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Education Businesses United States

'The Death of the MBA' (axios.com) 162

An anonymous reader shares a report: U.S. graduate business schools -- once magnets for American and international students seeking a certain route to a high income -- are in an existential crisis. They are losing droves of students who are balking at sky-high tuition and, in the case of international applicants, turned off by President Trump's politics. The once-venerated MBA is going the way of the diminished law degree, pushed aside by tech education. Graduates of the top 25 or so MBA schools still command the elite Wall Street and corporate jobs they always did, but the hundreds of others are scrambling, and some schools are shutting down their programs. Survivors are often offering new touchy-feely degrees like "master of social innovation." [...] In the more than 350 programs that didn't make the top ranks, rising tuition costs and smaller returns in the form of employment and income have forced a rethink of the traditional MBA degree.
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'The Death of the MBA'

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  • Over supply (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @02:28PM (#55605265)
    I think that part of the problem with the MBA is that for a while it seemed like everybody was fucking getting one. Laws of supply and demand suggest that would cause the value to diminish unless the demand was increasing similarly. I think the market is just coming around to this realization and reacting in accordance to establish a new equilibrium around what everyone believes is closer to the real value of an MBA.
    • Well, people pondered which part of the workforce won't be outsourced and (rightfully) came to the conclusion "probably the jobs that handle the outsourcing".

    • I seem to remember recently that Amazon was hiring thousands of MBA's. [slashdot.org] What happened to that?
      • Several of their job postings still say "MBA Preferred"

      • by Anonymous Coward

        No one hires MBA's, it's just a nice bulletpoint to have. It says you're willing to do even more busy work and you likely have debt...and will be a company slave.

    • And, as the value went down, the cost went up. Isn't one of the things they teach Return On Investment?
    • by shilly ( 142940 )

      This sounds right. It also explains why the top programs are more thriving than ever: essentially there are proper MBAs that have real value in the market (HBS is the quintessential example) and then there are MBAs from second-tier places that have dramatically less value.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @02:29PM (#55605281)

    Apologies, English isn't my first language, does that mean we get to shoot MBAs now or do we still have to wait for them to die naturally?

  • Winner Takes All (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @02:30PM (#55605291)

    The MBA schools promoted the ideology of Winner Takes Everything, Cut All Corners, Cook All Books, Outsource the Universe, Price Over Value, Chare the Taxpayer, and Magic Algorithms will Solve Everything.

    May they roast slowly in the hell to which they have reduced our inheritance.

    • Re:Winner Takes All (Score:5, Informative)

      by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @03:07PM (#55605645) Homepage
      They also teach students to care about nothing but the short-term bottom line and screw long-term side effects. The idea is to use the higher profits to jump ship to a higher paying job before the damage you've done to the company becomes evident. (No, I'm not an MBA, but I was told this by one of the few good ones I've ever met.)
      • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @03:43PM (#55605919) Homepage Journal

        Come on, most MBA courses have some kind of ethics module these days. OK, your score gets subtracted from your overall grade, but it's a start.

        • Come on, most MBA courses have some kind of ethics module these days. OK, your score gets subtracted from your overall grade, but it's a start.

          Most of the traders who were climbing the ladder fast at Enron were MBA's, so I would say that the "ethics module" part of an MBA degree has little effect upon the ethics of the students. The cocaine culture and run away sole less short term gain greed there was evidence of the lost generation of greedy jerks with MBA's that Enron represented best. This same generation of greedy self centered cocaine powered jerks is now becoming pervasive in US politics and is to no small extent the reason why a self cente

          • The Ethics portion of the Modern MBA was a response to ENRON.
            For my school every course had a portion explaining ethical issues, reminding that such decisions will affect human life. And even if the numbers show a net positive there may be someone who is negatively affected and those who are needs to be worked with to minimize their affect.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          For an MBA to have any value it needs to be part time whilst working in industry to fully understand the repercussions of any decision that can not be put into an idiots spread sheet. Simply but complex things, like how cutting support and services, whilst saving money, will cost you customers in the end (so your far smaller customer base can now be services by you small customer support services, which you then of course cut, to further attack your customer base, till no customers). Easy to put the cost sa

          • For an MBA to have any value it needs to be part time whilst working in industry to fully understand the repercussions of any decision that can not be put into an idiots spread sheet

            Tripe. Actual experience is certainly good to have (do they still admit people straight from their bachelors' degree in the US?) but I don't see why it's any different if that's acquired before doing the course.

