University MBA Program Sees Surge in Students

Posted on May 20, 2021

University of Texas Permian Basin’s master’s of business administration program is seeing a surge of students.

“We have about 700 students in our MBA program right now,” Dean of the College of Business Steven Beach said. “Want to thank Dr. (Anshu) Saran for his incredible efforts.”

Saran is the director of the MBA program and Raj Dakshinamurthy, new associate vice president for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies, also is part of the team.

Beach said the MBA program is the largest one at UTPB right now — even bigger than engineering.

The University of Texas brand, along with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation also has helped the program grow.

“… Our MBA is the largest, our bachelor’s in management is the second largest program on campus right now. Our college is thriving,” Beach said.

Saran said the program started five years ago and the number of hours needed to graduate has been reduced to 36 hours. It was 48 hours previously.

For those who have an undergraduate degree in business, it can go down to 30 hours, Saran said.

“… We also have emphasis in marketing, finance, accounting and energy, which is an added advantage and gives the students the ability to specialize … in an area of their choice within the MBA program,” Saran said.

Saran added that the programs have been updated. Some courses have been changed out and new courses introduced such as business and marketing analytics and specializations like marketing, finance, accounting and energy.

Because the Permian Basin is the epicenter of energy business in the United States, and probably the world, Saran said these concentrations and specializations are popular and useful for people in the area.

With the switch to online, Beach said, a lot of people are trying to ramp up their careers. He noted that the online classes mirror the in person versions.

“A general MBA works for a lot of people but other folks really want that specialization, so the fact that we have these specializations in those various areas really caters to their interests,” Beach said.

Another factor in the uptick is that the majority of students are online. Beach said they work with an online program manager that helps to market the program.

As a result, they have a huge number of students from the Permian Basin, but another third of the enrollment is from the rest of Texas and about another 20 percent that are from outside the state, Beach said.

There are a few international students, but not online.

Most of those are on campus, Beach said.

An MBA can help with the trajectory of someone’s career, he added.

“… What we see with the economic downturn concerns about that, people who have degrees in other areas want an opportunity maybe to move into management. Regardless of what type of work you do, you’re in a business and so the acumen to understand the financial statements, to understand how money is managed for the firm, the operations … are all things that benefit you, regardless of whatever industry you happen to be working in. And so particularly as folks want to move up in the ranks, they’re going to do so. We just recently saw that all these tech firms that have been proud of their development, not relying on MBAs, are now hiring a whole lot of MBAs as their firms are maturing, and they understand that they need to be managed more than just grown. And so they are on a huge hiring spree for all of these high-tech firms that were primarily focusing on the coders and the creatives and the like. Now they want either those folks to go back and get their MBAs or they’re hiring in MBAs from graduate programs,” Beach said.

Saran said roughly about 80 percent of their students are gainfully employed. A substantial portion of those students are going for an MBA because their employers want them to do it.

“And some of them are paying for it because I get requests from students that please can I have my grade by so and so date? So of course I have to submit to my employer for tuition reimbursement. This is not an unusual thing,” Saran said.

Beach said oftentimes an MBA is truly the last degree that these students look to achieve, as opposed to master’s degrees in other areas that are mainly preparing people to go on for doctoral studies.

“That’s not really the purpose of an MBA,” Beach said. “An MBA is a finishing degree for top management positions.”

Saran said the College of Business graduates between 60 to 90 students every semester.

“It’ll accelerate in the next year or two with the sizable enrollments we have right now,” Beach said.

Saran said the degree program has become more affordable and effective.

“We did not compromise the effectiveness of the program. But we definitely kind of brought it down by at least six to nine hours,” Saran added.

Saran said the changes were the result of student feedback.

“We take constant feedback from students and there is a Business Advisory Council that is run by the dean and we take some feedback from members of the council who are probably some of our employers,” Saran said.

Beach said from the Business Advisory Council, they have conducted surveys and employers who have hired UTPB graduates, both undergraduate and MBAs, are thrilled with them as employees.

“I think that’s really, really important feedback that we get from them because if they were disappointed, then the changes we would need to make would be different,” Beach said. “But the changes that we’re making now are really addressing what the environment needs. We’re not having to recreate the wheel.”

Beach said other universities have business advisory councils. He added that he just used them recently to help craft their new strategic plan.

“… Their input was critical. And what I found … is that the business leadership out here, members of our Business Advisory Council, they are really unified in a vision of how to serve this community, serve the region and that came through in their expectations of what our training for our business students (should) be and what our goal should be,” Beach said.

Growing local bachelor’s and master’s graduates who will stay in the Basin is part of why UTPB is so important to the region, Beach said.

“If we can generate students with four-year university degrees, with master’s training who are from the region and want to stay here and raise their families, that is such a positive for this community going forward,” Beach added.

Saran has been at UTPB since 2006 and has seen the university and the College of Business grow a lot.

“… Not only do we want to serve more students with growth in graduate enrollments, the expectations are for our research, output and quality to continue to improve. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s just that the expectations are for teaching students at a graduate level and we need to be keeping up with what’s cutting edge in the industries,” Beach said.