Down economy means business at area colleges

Despite recession, area colleges diversify business education offerings

September 04, 2010|By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

The Johns Hopkins University is pitching a new Global MBA program to students around the world. Loyola University Maryland's business school is luring professionals still fresh in their careers to a new, intensive one-year MBA program.

Even the Maryland Institute College of Art is getting down to business, offering students with a creative flair a chance to learn business principles in a new master's program developed for next spring.

These programs have sprouted up at Baltimore colleges during one of the bleakest economic periods in decades. Despite the recession — or perhaps because of it — local universities have detected steady interest among potential students in business education programs, and have moved quickly in the past couple of years to tailor new offerings.

Recent economic pitfalls, including the mortgage meltdown and the stock market's swoon, haven't taken the sheen off a business education.

"We do an excellent job of preparing people to be creative, but many of them also see themselves as individual entrepreneurs," said David Gracyalny, dean of MICA's School for Professional and Continuing Studies, which next year is offering a master of professional studies in the business of art and design.

Graduate business degree programs nationwide have expanded over the past decade — through the last recession and as this one began. Enrollment grew an average of 4 percent a year from 1998 through 2008, according to the Council of Graduate Schools. The latest recession began in December 2007.

Enrollment may have taken a hit since the recession deepened in recent years. The downturn has curtailed corporate subsidies of employees' executive-level MBA programs, said Jerry Trapnell, chief accreditation officer of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, an international accrediting organization for business schools.

"Those executive programs appear to be feeling some of the stress in the weaker economic environment," Trapnell said. "Many firms are cutting expenses, and there's less support for people to do this now."

But historically, enrollment in all types of graduate schools has increased during recessions, said Nathan Bell, director of research and policy analysis at the council. "We've seen strong growth in business programs" since the late 1990s, with many students seeking specialization in accounting, he said.

And schools, clearly seeing a demand, are responding by offering students more chances to specialize in a field of business.

Hopkins is launching its Global MBA program this fall. It is Hopkins' first full-time, two-year program, and one that administrators hope will help them compete with the MBA heavyweights, such as Harvard's business school and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

Hopkins' graduate business education programs have consisted of mostly part-time offerings, but the school was looking to create a signature program that would attract students from around the world, officials said.

The program costs $46,000 a year and includes travel accommodations for an international learning experience focused on operating a business in a developing market.

Yash P. Gupta, dean of Hopkins' Carey Business School, said lessons from the recent economic meltdown will help inform a new type of business student, one who is able to handle both the science and the art of business.

"It's the most opportune time for institutions like Hopkins to introduce a new paradigm," Gupta said. "There's never been a better time to redefine a business education."

Responding to the times is one reason why MICA is offering a graduate business degree. For one, the school recognizes that artists — from the visual to the literary — are in a new world economy that's connected and fueled by the Internet, according to Gracyalny, MICA's continuing education dean. The school also wants to help its artists take more control over their creative efforts and the distribution of their work.

Students enrolled in the master of professional studies program, which begins in May, will be immersed in business education, mostly through online course work, and not the art studio. "They will not be doing any art, per se," Gracyalny said.

"We're trying to say, 'We're going to give you the power to control the distribution of what you do creatively,'" he added. "To struggling artists, we're saying, 'You don't have to wait anymore. Go and make this thing happen now.' We don't want our students to wait to be successful."

The Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland is introducing two new master's degrees in the fall, in supply chain management and information technology. The school has expanded enrollment in its full-time program from about 130 to 150 students. Meanwhile, enrollment in other programs, such as the executive MBA, has remained steady, said Carrie Handwerker, a school spokeswoman.

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