            Or do you think a problem with the company's cash flow will conveniently crop up while they're doing the finance modul

      • by youngone ( 975102 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @04:23PM (#55606225)

        They also teach students to care about nothing but the short-term bottom line and screw long-term side effects...

        That's pretty much what I heard from a friend who was sent to do an MBA by her employer. She decided it was valuable education, because it taught her pretty much what not to do, as a manager with ~15 years experience.

    • I guess you actually never took the MBA classes did you?

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @02:30PM (#55605297) Journal
    Let's not talk about earning potential, that is the yoke of the capitalist. Instead, let's talk about the true value of education, the power of what you learn.

    What exactly could you expect to learn from a "master of social engineering?" Forsooth, you'd be better off in a class of Calligraphy, or locking yourself in a room for a year with The Complete Works of Shakespeare.
    • Forsooth, you'd be better off in a class of Calligraphy, or locking yourself in a room for a year with The Complete Works of Shakespeare.

      Wouldn't laugh too loud... if I remember right, Steve Jobs took a class or two of Calligraphy, and said it influenced a lot of how he saw things.

      • Woosh.........who is laughing? I was being completely serious. What can you learn from a "Masters of Social Engineering?" How to use twitter?
  • So... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So if Trump is responsible for fewer MBAs, he was worth voting for.

  • Graduates of the top 25 or so MBA schools still command the elite Wall Street and corporate jobs they always did, but the hundreds of others are scrambling, and some schools are shutting down their programs.

    Come on. It is not dead till all the business schools go out of business.

    • It's not dead until they (MBAs) are all half hung, drawn, quartered, the parts burned and the ashes buried under crossroads.

  • by Koreantoast ( 527520 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @02:32PM (#55605319)
    Not surprised. MBA programs, like Law programs, were setup left and right by universities as cheap ways to raise funds: they command high tuition while requiring minimal in terms of capital expenditures (compared to say, an engineering program that requires substantial capital for labs and whatnot). Now that the market has become saturated with lawyers and MBA's, people are getting more selective, and the programs without strong reputations will wither away. Add on top of that fewer companies are paying to send their talented employees to get MBA's and the general weakening of the i-banking field, and we just simply don't need as many as we used to have.
    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @04:41PM (#55606405) Journal
      Just how many did we need to begin with? In a lot of cases I've seen (perhaps the majority), MBA education did more harm than good. They instilled exaggerated self-esteem, an overrated appreciation of one's abilities, and the idea that the world can be run by Excel sheets.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nicely put, utterly wrong. The original US MBA Programs didn't come out of the Business or Engineering Schools; they were a supplement to traditionally low budget Humanities Studies. Just moldy books and blackboards.
      "This school of business and public administration was originally conceived as a school for diplomacy and government service on the model of the French Ecole des Sciences Politiques. The goal was an institution of higher learning that would offer a master of arts degree in the humanities field,

  • Willy Loman (Score:5, Funny)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @02:32PM (#55605321) Journal

    I was expecting something a little more dramatic. Maybe an MBA who sold off all his earthly belongings in order to build a Bitcoin mining rig only to be cooked to death, surrounded by overheated GPUs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Like an MBA could ever build a mining rig.

      • Like an MBA could ever build a mining rig.

        He watched a YouTube video on how to do it.

        • Like an MBA could ever get past all the cool YouTube videos of snakebites and mango worms to search for guides.

          • Like an MBA could ever get past all the cool YouTube videos of snakebites and mango worms to search for guides.

            You have a point.

            Although I would have appreciated it if you'd provided a link to videos of snakebites and mango worms.

  • And they made a minor update to it in June 2017, too. Sure, going from 1.6GHz to 1.8GHz was not much of an update, but still.

  • MBAs are dangerous (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    MBAs who are ignorant of what customers need and want generate short term profits at the expense of long term success. They don't know how to measure or put a price on customer happiness, and often trade customer happiness for some increase in profit. They aren't aware that what customers are really buying is happiness.

  • student loans are going to pop with lots' of hopeless deadbeats.

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @02:40PM (#55605395) Homepage Journal

    We have to charge an arm a leg and a testicle for a degree!
    Why?
    Because the market will bear it!

    The market's not bearing it. Revenues are falling off!
    Okay, scrap the degree program and come up with easier degrees.
    But those degrees don't actually deliver any value.
    Shut up! GIMME TOUCHY-FEELY!

    People are pissed.
    Why?
    The touchy-feely degrees aren't in demand because they have no actual utility in the real world.
    Tough shit! We got our money!

