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St. Thomas Cuts Full-Time MBA

Amid a national decline in MBA applications, the university cuts programs and restructures administration.

St. Thomas Cuts Full-Time MBA
Courtesy of St. Thomas

The University of St. Thomas has suspended admissions into its full-time MBA and MS in accountancy, the dean of the Opus College of Business announced last week.

Amid a national decline in MBA program applications, the college is shifting its focus to other programs, like its online and graduate certificate offerings. Effective Feb. 13, the number MBA programs offered by St. Thomas dropped to four. In addition, there will be cuts to faculty and administrative staff, said Stefanie Lenway, dean of the college.

“While these decisions are essential to ensure a strong future for Opus, I recognize that this is a difficult day for our community. We will be losing employees who have been part of our St. Thomas family,” she wrote in a Feb. 12 news release.

Other academic programs will not be affected by the restructuring. But the executive education programming will move out of Opus and to the broader university, effective July 1, along with the other administrative changes.

“We’re just trying to increase the scope so they can serve more people,” Lenway said regarding the executive education programming. “We’re expanding the capabilities to serve more units in the university.”

While the university’s full-time MBA programming will be cut, its part-time flex MBA, online MBA, executive MBA, and health care MBA will still be available. Out of roughly 1,000 students enrolled in graduate-level business education at Opus, 28 students will be coming back in the fall to finish their full-time MBAs, according to Michael Garrison, the senior associate dean.

"If you looked at overall MBA enrollments in the Twin Cities area, they're down about 20 percent over the last five years," Garrison said. "There definitely is a decline in full-time MBA because students don't want to take time away from work."

He adds that enrollment at Opus has dropped significantly from its peak of 147 full-time MBA students in 2009. The college will shift its efforts to newer programs in higher demand, like data, emerging technologies, and stackable graduate certificate programs, he said.

“The impact of digitization and demographic shifts have only begun to become visible in higher education and are here for the long term. As such, the Opus College is reimagining our organizational structure to remain a leader in management education,” Lenway wrote.

Next door at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, the number of full-time MBA applications has dropped over the years.

"We remain fuly committed to all of our currently offered degree programs and serving our students enrolled in them," assistant dean of MBA and MS programs at Carlson, Phil Miller, said in a statement. In 2016 the school saw 606 applicants, but by 2018, that number had dropped to 529 applicants, according to the university’s annual reports.

This tracks with the broader drop-off in applications to U.S. MBA programs. For the fifth year in a row, the number of MBA applications has declined, the Wall Street Journal reported last fall. That’s due, in part, to increasing student loan burdens. Another factor: A decline in international students, who make up a big chunk of MBA grads. Last year, the number of international applicants fell 13.7 percent in the United States, according to the WSJ.

“Going forward we will seek to more effectively leverage technology and data, reduce transaction costs when appropriate, and be even more responsive in delivering the right mix of high quality graduate certificate and degrees based on market needs,” Lenway wrote.

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