Online MBA programs at these 2 universities boast a 100% graduation rate within 3 years

BY Sarah Thomas-OxtobyMay 19, 2023, 1:16 PM
Washington Huskies mascot Harry the Husky stands with the student section before a college football game between the Montana Grizzlies and the Washington Huskies, as seen in September 2021, at Husky Stadium in Seattle. (Photo by Jacob Snow—Icon Sportswire/Getty Images)

When deciding which online MBA program is right for you, aside from weighing the tuition cost, another important factor to consider is your intended program’s graduation rate—or how likely you are to complete the program in the anticipated amount of time, with a degree in hand. 

Some online MBA programs promote a high level of flexibility and the potential to complete the necessary coursework at your own pace. But some online MBA programs operate with a high level of structure—and attribute the program’s success to doing so. That’s the case with the hybrid MBA program at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, which is a two-year, lockstep program in which students enter as a cohort, taking all their core classes together.

As opposed to students choosing which quarter they’re going to take a particular course, “it’s all spelled out for them,” Jodey Farwell, the hybrid MBA program director at Foster tells Fortune. Setting clear expectations and providing support to students is instrumental in their success, she says.

“You’re going to be in this program. You can’t sit out. You’re gonna plow through it. You have to trust that we’re here to support you through this, and I promise you you’ll make it through,” she adds.

The University of Washington, along with SUNY Polytechnic Institute, are the only two schools with a 100% three-year graduation rate on Fortune’s ranking of best online MBA programs in 2023. Here’s how these schools ensure students graduate during that timeframe.

University of Washington: Focusing on structure

At the University of Washington, much of the hybrid MBA program’s success in achieving a 100%, three-year graduation rate comes from the structure of the program, says Farwell. Foster’s hybrid MBA program operates as a blended format which is conducted 95% online, with 5% in-person components. In designing the hybrid MBA program, Foster leaders realized that in order for students to be successful, the program needed to be “highly” team-based, says Farwell.  

After students complete their core courses, they have more flexibility in selecting their six elective courses during the second year of the program. Completing core courses as a cohort allows students to build cohesiveness within their team, Farwell says. 

Due to the lockstep nature of the program, students don’t have the option to take a quarter off, or lighten their course load at any time during the program. “Students know that it’s really not an option and they’ve known it from the day they’ve contacted us,” she adds.

That said, Foster doesn’t want to make the program so difficult that students can’t pass, says Farwell. “We understand they have other life things going on while they’re part of the program, so we do provide structure and support for when they are going to need some extra time.”

One more key element to Foster’s 100% three-year graduation rate can be attributed to how the program’s cohort groups are constructed, according to Farwell. “We create the most diverse teams we possibly can because we find them to be the most successful,” she adds.

SUNY Polytechnic Institute: Dedicated advising 

SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s online MBA program can also boast a 100% graduation rate within three years. Unlike some other online MBA programs, SUNY is uniquely focused on technology management—and prepares students for management and leadership roles, especially those involved with emerging and evolving technologies, according to the program’s website.

What’s key to the 100% graduation rate for the university’s online MBA program is its dedicated advising department that’s housed directly in-school and operates independently from the career counseling department on-campus, Rafael Romero, chair of SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s management department, tells Fortune. “The idea is to make sure students are taking courses that fit not only their program, but also their personality and schedule.”

The department’s two dedicated advisors are reachable by cell phone for any students who want to discuss anything going on in their personal lives that may impact their performance in the program.

Another reason why students are able to successfully graduate within that three-year timeframe is that SUNY offers a fast track option to students who have a bachelor’s degree in business, accounting, or finance—and had a GPA of 3.0 or higher, says Romero. Students who meet this criteria can waive up to five classes, allowing them to complete the program one year sooner than students in the traditional two-year program.

“Being able to waive those courses makes the program even more attractive,” Romero says.

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