Tippie College of Business Abandons Its Full-Time MBA

Tippie College of Business Abandons Its Full-Time MBA

The University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business is scrapping its full-time MBA program to focus on part-time and shorter, specialized courses, highlighting how some business schools are struggling to attract time-poor and cash-strapped managers. 


The school announced on Tuesday that the full-time MBA program will be phased out by 2019, as it shifts to shorter programs. Tippie said it planned to introduce several specialized master’s programs over the next three years while also increasing investment in part-time and executive MBA programs for working professionals. 

“Adapting to the market is key for growth in any organization, and we’re seeing clear shifts in what students and businesses need,” said Sarah Gardial, school’s dean.

“Both are expressing preferences for non-career-disrupting options for the MBA, while others are increasingly drawn to the focused education provided by master’s programs in specific subjects.”

‘There’s a shrinking market for the full-time MBA,’ says Tippie dean

He told the Wall Street Journal: “We’ve finally gotten to a tipping point where we can no longer deny there’s a shrinking market for the full-time program.” 

Tippie is the latest in a line of business schools to shutter their full-time, two-year MBA courses. Wake Forest University’s business school said it would abandon its program in 2014, while the Virginia Polytechnic Institute said it would discontinue enrolling people in its MBA in 2013. 

The moves come as many young professionals are questioning both the time and monetary cost of attending a traditional, campus-based MBA program. Not only must they pay tuition for a course of two years, but forgo lost earnings otherwise made during that period. Arizona’s W.P. Carey School of Business reflected this trend when it scrapped tuition fees for its MBA and began offering it scot free

Tippie’s announcement also comes as the market for the full-time MBA begins to shrink, although it remains valuable in terms of improving career progression. In the US, 53% of business schools running full-time, two-year MBA courses reported a decline in application numbers in 2016, according to the Graduate Management Admissions Council. At Tippie, annual enrolment fell from 140 to 100 students in the full-time program between 2010 and last year.

Specialized master’s programs are on the rise

Conversely, applications to shorter, specialized masters programs are on the rise. According to the latest GMAC data, the percentage of candidates considering specialized master’s degrees – such as the Master in Management – has increased from 15% in 2009 to 23% in 2016. 

Tippie introduced a Master of Science in Business Analytics degree in 2014, and graduate enrolment has grown 517% in less than three years, due to growing demand for data science expertise in management. The school will also introduce a master’s program in finance in 2018.


Many business schools have launched specialist master’s degrees in recent years to capitalize on this demand. This month, Harvard Business School announced plans for an online business analytics program for MBAs. Others have preferred to offer specializations within their existing MBA programs. INSEAD recently revamped its MBA program, adding tracks in digital transformation and fintech. 

Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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