In the United States, leadership in higher education was derived from successful research and discovery which led to increased funding and notoriety. As more money was raised, faculty salaries grew in concert with the college’s endowment. Students with high aspirations applied to these storied institutions confident a great college experience will translate into a better life and more financial rewards. Most research indicates that with the exception of a handful of top ranked business schools, it is difficult to obtain a great education, know your professors well and graduate in four years from most undergraduate business schools. These top schools save the best faculty for MBA and PhD students leaving the undergraduate teaching and grading to graduate assistants. The required classes are crowded or unavailable for all but the upperclassman with the most credits. This means the majority of graduates spent five or more years accumulating the classess they need to graduate. Some programs lure students in with the promise of studying international business or accounting then force 30% of the majors out before their junior year.
Motivated high school graduates interested in a good education have a choice.
When there is choice, a key marketing principle is brand differentiation and a clear demonstration of superior value. Various management schemes and business tools help hundreds of universities; research oriented, teaching-focused and career-oriented institutions compete on a national basis via niche strategies. Calibrating the relative student success of an undergraduate business program is difficult if not impossible but some standardized metrics are gaining more attention from prospects and alumni. One such metric is percentage employed in the industry of their choice withing six months of graduation. Monmouth College boasts one of the highest percentages in the nation 96% which demonstrates value and the market demand for its graduates.
Colleges should do more than simply prepare graduates for gainful employment. They are challenged to demonstrate how they can improve the quality of their graduates’ lives and give more meaning to their existence. Most graduates will be called on as leaders in their community. Ethical questions will test our moral integrity. Institutions that ignore these “soft” skills face marginalization or extinction since business strategy and tactics change dramatically over time.
Liberal Arts colleges, a uniquely American institution, provide an ideal testing ground for incorporating a more holistic curriculum. Private institutions such as Monmouth College are depended on tuition revenues and alumni donations to financially survive. This is analogous to natural business forces in a competitive marketplace. If you do not meet a need or fill a market gap, your college will struggle to increase its volume of customers and lack the financial strength to invest in quality. Monmouth recently announced a new Center for Science and Business–an investment of $39 million dollars. The business program with over 300 majors is the largest major on campus. The business faculty offer the largest variety of electives of any private school its size.
Excellence in an undergraduate business program is subjective. It depends on the criteria and the judges. However you define excellence, it must be worthy of a price. Since Monmouth is not the least expensive option is is imparative that you make a personal determination what criteria are important to you. Do you value taking classes from faculty who have management experience or passion for teaching the best theory? Do you want to work with faculty and alumni mentors who will help you find internship opportunities and summer employment? Who will be your references and mentors as you search for your first full-time position?
Educational value may be relative, but we all must make judgements. Monmouth combines a great breadth of educational opportunities (as demonstrated by its tradition as one of the Midwest’s finest liberal arts colleges) with the program that will prepare you for success in your business career or in graduate studies. Recently our graduates have been accepted at Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and University of Michigan to name a few. Your opinion is highly dependent on the perceived value of the program or institution. Private undergraduate institutions offering study in business can be some of America’s most expensive colleges; demanding $35,000- $50,000 annually in tuition, room, and board (much less for the average business major at Monmouth). How well these schools monetize their assets, market their success and drive awareness will determine your perception. The high aspirations of motivated high school graduates that apply to these highly-ranked institutions make a huge difference too. Their success is a self-fullfilling prophecy. Monmouth students are known for hard work, integrity, and strong moral compasses. Our graduates go forward confident that their college experience will translate into a richer life with more financial rewards. The payback is usually before the fifth year reunion. Maybe a celebrated business school is not the best place to study business after all.