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Falling In-State Student Numbers at Berkeley-Haas Raise Concerns

Full-time MBA tuition for in-state students catching out-of-state price tag at Haas

The number of in-state students attending the full-time MBA at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business (Berkeley-Haas) has halved over the past decade as tuition fees for Californian residents have more than doubled, according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle.

While there were 98 residents of California enrolled in the MBA program back in 2005 that number, according to the report, has now dropped to 48 – a fifth of 2015’s entering class size. While one can speculate as to whether tuition (rather than, say, growth in international interest and competition for places) is the primary driver of this fall, it certainly brings the perceived merits of US students pursuing an MBA at a public university in their home state back into the spotlight.

Dwindling state funding blamed for full-time MBA’s price changes

Traditionally, state subsidies for residents would have made a full-time MBA at a public university, such as that offered by Berkeley-Haas, an attractive proposition in comparison to those available at private business schools. However with state funding drying up, business schools have often felt compelled to raise in-state tuition fees to ensure the quality of degree they provide remains competitive.

"When California provided more support to us, allowing tuition and fees to be lower, that was a wonderful benefit. But we couldn't lower the level of service," Stephanie Fujii, assistant dean at Berkeley-Haas, told the Chronicle.

The upshot is that the difference between the in-state and out-of-state price tag has virtually been eroded. In the report’s analysis, a Californian resident could have signed up for the Berkeley-Haas MBA for less than US$50,000 in tuition across the full two years in 2005. However, in-state students entering in the current academic year can expect to pay a total of around US$115,000 in tuition – not far off the current costs applicable to non-residents, who are set to pay a little under US$120,000 over two years.

California’s university system drew widespread criticism and student outrage at the end of 2014, when the UC board approved an end to a three-year freeze in tuition and gave programs the power to raise fees by as much as 5% each year to 2020. This decision held consequences for the full-time MBA at UC Irvine, Davis and San Diego, as well as at Berkeley-Haas, but not the program offered by UCLA Anderson.

UCLA Anderson’s ‘self-sufficient’ MBA 

UCLA Anderson took its full-time MBA program off the state-supported funding model in 2013, citing the move as a “creative response” to declining state funding. At the time, Anderson also argued that the program’s freedom from state support would prevent unpredictable tuition levels, allow it to draw greater revenue from its alumni network and free up its allotment of state funding for use elsewhere in UCLA.

There were fears that this would make UCLA Anderson’s MBA more expensive than others in the UC system. But, two years on and its estimated costs for the current academic year resembles those at Berkeley-Haas closely – student charges and health insurance combined add up to around US$54,000 a year for Californian residents and to roughly US$58,000 for non-residents.

Other examples of public universities in the US which run self-supporting full-time MBA programs include the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

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Written by Tim Dhoul

Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).

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