B Schools That Let You Telecommute

While living in Charlotte, N. C., Grady Walters enrolled in a weekend business administration program for executives at a local school. Five months later, the Otis Elevator manager was transferred to Tulsa and lost all his credits. Not wanting to repeat the experience if he had to move again, he signed up for an unusual course at Purdue University.

Unlike conventional programs that hold classes every other weekend, Purdue requires executives to show up at the West Lafayette (Ind.) campus for six two-week periods over two years. Students set aside the two-week blocks well in advance with their employers' permission. The rest of the time they study at home, staying in touch with professors and classmates by computer and fax machine. They spend roughly 20 hours a week on schoolwork.

NO GYM. By removing the biweekly commitment, Purdue and two other schools make geography largely irrelevant. "It appeals to people who need flexibility in their career paths," says Skip Gross, who directs the University of Pittsburgh's program.

True, you don't see your professors that often, and you won't be able to use the university's library or gym. But profs make a point of returning phone calls within a couple of days. And the two weeks on campus--with all business and family matters left behind--are intense. "You leave there hamburger meat," says Walters, who graduated this past spring.

Purdue emphasizes quantitative subjects such as finance, and it awards students an MS in management. Pitt and Bowling Green State in Ohio offer an MBA with a general-management slant. Applicants must have worked for 6 to 12 years and taken the Graduate Management Aptitude Test. For Pitt, applications must be in by Jan. 1; for Purdue and Bowling Green, apply in the spring.

None of these programs is cheap--though employers usually foot the bill. Purdue charges $25,500--about half the cost of Harvard's full-time MBA program--and you have to buy a Macintosh computer setup that can cost $3,000 or more. Pitt's program will set you or your company back $28,500, and you'll have to cough up airfare for a two-week tour of companies in Europe. Then, there's the cost of commuting. Some execs at Purdue fly in from as far away as Albuquerque and Puerto Rico.

While balancing job and school, expect to put your personal life on hold. If you can't go to school full time or weekends, these programs offera way to earn what many consider business' golden passport.

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