    • Not an "easier" but more affordable degree. People aren't going to go into six-figure debt for degrees anymore.

  • "I wouldn't recommend an MBA. I'd say no MBA needed. An MBA is a bad idea. [...] It teaches people all sorts of wrong things. [...] They don't teach people to think in MBA schools. And the top MBA schools are the worst. Because they actually teach people that you must be special, and it causes people to close down their feedback loop and not rigorously examine when they are wrong. [...] I hire people in spite of an MBA, not because of one. If you look at the senior managers of my companies, you'll see very
  • I have a MBA... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MetricT ( 128876 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @02:49PM (#55605499)

    I got my MBA a few years ago from the local Really Expensive Private University, when 40 was just around the corner and I wanted to add another leg to my stool before I became "old" by tech-world standards. I very much value the body of knowledge that I learned, but there are several serious problems with the people chasing and offering it today.

    A MBA is like a can of car wax. If you put it on a Corvette, you'll make something great. If you put it on a turd, all you'll have is a shiny turd. I have a STEM degree + 15 years in HPC, and I think the MBA definitely helped me make better, wiser decisions.

    By contrast, there were several "MBA's" (in the Dilbertesque sense) in the MBA program right out of central casting. They couldn't write a line of code, couldn't turn a wrench, couldn't do anything useful, but they had executive hair, wore fancy suits, and constantly "networked" and looked for "synergy". They wanted a MBA strictly as a gateway to wealth and power.

    They're aided and abetted by universities who are fighting to break into the game. Why shouldn't they? It's relatively low cost (doesn't require expensive labs or facilities like STEM does), people will throw mortgage-size checks at you for the privilege of attending, and you might luck up and get a rich alumni who donates back someday. And they kept raising tuition every year, faster than inflation, faster than salaries grew.

    My cousin graduated with a law degree right when the law market crashed, and I recognized similar signs of doom creeping into the MBA field. Just like the bloom in law schools, there was a bloom in MBA schools, from tiny never-heard-of-them-before private universities and on-line schools, taking cash from every marginal MBA student-wanna-be out there.

    I don't regret getting my MBA, even though I haven't seen much more than cost-of-living increases since graduation. I learned a tremendous amount and enjoyed it a lot (there can be economic geeks just as much as science geeks or IT geeks). And I made a substantial chunk of change on the stock market using what I knew. But with a MBA from a good school costing $100k nowadays, you're much better off just taking $300 to the local used book store and reading them.

    The MBA wasn't a "gateway to wealth" because of the degree itself, but because of the caliber of student trying to attain it. I'm sure the same type of people who chase an IT degree for wealth in the 90's and chased a JD/MBA for wealth in the 00's will find another degree to chase and run into the ground soon enough. My bet is on "data science". I already see a few junior varsity universities in our area offering a degree to any comer who can code in BASIC, and I'm sure DeVry's and University of Phoenix will be offering a degree soon enough.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      My bet is on "data science".

      This. See also "business analytics" or "health informatics". SSDD, just a different flavor of the same snake oil.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      By contrast, there were several "MBA's" (in the Dilbertesque sense) in the MBA program right out of central casting. They couldn't write a line of code, couldn't turn a wrench, couldn't do anything useful, but they had executive hair, wore fancy suits, and constantly "networked" and looked for "synergy". They wanted a MBA strictly as a gateway to wealth and power.

      I remember one of my first encounters with a PHB MBA. The company had set up an overly complicated central review process for desktop PC requests.

    • As someone who will also be staring down 40 in a few years, I wonder what the modern equivalent is. Is an MBA addon to a STEM degree + experience still worth it, or is that path now too polluted to be of value (as this article seems to suggest)?
    • I agree with you. I am a techie that started an MBA program but didn't finish because it made me ill. However, I learned enough from the program so thatI now can speak finance and can talk to the finance people about accounts, journals, depreciation, credits, debits, POs, AP, AR, EFT, 10K, SOX compliance, stock market concepts, etc... It helped me better craft project proposals since I know what numbers the MBA execs like to see like 5-year TCO and lifecycle predictions. I learned the technical side of fin

  • by forkfail ( 228161 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @02:52PM (#55605521)

    Couldn't have happened to a nicer degree.

    • by MetricT ( 128876 )

      Don't conflate the body of knowledge itself, with the stereotypical people who chase the credentials. I have a MBA, and you can be an economics geek or strategy geek just like you can be an IT geek or science geek.

      That said, yeah, there are a lot of preening greedy narcissists who are attracted to the degree like moths to a flame.

