Enrollment jumps nearly 30% in a part-time online MBA program at this elite business school

BY Sydney LakeMarch 14, 2023, 5:04 PM
New York University (NYU) graduates take photos wearing caps and gowns in Washington Square Park, as seen in May 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Earning an MBA can be a huge investment in terms of time and money; some people pursuing the degree leave their jobs for two years with the goal of switching careers or earning a higher salary. Business schools now, however, offer several flexible options for MBA hopefuls that are growing increasingly popular.

In fact, New York University’s Stern School of Business saw a 29% enrollment increase in its hybrid MBA program for the spring semester compared with the fall 2022 semester.

“The increase in enrollment for NYU Stern’s Langone part-time MBA online/modular option indicates Stern is meeting the strong demand for this kind of program flexibility from prospective students,” Isser Gallogly, associate dean of MBA admissions at Stern, tells Fortune

In late 2021, Stern became the first elite business school to launch an MBA program with an online component. Stern is ranked by Fortune as having the No. 7 full-time MBA program in the nation, as well as the No. 7 top executive MBA and the No. 2 part-time MBA programs. The school’s hybrid MBA option, which includes a mix of online and in-person courses, was the first top 10 business school to launch such a program.

“Our approach has been to be first and fast to market, in sync with the rapid pace of change of business,” JP Eggers, Stern’s vice dean of MBA and graduate programs, told Fortune at the announcement of the launch. This part-time modular (meaning both in-person and online) launched in fall 2022, and saw a 29% increase in enrollment for spring 2023.

On a more practical level, another reason explains the surge in enrollment: the new MBA format was first announced in November 2021 for the fall 2022 intake, so it was relatively new for that cycle, he adds. 

“We have had more time to spread awareness about this new hybrid offering for the spring 2023 cohort, including developing specific online/modular option webinars, which have been very well attended,” Gallogly says. “We also find that with so many people now used to engaging in a virtual or remote workplace, many students value the option of live online classes.”

How Stern’s modular MBA program works

Students in the part-time/modular program take a mix of online and in-person classes through Stern. They complete online courses as well as “modules,” which are five-week online classes with a one-week class in person in New York at Stern. Students complete their core curriculum through online courses, which makes up about half of the entire curriculum, then take their electives under the modular schedule.

This option has helped Stern to reach new students who may have had constraints to come to class in person due to work, commuting times, or geography, Gallogly explains. 

“For example, only a couple of years ago, about 15% of our students were located outside of the tri-state area,” he says. “Now, with the addition of online/modular option, just over 25% of our students are located outside of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.”

New modules, specializations in NYU Stern’s MBA program

Over the course of the MBA program, students must complete nine elective credits through the modular schedule. This can include condensed modules that have two weeks of asynchronous (recorded) online work before and after a one-week period of classes in NYC, regular in-person courses on weeknights or Saturdays in NYC, or a selection of online elective courses.

Each five-week, 4.5-credit module has a specific business theme. Stern announced in March 2023 it would add these new modules in 2024: Leadership; Managing Brands; Finance in the Corporation; Analytics for Decision-Making; and Sustainable Business. 

“The modules were selected to provide both a broad range of academic offerings and target areas of high interest among our students,” Eggers tells Fortune. “We also carefully considered what academic content could be delivered at a high level via hybrid delivery—a combination of intensive in-person classes and asynchronous learning.”

Stern also announced it will add MBA program specializations for students on the modular track. Students can now earn specializations in Leadership and Change Management, Marketing, Brand Management, and Business Analytics, in addition to existing specializations in Strategy, Management, and Entrepreneurship and Innovation. 

Almost all MBA students at Stern choose at least one specialization, Eggers says. 

“Specializations are important to help students build a coherent set of skills and to market themselves to potential employers,” he adds.

Stern offers more than 25 specializations across its several MBA program offerings, but not all electives are offered online or through the online module. This means that these students have fewer options—as of right now, at least—to specialize. 

“We had initially been conservative in the specializations that we promised that students could complete only through the online/modular option,” Eggers explains. “But with the announcement of the modules and the addition of more online electives, we felt confident in being able to expand that list.”

Check out all of Fortune’rankings of degree programs, and learn more about specific career paths.