Sunday, October 19, 2008

Looking into MBA Options in Southeast Michigan

Over a decade ago, I earned my Bachelor of Business Administration in Computer Information Systems at Western Michigan University. I stand by what I've said over the years, which is I felt the Haworth College of Business at WMU equipped me well to face the challenges of the business world. I also think the BBA program at HCOB is as good as any other BBA program in the state of Michigan (University of Michigan and Michigan State included). I have been very successful in my career since I graduated, but what I learned while at WMU was that higher education is what you make of it. I learned how to work hard, collaborate, lead teams, perform advanced problem solving, deal with difficult situations, just to name a few. These skills are the foundation of being successful in business. People have always said, it's not as important where you receive your undergrad degree from, as long as you have it. For the most part, I agree with that statement as long as you make an effort to get as much out of it as you can.

Which brings me to my next point...

On the contrary to above, in business people typically say it is more important to go to a top notch school for an MBA. I have always desired to earn a Master of Business Administration degree. Over the last 10+ years, I focused more on the specific technology I was using at the time (and earning certifications along the way), rather than advancing my career with higher education. In addition, my employer would not contribute at all to an MBA degree, so I never went back to school as a result. Now that I've switched companies and career focus to slightly less technical and more leadership, I am planning on applying to graduate schools and studying for the GMAT.

In evaluating the options, according to all of the "rankings" (which you may or may not hold stock in), there are only two programs in Michigan that are considered top tier MBA programs:

1. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor -
2. Michigan State University - Eli Broad,

Followed by several AACSB certified programs in my local area:

- Wayne State University -
- University of Detroit Mercy -
- University of Michigan Dearborn -
- Oakland University -
Note: I have ruled out WMU, CMU, and EMU for various reasons, but these schools are also AACSB certified.

University of Michigan's Ross School of Business is a 60 credit (most MBA programs are 36 to 45), extremely expensive program which will probably cost around $90,000 or more to go part time, and take 5 to 8 years to complete. I cannot justify that cost or effort required at this point in my career, and I would never realize a positive ROI.

Michigan State University's program is a weekend lockstep accelerated program, which you complete on alternating fridays and weekends over an 18 month period. It is very intense and challenging program, and also expensive at the cost of $50,000. However the bright side is you are done in just 18 months. I will definitely look into this program more. Also offered is an EMBA program at an additional $27,000 expense.

Wayne State University surprised me, as it has the following rankings to make note of:
- Listed in Princeton Review's as one of the top 290 MBA programs
- #93 in the United States according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities (only two higher are Michigan and MSU)
- National Science Foundation has WSU at #63
- Listed as one of America's Best Colleges in the 4th tier according to US News.
Who knows if any of this means anything, but one thing I do like is they offer the most flexibility. A student can choose to take individual classes on campus, at the satellite campus in Farmington Hills, or online. In fact, the online MBA is ranked #21 in the country according to, higher than University of Wisconsin, Auburn, and University of Massachusetts to name a few. I will definitely consider this program and research more about it.

University of Detroit Mercy's MBA program is also intriging. The university's website states, "For the eighth consecutive year, University of Detroit Mercy is listed in the top tier of Midwestern Master's Universities in the 2009 edition of the U.S.News and World Report's "America's Best Colleges." The University was ranked one of the top 25 schools in its category, the highest-ranking school in Michigan. In the yearly guide, hitting newsstands this week, University of Detroit Mercy was also rated fifth in the "Great Schools, Great Prices" category. According to U.S. News, this ranking highlights the best financial value as it relates to a school's academic quality." Tuition seems reasonable, and scholarships are availabile for anyone scoring higher than 600 on the GMAT. I will also be considering UDM for an MBA.

University of Michigan-Dearborn also has a competitive MBA program structured similarly to the program down the road in Ann Arbor. One key difference is they offer evening and online courses as well, which makes it more convienient. Students can apply for waivers to bring the credits down from 60 credits if they have prior business school experience, but there are some significant restrictions. The "Michigan" reputation typically carries over somewhat to Dearborn's campus, but not entirely. I will likely apply here as well. However, I am not interested in a 60 credit MBA program, so I would need to see how this shakes out.

Oakland University has an strong reputation in the local southeast Michigan area, and is probably an underrated program. There is not as much information about this program available compared to the others, probably due to the smaller size. I will be looking into this program as well.

I will be blogging on my reasoning as I narrow down this decision further on which schools I am considering.


bobm said...

As a MBA graduate from the U of M (1980 - the Jurassic Period!) I agree with your assessment about the ROI and your apparent leaning towards Wayne State so long as you intend to stay in Michigan. If you plan to leave the State, the U of M name will pay off compared to WSU or the other schools you are considering.

Ben M Abler said...


Thank you for your comments, and I've very much enjoyed reading your blog as well.

