An International Student’s Guide to Evaluating Online MBA Programs

In the past two decades, economies of the nations of the world have become more intertwined, and the term “globalization” has become an accurate way to describe the international economic situation. Goods are created all over the globe, and Internet technology has brought nations and citizens closer than ever before. With the international growth of the economy and increase in information technology has come an influx of students looking to higher education programs in the United States because of their strong academic reputations, especially in the graduate fields of business and management.

The idea of a master’s degree in business was developed in the early 20th century and soon emerged as one of the highly desired graduate programs among higher education institutions in the United States and elsewhere. Master’s degree programs in business administration are offered under various titles: Two-year MBA, Accelerated MBA, Executive MBA and Part-time MBA.

In today’s highly complex global environment, earning a graduate degree that is based entirely on face-to-face class participation is almost impossible for many citizens of the world. The solution in recent years, fed by the growing ease of Internet communication, advances in information technology, tight competition among academic institutions over recruitment of students and other economic reasons, has been distance learning, with many universities offering MBA programs totally online. As a result, students from anywhere in the world are given the opportunity to complete the requirements of a master’s degree in business from many U.S. colleges and universities. Although the effectiveness of online education has been one of the hottest topics for debate among educators, there are some high-quality online MBA programs, and the enrollment in online classes has been on its way up at an increasingly fast pace. In fact, a recent study revealed that the enrollment of students in MBA programs has declined in most colleges and universities around the world, except for those schools that converted the delivery of their courses from face-to-face to totally online.

There are many online MBA programs offered by U.S. institutions of higher education that might be attractive to international students. However, students seeking an online MBA degree should ask themselves a few important questions before submitting an application and committing themselves to an online degree:

First: Is the school accredited by a reputable accreditation agency? Schools and colleges are accredited by different organizations, but when it comes to business programs; it is highly recommended for applicants to look for schools that are accredited by AACSB International (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business). AACSB International is, arguably, the most prestigious accreditation body that grants accreditation to business programs and stands for the highest quality of education in business and management.

Second: Is the online MBA degree worth the cost? Online MBA programs come with all kinds of price tags. Some of them are very expensive for the value of education that one receives in return. When considering value, the applicant should consider whether the cost can reasonably be returned in increased earnings potential. The average cost of a distance learning MBA, according to a survey by GetEducated.com, an independent consumer guide to online college degrees, which included 85 AACSB-accredited business schools offering 135 distance MBA degrees, is $36,166, while CNNMoney has reported that distance MBAs can cost as much as $120,000. International students are urged to search at GetEducated.com, which evaluates programs according to affordability, student satisfaction and national reputation, for rankings of online MBA programs, including a ranking of programs offered by AACSB-accredited schools. Evaluate a prospective program based on the quality of the degree in return for the tuition and fees that will be charged.

Third: Does the online MBA program offer any experiential learning and projects that have real-world applications? As MBA graduates will eventually be expected to apply the academic knowledge they have gained in a business setting, having the experience of doing so under the supervision of their professor will be a valuable added benefit to their degrees.

Fourth: Are you going to receive the academic and advising support from the faculty and staff of the institution after your full-enrollment in the online MBA program? Communicating in advance, ideally by phone, with the institution and speaking with the director of its graduate services department or the graduate program’s coordinator is highly recommended for international students as a way to test the institution’s commitment to high-quality academic support and services. These are the qualities that help close the distance inherent in international distance learning.