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Master of business, without massive debt

New MBA program gives students an affordably priced business degree, with flexible hours and class options.

August 18, 2016

Daniel J Vaccaro

Savvy business pros know a good deal when they see it.

So when Jen Pacher heard that Metropolitan State University of Denver was launching a Master of Business Administration degree, she knew she needed to apply.

“I’ve experienced the high-quality education you get for the price,” said Pacher, who earned her undergraduate degree in marketing from MSU Denver in 2014. “It’s such a great value, and too good an opportunity to pass up.”

Until recently, Pacher worked as a marketing coordinator at a national grocery chain. For many years before that, and even during her time as a student, she worked as a business and operations analyst with a telecommunications company. With several years of experience under her belt, the 46-year-old mother of three felt it was time to take her career to the next level.

She’s planning to apply for the program this spring – and she’s not alone.

Demand for MBA degrees grows every year, and as demand increases, so does the price tag, a factor that can be prohibitive for many aspiring business people.

A 2014 report from New American Education Policy Program asserted that the average combined undergraduate and graduate loan debt for an MBA alumnus is $42,000.

“We want to provide a reasonable alternative,” said Ann Murphy, dean of MSU Denver’s College of Business. “We have always been about providing a high-quality education at an affordable price, and this program is an extension of that priority.”

MSU Denver’s MBA costs $457 per credit hour, which combined with fees, makes it possible to earn a degree for $20,000. The average price of a two-year MBA program in the U.S. exceeds $60,000.

The program also is structured to allow students to continue working while they take classes, said Murphy, meaning that they can pay as they go, rather than suspending their current income to attend. Murphy is also seeking relationships with local businesses that offer tuition reimbursement for employees. The ideal outcome would be to get students educated without needing to take on any debt, she said.

In addition to its relative affordability, the program is accredited by AACSB International - the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the top accrediting body for business programs. Only 5 percent of the world’s 16,000 business programs have achieved this distinction, said Murphy. Many of the top local MBA programs also have this accreditation.

Three concentrations

Rakhee Shastry always wanted an MBA.

She earned an accounting degree in her native India before immigrating to the United States and received a bachelor’s in computer information systems from MSU Denver in 2015.

After scoring a job as an application developer at her second alma mater, she began to hear rumblings about the MBA Program. She promised herself that if it happened, she’d make good on her dream.

These days, the 44-year-old mother of two is busy studying for the GMAT, and putting together her materials for the Nov. 9 application deadline. She plans to choose the concentration in business analytics, and is particularly interested in data warehousing.

“This degree will really help my career,” she said. “I like what I’m doing now, but think additional studies will enable me to bring a business mindset to my work. I also want to develop my leadership skills, so I can move up in the field.”

Business analytics is one of three concentrations in MSU Denver’s program, along with strategic business and accounting. The concentrations were developed to address high-demand areas.

“We want our students to have the most relevant skills as they enter the marketplace,” said Nicole Vowles, associate professor of marketing and director of MBA development at MSU Denver. “Each of our classes emphasizes the practical application of best-practice business concepts.”

The program features intensive capstone projects, in which students serve as consultants for small local businesses and analyze real data to inform decision-making. Students also get to hear from local business people as guest speakers.

“We want to involve the business community as much as possible,” said Vowles. “Students get to learn from real people working in the field, and start to make more professional connections.”

At your convenience

With families to support and bills to pay, both Pacher and Shastry plan to work while they get their graduate degrees. Taking a year or two to focus exclusively on their education is not realistic.

But here’s the good news: MSU Denver’s MBA Program is designed specifically for working adults.

“We anticipate that most of our students will work through the program, most will have a few years of experience already,” said Marlee Kobzej, assistant director of graduate programs for the College of Business. “That is exactly who we’re aiming to serve.”

She noted that classes are scheduled in the evenings and professors appreciate the challenges faced by working adults. Classes are kept small so students can get the personal attention they need to excel. Hybrid courses – a mix of online and classroom learning – add an additional layer of flexibility. She expects the typical student to take one or two classes a semester and finish in two or two-and-a-half years.

“Convenience is a big factor for me,” said Shastry. “I couldn’t do it without the evening classes. With this program, I’ll be able to go directly from work and still be home in time to see my kids before bed.”

Between the great value, relevance and flexibility, Pacher is also convinced this program is the right choice.

“I’ve got a lot more I want to do in my professional career and I think an MBA from MSU Denver will give me the skills I need to take that next step,” she said. “I can’t wait to get started.”

For more information about the MBA Program, contact Kim Bernie, the graduate student outreach and admissions specialist, at 303-556-5161 or