business

Part-Timers' Pitch for More Perks

With access to on-campus recruiters and job interviews often limited, they're pushing B-schools to amend their policies

By Francesca Di Meglio

In November, 200 of the more than 1,700 part-time graduate students at New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business signed a petition stating, "By signing below I wish to indicate to the Stern administration that I am upset with the inability of part-time students to attend the same recruiting and on-campus interview events offered to full-time students. I am also indicating my desire to have this policy changed."

A Stern spokesperson says while admnistrators, including three Stern deans and NYU president John Edward Sexton, haven't seen the petition and don't know which students signed it, they know it centers around part-time students wanting more on-campus job-search perks.

STATUS SEEKERS.

  The mini uprising at Stern reflects a nationwide trend at B-schools. Because fewer companies can afford to foot the bill to send an employee to graduate school, far more part-time MBAs are paying their own tuition. And, not surprisingly, they're increasingly adamant about receiving the same opportunities as full-timers, including access to on-campus recruiting -- a privilege they're denied on some campuses.

It hasn't always been this way. Previously, Stern students were permitted to attend on-campus recruiting events in their year of graduation if they attended required career training. But for a variety of reasons, part-time students weren't having the same success with recruiters as full-time students. That's mainly because part-timers tend to have considerable work experience, and on-campus recruiters are usually looking for freshly minted MBAs from the full-time program, who are more willing to take on junior-level roles, says Gary Fraser, associate dean of MBA Student Affairs at Stern.

The school's solution? About two years ago, Stern opened its doors to the Career Center for Working Professionals (CCWP), an office that provides training, networking opportunities, one-on-one counseling, and career planning for part-timers and alumni who already have full-time jobs. The CCWP provides more personalized programs and is a better fit for part-time students seeking their next work opportunity, says Fraser. When the center opened in May, 2003, however, part-timers were no longer allowed to participate in on-campus recruiting.

BW 2004 Ranking   University   Program   Location   Number of Part-Time Students
1   Northwestern University   Kellogg School of Management   Evanston, IL   1,350
2   University of Chicago   Graduate School of Business   Chicago, IL   1,433
6   University of Michigan   Stephen M. Ross School of Business   Ann Arbor, MI   952
13   New York University   Leonard N. Stern School of Business   New York, NY   1,703
14   UCLA   UCLA Anderson School of Management   Los Angeles, CA   585
15   Carnegie Mellon   Tepper School of Business   Pittsburgh, PA   160
17   University of California, Berkeley   Haas School of Business   Berkeley, CA   638
18   Indiana University   Kelley School of Business   Bloomington, IN   328
19   University of Texas at Austin   McCombs School of Business   Austin, TX   230
20   Emory University   Goizueta Business School   Atlanta, GA   176
23   Washington University in St. Louis   Olin School of Business   Saint Louis, MO   357
26   Babson College   Franklin W. Olin Graduate School of Business   Babson Park, MA   1,046
27   University of Southern California   Marshall School of Business   Los Angeles, CA   792
28   University of Maryland, College Park   Robert H. Smith School of Business   College Park, MD   1,015
29   University of Rochester   William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration   Rochester, NY   192

MONEY MATTERS.

  That caused a ripple among Stern's part-timers. One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, says he at least wants the chance to put his résumé in front of the recruiters making the rounds on campus. "From a purely selfish stance, I'm looking for another avenue to help me in my job search.... I think it's fair for students who pay the same tuition to have the same rights," he adds.

From that standpoint, he's right. Part-timers often pay more in tuition than their full-time counterparts. Stern part-timers pay tuition on a per-credit point basis over three or three-and-a-half years, while full-timers pay on a per-semester basis over two years. Part-timers end up with a bigger bill because they're at school longer and face more tuition hikes, says Fraser. But some 65% to 80% of part-time students at top-notch B-school programs still receive at least some sort of sponsorship, says Graham Richmond, co-founder of Clear Admit, an MBA admissions-consulting firm.

Fraser says even students who pay more -- and often out of their own pockets -- get their money's worth. "I think the argument, 'I'm paying the same tuition and I'm not sponsored by a company, so I should have access to on-campus recruiting' is a strong one -- if there aren't any other career services for that student," says Fraser. "We've seen people go through the CCWP to get the jobs that suit them best."

Many part-time students side with Fraser, saying Stern's recent policy change will benefit the majority of part-timers. "We pay to get the best service, and the CCWP better serves us," says Keshava Dasarathy, executive chair of the Part-Time Leadership Forum, an advocacy group for Stern's part-time students.

NEW RULES.

  Part-timers at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business voiced similar complaints, while recruiters had to schlep to two different campuses -- one for part-timers and another for full-timers -- to find prospective employees. To solve the problem, the B-school recently consolidated on-campus recruiting onto the full-time campus.

Chicago's new rules, however, don't give part-timers free rein. They're permitted to partake in on-campus recruiting only for full-time positions, not internships. Also, they must be academically equivalent to a second-year full-time student and be graduating the following December, March, June, or August. And they must complete required training from the career-services office and provide proof that they're either unemployed, not receiving any tuition from their employer, or that their employer has allowed them to participate.

Initially, Chicago full-timers were concerned that including the more seasoned part-timers might hurt their chances of getting job offers. But administrators explained to them that diversifying the mix of students and making the process more convenient pleases recruiters, which is beneficial to everyone, says Julie Morton, associate dean of MBA Career Services at Chicago.

By Francesca Di Meglio

"BIGGER OPPORTUNITY."

  She says the B-school has also had to manage students' expectations, because part-timers were convinced that the ability to participate in on-campus recruiting guaranteed a job. That's not necessarily so, says Morton. "This is just one more thing you can add to your job-search docket."

Chicago's new system is similar to successful programs already in progress on other campuses. The Franklin W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., has a three-to-one ratio of part- to full-time students. Any MBA student graduating at the end of a given academic year has recruiting privileges and can attend corporate presentations. "This actually gives Babson a bigger opportunity with some organizations that have direct hire positions available for people with incrementally more work experience," says David C. Fetherston, director of the MBA Center for Career Development at Babson.

For nearly a decade, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management has permitted part-time students who are within 12 months of graduation to engage in on-campus recruiting in Evanston, Ill., as long as their employer approves. About 70 to 100 part-time students apply to do so annually, but a smaller number end up participating because many of the events take place during the day, when they're at work, or because the available positions don't match up with their experience. Part-timers can also take advantage of a career counselor, who serves them exclusively at their downtown Chicago campus.

Kellogg Assistant Dean Roxanne Hori says if part-timers continue to finance their own education, then some B-schools might have to reconsider their restrictive policies. Pleasing all students will likely be a difficult task, but as the situation at Stern demonstrates, part-timers aren't likely to give up their recruiting perks without a fight.

DiMeglio is a management-education reporter for BusinessWeek Online in Fort Lee, N.J.

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