  • Not that surprising. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fazig ( 2909523 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @02:54PM (#55605539)
    We've been having a very similar situation here in Germany for quite some time with the fields of business administration - where a higher education is basically free (the tuitions people have to pay are usually negligible like
    It's been the go-to for school graduates who didn't know what to do with their lives but wanted to have a higher degree in something that can possibly make a lot of money. However Universities adapted for the influx not by implementing failure rates that force 70% of the students out of class, so that only the best remain, but by increasing the number of possible seats. Which resulted in thousands of BA bachelor degrees and masters (to some extend). All that in an economy that cries for qualified (blue collar) workers and engineers and already had plenty of managers. Well wasted tax money if you ask me, which makes me think that subsidizing all education is not a good idea in the end.
    • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

      While most students look down on the business students (in Germany), all (almost) the business guys get a job after 1/2 a year. Yes the situation is better in computer science, where you can choose what you want to do after graduating. Still if there would be a shortage in engineers, we would have higher entry level income in CS, but it is growing slowly. Also tuition free universities are there to allow people to study what they want regardless of their income or their parents income. Also education is a h

  • by slew ( 2918 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @02:55PM (#55605547)

    Seriously, most businesses don't need to be "administered". Administrating is for the conglomerates, and although I'm sure conglomerates need new canon fodder to back-fill their management ranks, it certainly doesn't have the number of chairs to support the multitude of MBA conferring organizations that are out there today. Even among huge conglomerates long McDonalds and Costco, they often draw their executives from line workers not freshly minted MBAs...

    For the non-conglomerate business, the reason they often fail is for lack of vision, not lack of administration...

    As for the "accounting" MBAs, well, do we need to engineer more Joint Energy Development Investment Limited Partnerships, or ChewCos [wikipedia.org]?

    As for the "finance" MBAs, well, do conglomerates need more leveraged buyouts, or engineer more Credit Default Swaps [wikipedia.org]?

    As for these second tier MBA schools that can't attract students? Nothing of value was lost [youtube.com]...

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @03:55PM (#55606029)

      Seriously, most businesses don't need to be "administered". Administrating is for the conglomerates,

      As a self-taught "administrator" who's run two small businesses, I'd have to disagree. There is in fact quite a bit to learn about running a business - accounting, legal (especially labor and tax codes), organizational, employee management, etc.

      However, I'd say about 80% of this would be better suited taught in a high-school level course. The accounting is virtually identical to running your personal finances, just a lot more formal. Everyone has to pay taxes and occasionally deal with a legal infraction or subpeona. Organizational skills and how to accept and/or delegate responsibility is something that everyone should learn. And managing people (working with, encouraging, watching out for, detecting problems, reprimanding) is important at a family and relationship level too.

      The remaining stuff specific to running a business, I'd say you could pick up from a few night courses at your local adult community college. Or in my case, by asking an accountant friend and a lawyer friend a lot of questions, and listening to advice from someone who'd actually taken employee management courses. There are lots of little facts and tidbits (e.g. what percentage of your budget should be going to payroll or marketing? How do you calculate and deduct payroll taxes? What documentation do I need to collect and submit when I hire an employee?) which have very specific answers but aren't all located in a single easy-to-find place. One thing you learn pretty quickly running your own business is that time is your most valuable resource. And if you can get a neatly organized reference which answers most of these questions for a few thousand dollars, it's well worth paying for it just because it saves you the time of stumbling around the web trying to find it all yourself.

    • I believe many businesses require better administration, or at least better processes.

      Full disclosure: I have two degrees(bachelors and masters) in engineering, a science degree, and am just about to finish my MBA.

      The MBA has been invaluable in learning how to get better efficiency in the company where I work. Optimizing manufacturing processes, market based design and research, and even focusing on products with the most margin in our business operations have made tangible differences in a business that

  • by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @02:58PM (#55605565)
    This is about the best news I could read all day long. MBAs contribute nothing to the economy other than maximizing profits at the expense of humanity. May the MBA die an ignoble death!
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @03:00PM (#55605577) Journal
    Seriously, these ppl are being taught to take short routes as opposed to how to grow companies. As such, we end up with junk like GE, HP, IBM, Google, etc. These companies are dying and it is due to hiring of horribly trained MBAs that only look at how THEY can get big bonuses, and then leave the company.
    This is why Musk has less than 12 total in all of his companies.
    • I find my MBA to be a tremendous value, as a supplement to my tech career. If it is all you have, typically not worth much.
    • Well now...
      Musk has had a number of pretty big setbacks in his businesses, and he hasn't been doing it all that long. Mostly what he has done is attracted huge amounts of subsidies and investments. He is delivering something which is more than a lot of kickstarter bubbles do, but the most successful venture (the cars) is still a long way from profitability and fame doesn't keep the lights on. ...And aside from his current round of personnel management woes, there are some far-off fundamental problems with
      • fame doesn't keep the lights on.

