BusinessWeek reports that Jack Welch, the esteemed former CEO of General Electric, has announced that he will open his own online MBA program. For $20,000 the Jack Welch Management Institute, which officially opens in the fall, will offer $600 per credit hour tuition, which means you can get your MBA from Jack for about $20,000. Is this a great idea?
Well, it's certainly great timing. In the recession, applications to grad school are up across the board and the price tag of your average MBA program can run over $100,000. By offering a cheap online alternative, Welch is hoping to attract businesspeople who don't want to move or necessarily even leave their job to get an business degree.
Since the vision of Welch and his wife will animate the curriculum, one can generally anticipate the thrust of the school's philosophy. Welch was a strong believer in a business strategy called Six Sigma, whereby extreme talents are aggressively sought, identified and promoted while "defects" are eliminated. Welch, the BW article notes, was ruthless about firing underperforming managers.
But despite the impact Welch is sure to have on the online education world, it goes without saying that in education -- business school, especially -- the name is everything. Top schools like Harvard and Northwestern have spent years developing their reputation as first-stops for the future business and marketing leaders in the country. Their ability to attract talented teachers and talented students is also a virtuous cycle. When successful alumni graduate, they take the name with them and send a fraction of their high salaries back. This is how great schools are made and maintained. Jack Welch is indeed a name, but I expect it will take some time for the Jack Welch Management Institute to become a brand.