Photographer: Kelvin Ma

Amherst Outsources Business Education to Harvard

A crash course in business for art history majors and economists alike

The Harvard Business School announced on Monday that it will partner with Amherst College to offer basic business education online to Amherst liberal arts undergraduates. Amherst students will access reserved slots and greater opportunities for financial aid in an 11-week course designed by HBX, Harvard Business School’s foray into Web-based education. HBS says it plans to announce similar arrangements with additional colleges in the next few weeks.

The program is a crash course in management, designed to give art history majors and their parents peace of mind.

"Liberal arts is not intended necessarily to prepare you for getting a job," says Bharat Anand, faculty leader of HBX. “The liberal arts education is intended to expose you to a variety of concepts, to really make you think” and hone analytical skills, Anand says. The mission is valuable but does not guarantee career success. That's of particular concern at selective private colleges such as Amherst, for which families shell out as much as $60,400 per year to prepare students for the job market.

The HBX course "is a small supplement," Anand says, that will give humanities and economics majors alike the training they need to connect abstract financial principles to business decisions and management strategy. "Our hope is that this allows to do whatever you like. Follow your intellectual passions."

Students who enroll will generally pay around $1,800 for three classes on business analytics, financial accounting, and economics for managers, which begin in June. Amherst undergrads who qualify for financial aid can have as much as 90 percent of the program tuition covered, says Anand. The course Harvard is opening up to Amherst, called CORe, has already enrolled 3,000 other students, who range in age from 18 years old to over 40. Anand says the course was initially conceived with humanities majors in mind, but he rethought it after a startling number of economics majors who had enrolled in the program e-mailed him to praise it.

The need for HBX among even economically minded undergrads is a sign that hardcore business training may not be happening on many college campuses. “The number of [undergraduate] courses that really say, 'what are the core economic principles that connect the dots to business decisions,' frankly, is quite limited,” says Anand.  

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