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Owen Exec MBA and students adjust to Great Recession
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Owen's Tami Fassinger

The Vanderbilt Executive MBA program is adjusting to recession-borne pressures and attempting to keep its tuition charges below $100,000.

Tami Fassinger, Owen's associate dean of executive programs, told VNC this morning that leaders of the Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management moved quickly in 2009 to survey current and prospective students to determine how they are coping with the recession and new strains on employers, workplaces and families.

As a result, Owen reshaped its EMBA format to eliminate the need for EMBA students to miss every-other Friday at work to meet the requirements of the intensive two-year program.

Fassinger explained that working students were often fearful of being absent when their companies were under such pressure, especially after many companies partly or completely quit underwriting their executives' EMBA costs.  Survey results were so dramatic, she said, that changes that often move at glacial speed in the university setting were agreed upon and "on a dime, we changed the schedule."

Fassinger said substituting longer Saturdays sessions and two new summer terms were preferred by the vast majority of students likely to enrol in the 33-year-old program.

Simultaneoulsy, Fassinger said the percent of students supported by their employers' full tuition sponsorships dropped in one year from 34 percent, where the rate had been for about five years, to a mere 14 percent.

Fassinger said that, provided the Vanderbilt Board of Trust approves the Owen tuition proposal in during the board's meeting in May, Owen will continue to keep its degree-tuition total below $100,000, at about or about the current $98,722. (EMBA students pay about $5,900 more than full-time Owen MBA students, as a result of two summer residencies and book charges.)

Owen does not differentiate on EMBA students' transcripts to identify they were in the "weekend executive" program, Fassinger explained, because requirements and expectations of progress are the same for both programs. She indicated, further, that EMBA students are often higher-performing, partly because they are managing typically successful careers, rather than seeking to change careers or enhance lagging careers.

Owen EMBA's latest class has 51 members, a bit higher than the typical 50 students taken-in each year. Typically, said Fassinger, Owen EMBA offers admission to nearly 60 applicants, understanding that some will not follow-through, even though they have been carefully selected and then closely cultivated as applicants from among a pipeline of up to 700 who inquire each year.

There are currently about 1,400 alumni of the Owen EMBA program among the school's 8,000 total alumni, whose ranks date back to award of the first Owen MBA in 1980.

Fassinger earned her bachelor's in Russian at Vanderbilt University in 1985, and her MBA at Rollins College Crummer School of Business.

She's worked for Owen a total of more than 12 years, and previously worked with Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, NCR and Management Recruiters International. ♦ 

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Tags: economy, education, Owen EMBA, Owen Graduate School of Management, postsecondary, recession, Vanderbilt University

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