more than revised the Williamson MBA program; we reinvented it. Our focus is on the needs of working professionals [and] providing value through quality knowledge that will lead to career advancement and success. But we also considered the importance of timely and flexible delivery for working professionals. Courses are now offered in business-friendly, concentrated formats. The program is accredited by AACSB International, a mark of excellence that less than 5 percent of all business schools worldwide have earned.”

Betty Jo Licata, dean of the WCBA, recognizes that business students tend to come from a variety of backgrounds and work experiences, and believes the online MBA meets the special needs of those students.

“If they have professional experience or managerial work experience and they have a strong undergraduate grade point average, we will consider wavering the standardized tests for requirement for admission,” Licata said. “We’re interested in broadening the diversity of work experience that our MBA students have. The majority of our students are people who work full time and go to school part time, so almost everyone in the program is employed full time.”
The online program’s success is reinforced by a recent drastic rise in enrollment.

“Our overall MBA enrollments for this year, this spring, are up 40 percent from last spring. That’s a pretty significant increase,” Licata said. “I think [the rise in enrollment] is twofold. To some extent the online enrollment has gone up because it provides the greatest convenience for people and enables them to get through the program faster if they combine it with the on campus courses. Another one of the main reasons that the enrollments have gone up, is that we’ve got a pretty innovative program.”

Millie Rodriguez, the director of distance learning, said the program is still expanding.

“We are always finding ways to enhance the course experience for our students,” she said. “Thanks to great faculty and our Instructional Design and Development Center, we are putting out courses that have a better structure and are more media rich. While this will always be a point of continuous improvement, it is one that will keep our program competitive and up-to-date.”

The structure of the courses is a way this program has recently been updated.

“While our program tuition and fee structure has not changed, we did implement a new course structure and sequence that seems to be appealing to our prospective student population,” Rodriguez said. “Under the new course structure most of the courses are two credits and allow a student to take less credits overall.”

Bateman said that the college, of course, does not simply strive for success for rankings.

“I would encourage anyone accessing a program to look beyond rankings of programs, and really spend time focusing on what the education will enable them to do, and the faculty involved,” Bateman said. “Both on campus and online, the Williamson MBA program is designed to develop a core set of capabilities needed to be successful in the workplace: leadership, decision making, managing and strategic thinking. All of which are developed and delivered by faculty trained at top-tier institutions, such as Purdue University, SUNY–Buffalo, University of Illinois, University of Pittsburgh and University of Washington.”