        I am so stealing that.

      • Actually, he is a model Entrepreneur, and Capitalist.
        He had 2 successful businesses (zip2, and X/Paypal) PRIOR to the current 2.
        SpaceX is not only profitable, but has actually saved America and the world loads of money vs. the $300 million that NASA BEGGED him to apply for. In addition, he has spent his own money and is nearing the launch of the Falcon Heavy (America's 3rd largest spacecraft, while carrying our 2nd heaviest payload), while working on what will be the world's largest launch vehicle, ever.
  • The story copy sounds like a shallow desperate tech industry puff piece. "Go to school for tech! If you go for anything, everything but tech is a waste of time and money!"

    The best advice I've ever heard is to trust your local want ads the most.
    And for many many years now, most of the ads have been for MBAs and nursing positions.
    Some places do have a big tech industry, but most don't, and offshoring hasn't helped.
    • >The best advice I've ever heard is to trust your local want ads the most.

      But you still have to compare the cost of the required education to the expected income of the targeted position, and then adjust for the non-financial factors like 'will this job drain me of my will to live?' or 'will I end up wrecking my back?'.

      As a general trend, anything you choose to do that involves caring for the elderly probably has a decent future as society greys... but that just means the job will be there, not that it's

  • Dubya gave us the Financial crisis of 2007–2008. For those who forgot,
    The financial crisis of 2007–2008, also known as the global financial crisis and the 2008 financial crisis, is considered by many economists to have been the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s
  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2017 @05:17PM (#55606725)

    The prospective foreign students I know (and I know quite a few) aren't coming to US because of the leftist antics at American universities. They come from countries where there have been communist civil wars and many have have family members murdered by the communists. Masked thugs in black running around streets and universities beating teachers and students they disagree with..........well, that's straight out of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

    • The prospective foreign students I know (and I know quite a few) aren't coming to US because of the rightist antics of the American government. They come from countries where there have been right-wing instigated coups and civil wars and many have had family members murdered by right-wing death squads. Masked soldiers and police in black running around streets and universities beating teachers and students they disagree with..........well, that's straight out of the Chilean coup playbook.

      There have been atr

  • So, I started out my career with software. I've been getting paid to build things out of bricks made of C++, Erlang, Ruby, PHP and a few other languages since about 2003. Over the years, I've risen to a level where my day is spent managing people and direction for a large enterprise. I recently enrolled in an MBA program. What I've learned so far has been immediately, and immensely valuable.

    If you've ever seen two people arguing about the same thing, because they both used words that meant something difffer

  • Not of a specific company's brand of course.. but the "MBA" brand. There's countless stories about clueless managers out there that picked up their "MBA" from a 3 month online course. Even if the fraction of such people is small, they're the ones that got reported on the most and now anyone who sees "MBA" automatically assumes "idiot who couldn't make it into a real business school" (even though the degree from real business schools is still MBA..)

    Not sure what there is to be done about that. My first su

  • ... the last decades of "development" (decay?) in the US. I'm not really surprised. These days I wouldn't touch college with a ten-foot pole if I were living in the US. You're in debt for life, academic job chances and their stability are dwindling and as a heterosexual male you run the risk of being burned at the stake in an instant for being too interested in the ladies.

    Here in Germany however it's an entirely different game.

    I just enrolled in a BsC programm called Media CompSci. The university [hs-duesseldorf.de] is free, the programm is awesome, the campus is exeptionally well put together (they just moved to a brand new campus), services are excellent and on top of that I actually get to *save* money, because semster fees get you a student ID / status that comes with many benefits, including free public transport throughout the state. On the plus side the ladies quota in the CompScis is up and since my faculty has "media" in it's name we can't complain anyway. I get to flirt with girls less than half my age - very nice :-). And if I want I can walk 50 meters to the other faculty buliding and start my own extra MBA programm at no extra cost. Or whatever else I'm interested in.

    Bottom line: That young USias (especially males) are steering clear of universities is no big surprise to anyone observing what has been happening lately. I totally get it.

    My 2 eurocents.

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