Experts Disagree on Effectiveness of One-Year Master's in Boosting Female Enrollment

Tim Goral's picture
Thursday, March 15, 2012

Some schools are seeing a jump in female students when they increase the number of one-year specialized master's business programs. But University of Iowa leaders say they aren't headed that direction.

"I would not promote them here," said Gary Fethke, a professor of management sciences and economics in the UI Tippie College of Business. "In fact, I worked to get rid of several one-year M.A. programs."

But Bob Ludwig, director of media relations for the Graduate Management Admissions Council, said one-year specialized master's programs are important to increase the number of women in graduate business schools.

He said the council annually administers an application trend survey, which in 2011 found 83 percent of master's finance programs that took one year to complete reported an increase in applications nationwide over the previous year.

Such one-year specialized master's programs are usually less course-intensive and are more specialized in a specific area. Ludwig said the programs typically do not require prior job experience, which attracts women to enroll after completing their undergraduate degrees.

But UI officials said there are other options.

Colleen Downie, the senior associate dean of the Tippie School of Management, said its part-time M.B.A. program is a good alternative for women compared with the two-year options.

"Part-time is flexible," she said. "You can finish the degree from anywhere to two-and-a-half years to 10."

Women made up 41 percent of those who took the council's Graduate Management Admission Test, a new national high, Ludwig said, and the results don't correspond to enrollment rates.

"While women taking these tests are increasing, we're not seeing the numbers of [business school graduate students] grow in sync with the number of women taking those tests," said Elissa Ellis-Sangster, executive director of the Forte Foundation, a national consortium of business schools and corporations.

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