News | MBA fees jump to $29,500

Program rejects government contributions in favour of self-funding

Professor Don Melville, director of McGill’s Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program, announced in an email to MBA students last Thursday that tuition will increase to $29,500 for all incoming students as of September 2010 – an increase of more than 1,663 per cent for Quebec residents, 531 per cent for out-of-province students, and 48 per cent for international students.

Current MBA students will not be affected by the increase, and will continue paying regular rates of $1,672.80, $4,675.68, and $19,890 for Quebec, out-of-province, and international students, respectively.

The tuition increase is part of a move by the MBA program to become self-funded. Under the new model, the University will forego government subsidies in order to maintain autonomy in dictating tuition fees. Melville’s email also stated that the decision to shift to self-funding was made based on feedback from both alumni and students.

“Such a change will allow us to invest even more in student services, the curriculum and the external reputation of the program,” Melville wrote in the email.

Professor Susan Christoffersen, Academic Director of the MBA program, said that following the 2008 overhaul of the MBA curriculum, it was clear that greater financial support was needed to provide students with certain resources for seeking employment.

“[The faculty] didn’t have the resources to support our students,” Christoffersen said.

She was hopeful that higher tuition fees would allow the program to begin devoting the same attention to career planning services as other leading business schools.

“We want to make sure our students can get superior jobs,” Christoffersen said.

While Ron Duerksen, Director of Marketing and Communication for the faculty, said that the MBA Student Association was consulted in the decision, Post-Graduate Students’ Society President (PGSS) Daniel Simeone said PGSS should have been involved in the process.

“I think that the PGSS, as a representative of all graduate students, should most certainly have been consulted,” he said.

McGill’s reputation was also a factor in the decision to adopt the self-funded model.

Christoffersen expressed cautious support for attention to McGill’s ranking in publications like the Financial Times. “You don’t want to be driven completely by the rankings, but they matter a lot in terms of your ability to attract the best students…. We’re sensitive to [the rankings] and I think rightly so.”

Simeone, though, was wary of an emphasis on reputation, claiming that the Financial Times and other publications often overlook valuable measures of the quality of education.

“The current way in which these metrics are calculated is fundamentally at odds with the quality of education,” Simeone added.

In an email to The Daily, Duerksen acknowledged that these rankings are “not entirely valid,” but added, “the reputation of a business school is driven by the reputation of its MBA program.”

But the accessibility of the MBA program – among the most expensive graduate degrees but with one of the highest financial returns – remains a point of disagreement for the administration and PGSS.

Simeone maintained PGSS’s support for a system of regulated, frozen Quebec tuition that allows for changes in accordance with inflation.

“I think it’s clear that [charging] $30,000 a year…for anything impacts accessibility,” he said, adding that McGill’s current policy of contributing 30 cents of every dollar to student aid from increased tuition fees is inadequate.

Duerksen, though, was confident that the program would remain accessible, explaining that, “The self-funded model will enable [the faculty] to increase…scholarships ten-fold.”

Still, Duerksen admitted that a higher tuition rate may deter a small number of applicants, but added that students should expect to pay high fees in exchange for the financial security of “high graduating salaries.” Barbara Dourley, U3 Management and President of the Management Undergraduate Society, acknowledged the financial security that an MBA can provide, but expressed concern that such high fees might discourage students from pursuing less lucrative careers with not-for-profit organizations.

“I don’t think [McGill] has realized that there are a lot of different students that want to do an MBA,” Dourley said. “I think in the future there is going to have to be a way for the MBA program to somehow involve that kind of student.”

In his email, Duerksen promised the faculty would plan specific scholarships for students intending to work for non-profit organizations.

Duerksen added that many prospective students expect to pay high tuition fees for an MBA. “This is not news to the rest of the world,” he said in his email.

Due to other commitments, the dean and associate dean of Management were unavailable for comment. The MBA Student Association was unable to respond to The Daily by press time.

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