While it is generally accepted that the number of students seeking Master of Business Administration degrees increases during an economic downturn, educational providers in the Tulsa area are taking steps to make their graduate business programs even more attractive to potential students.
While at Oral Roberts University management credits the school’s focus on quality and integrity for the sharp increase in enrollment, the Tulsa branches of OSU and NSU are looking ahead to addressing the evolving needs of the graduate business programs.
Marshal Wright, graduate business chair in the ORU School of Business, said enrollment in the school’s graduate business programs increased by 30 from Fall 2008 to a total of 126 students this fall.
“That’s very significant growth,” Wright said. “There was similar growth from Fall 2007 to 2008. Those were two really strong growth years.”
“We think we are going to continue, maybe not with the same kind of growth, but at the same renewed levels,” he said.
On the heels of a leadership and financial “crisis” that resulted in a restructuring of ORU’s administration and ownership, Wright sees several variables boosting the growth of the graduate programs.
“No. 1, the economic downturn,” he said. “Secondly, we were granted specialized accreditation on the first round with no notes and conditions, which I think is extremely rare.”
He also believes the university’s response to its management troubles has positioned it for growth.
“With the coming on of (Hobby Lobby heir and ORU bailout angel) Mart Green and the new board, and now Dr. Mark Rutland as the new president, and with (the introduction of) some accountability, openness and integrity issues, we have created a second life cycle,” he said. “I believe the school of business was a real leader in getting on that second life cycle and moving aggressively into the growth phase.”
Oklahoma State University–Tulsa also offers two variations of its MBA program to meet the differing needs of it students, said Raj Basu, OSU –Tulsa vice president for Academic Affairs.
The MBA variation designed for the primarily part-time students on the Tulsa campus is a 45-hour program designed for the graduate who “has decided to come back and get an MBA,” Basu said.
The Professional MBA program is a shorter version (36-hours) of the part-time MBA program that is designed for mid- to senior-level managers.
With close to 200 students in the MBA programs on the Tulsa campus, the economic downturn has generated more applicants.
“Our applicant pool has gone up, consequently we are able to get better students to come,” Basu said.
Basu said that while some parts of the MBA program remain constant, such as the need for finance, marketing or MIS specialties, OSU is constantly retooling the MBA program.
Over the next few years, Basu expects the next push will be “how to train people to be entrepreneurs.”
While Northeastern State University does not offer an MBA program on its home campus in Tahlequah, the institution has answered a need for graduate programs on its Broken Arrow and Muskogee campuses.
With an emphasis on leadership, NSU introduced the lock-step program on the BA campus in 2008, said Sandra Edwards, MBA director.
“We realized that there was a market in Tulsa if we could provide an MBA program that was different from competitors,” she said.
The program is built around groups of students who take their classes together for five semesters. With a total of 42 students in the first two groups, the campus will start a new group in fall 2010.
John Schleede, dean of the NSU College of Business & Technology, sees the program expanding into health administration, supply chain, distribution and logistics and sustainable management practices.