The Tippie College of Business wants to offer students the option to complete a Master of Business Administration degree completely online. 

At its meeting this week, the Iowa Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on whether to allow the University of Iowa to add a fully online option for its Professional MBA program. Tippie leaders say the online program will expand the reach of the program beyond its three physical sites in Iowa and provide greater flexibility for working adults to earn an MBA. 

Tippie announced a year ago that it would phase out its full-time MBA program by May 2019, which the college said would enable it to increase investments in MBA programs that serve working professionals. 

The proposed online MBA is “certainly part of our long-term strategy that takes into consideration what’s happening with national trends,” said David Frasier, associate dean of MBA programs for the Tippie College of Business. 

The new program would initially be geared to serving professionals within the state, particularly in western Iowa, where UI has been unable to offer in-person classes given the distances and limited number of faculty, Frasier said. “With elimination of the full-time program, that freed up faculty, and being online, distances weren’t a consideration,” he said. The program would later also target UI alums who have moved from Iowa for out-of-state positions.   

The online offering will also keep UI competitive with Drake University, which last month launched a fully online MBA program for part-time students. 

UI currently has 964 students enrolled in its professional MBA programs across its Davenport/Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines locations, including more than 400 taking in-person classes at the Pappajohn Education Center in downtown Des Moines. The business college currently offers 14 of its MBA courses online for those students. 

If the new online program is approved by the regents, Tippie would ramp up the program over a three-year period to offer about 54 online sections, with the first course offerings beginning next fall, Frasier said. Each online course would be capped at 45 students, with a target enrollment of 250 students for the fully online program.  

A market study conducted for the college indicates there is likely an annual target market of between 350 and 550 students for an online MBA. 

“We expect there is potential demand far exceeding what we can handle,” Frasier said.