Students who applied to Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business will be pleasantly surprised to hear that the school is making its two-year, full-time MBA program completely free.
Thanks to a $50 million gift from the W.P. Carey Foundation, Arizona State's business school is awarding up to 120 scholarships to students accepted into its full-time MBA program—which amounts to a tuition-free MBA for at least one class of students. Arizona State is one of the highest-ranked (No. 67) and largest business schools in the U.S., according to Bloomberg’s Business School Rankings.
"This is risk-taking," said W.P. Carey Dean Amy Hillman. "The more conservative thing would have been to name some scholarships that look for a specific type of applicant, but our fear was that we wouldn't have the kind of impact we're able to have with this. While helping a few individuals is important, this is more important."
Any chance at a free MBA is noteworthy considering the increased cost of business school. This fall, some top MBA programs raised tuition as much as 10 percent. Among top 20 schools surveyed by Bloomberg Business last year, University of Maryland's Smith School of Business had the biggest tuition jump, 9.9 percent for out-of-state residents.
Arizona State's business school is in the midlevel price category for MBA programs, ranging from $54,000 for in-state students to $90,000 for international ones, according to a spokesperson for the school. Prior to this year, the school awarded 17 full-tuition scholarships per class.
The gift coincides with a newly expanded curriculum of 60 credits, up from 48 credits. The full-time program expansion has been a long time coming, said Hillman, but it was difficult to compete with condensed one-year programs that are on the rise. "How do you convince the world of a one-year MBA that students really need the full-time, two-year program?" asked Hillman.
Lining up free tuition seemed to be the best enticement for an expanded full-time business program and a way to attract new kinds of students, said Hillman. The program's application criteria will not change.
Around a third of the program's current class are aspiring entrepreneurs, said Hillman, which is one study area she hopes will expand with this new scholarship. "We don't want entrepreneurs to have to decide between going to business school and spending the capital they have saved for their startup," she said.
To attract different business students with different values, Hillman said the school needed to do something drastic like this. "MBAs don't have a great reputation when it comes to the American public," she said. "There are a lot of critics out there who that say the MBA isn't a valuable degree. This is a way of putting our money where our mouth is."