I do plan to stay in Michigan, even though the local economy is the worst in the country. I have too much family here to move out of state. If everything dried up and there was nothing for me, I would probably look into traveling consulting positions as a last resort if necessary.

The good news is that I am in the technology space, and for those with solid IT and business knowledge they are very much still in demand even in bad times.

I would be interested in your opinion of the other local programs listed, as I have not decided where I will be attending. If you are uncomfortable posting, you can email me at


Anonymous said...

You have to know that firms that are serious about MBA only hire from accredited schools and the other programs are just like an MS for jobs where the masters is a legal requirement but quality is not

Ben M Abler said...

Anonymous. Yes, all of the programs listed including those from EMU, CMU and WMU are AACSB certified. I am not considering non-AACSB schools. Thanks

Sam said...


Good to see your blog. I am in the same boat .. planning to start my MBA early next year. Since I have 10+ years experience and hold a management position in IT field, I really don't think investment in ROSS-UM will give me a ROI.

For a while I was very excited about MSU starting part time MBA in Troy starting 2009. However there are 2 issues 1) 55k is overpriced for a compact course 2) It has specialization in integrative management - what is it ...actually don't know. I searched but could not find any other renowned university giving MBA specialization in integrative management ... looks like its a name for no specialization but just a general MBA. Also part time MBA is not ranked for MSU. So it sounds like you pay for getting the name of Broad school ... the question is it worth it... well depends but may be not in my case

So I think in my position I am also inclined to go to Wayne State. Apart from being a little less expensive it has few positives 1)Good range of electives gives you an opportunity to do specialization of your interest 2) Flexibility of doing courses on weekend, evening or online may be helpful specially with the market so bad ... you never know when one might have to shift outside Michigan

So I am 75% towards getting in WSU... what are your thoughts??


Anonymous said...


Ben M Abler said...


Thanks for your comments on the MBA from Wayne State. I've been doing a lot of research and generally speaking Wayne State is considered the third best in the state behind ROSS and MSU. We share similar feelings in that neither of us would likely see an ROI from a ROSS MBA or BROAD MBA.

In this economy, flexibility seems to be a very important consideration and there is no better than Wayne State as you mentioned in this regard. The only other AACSB schools that offer online courses in the area is UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint.

The decision for me is likely going to come down to Wayne State, UM-Dearborn, or one of the schools found at

Joey said...

Can I ask why you are ruling out CMU's MBA? I am considering either Wayne State or CMU's.

Ben M Abler said...

Hi Joey,

I haven't completely ruled out CMU's program, but a couple things stand out about it as "red flags" to me.

They offer two programs:
1. One has a heavy focus on SAP. That's great, if you want to limit yourself to one software package out of thousands. Personally, I do not want something as important and broad as an MBA to be focused specifically on one technology. That is what certifications are for, not an MBA. I have seen the "winds of change" often in my career, so what happens if SAP loses significant market share. Do you then have a "less valuable" MBA?

2. They also offer a program called the MBA for the Value Driven Organization. The program is only 31 credits, and no other reputable MBA program in the world has such few credits. It's a new program that is to me, a bit unproven. My personal opinion is that I have a hard time believing that the AACSB will allow that program to continue to be accredited when they find out its only 31 credits when every other accredited MBA program is 36 to 60. It's almost like it's not a "similar" MBA to other MBA programs because they classify it as an "MBA/VDO". It just doesn't add up to me.

These are my opinions; I welcome anyone to refute my points.

Anonymous said...

I am thinking of applying to the Oakland's MBA program for Fall 09. Looks like its not highly ranked and I am not sure if its worth attending Oakland. What are your thoughts?


Dawn said...


Thank you so much for posting this blog. I was actually just doing some research on MBA rankings in MI and your blog popped up in my google search. These are some of the same issues that I have been struggling with. Though I would love to have the MBA from U of M listed on my resume. I do not believe that I can justify the cost. My employer will reimburse a portion of the tuition but compared to the cost that would only be about one class per year. I had not really considered Wayne State seriously but I certainly will now. I first was going to attend U of M-Dearborn but I graduated from there with a BS in Biology. It has been recommended to me that it is best to attend a different school for your graduate degree. What are your thoughts on this?

Dawn Bauer

Ben M Abler said...

Hi All,

Just getting caught up here...

Re: Oakland, I am sure their program is good, it's just that it's not as large and well-known as some of the other programs. If that's important to you or not, I'm not sure.

Re: Attending the same school as undergrad. I have heard this as well and I think it's certainly preferred to have attended two different schools, but at the same time you're not exactly "penalized" for attending the same school. It's a preference but not an ultimatum.

Personally, I still have not enrolled but I do plan to take the GMAT and apply to Wayne State, U of M - Dearborn, and potentially CMU (MBA/VDO). All signs point to me heading to Wayne State at this time.

Anonymous said...

Ben All the schools you have looked at are good and will round out your already impressive credentials. Just do it... !!

Rick C.

Anonymous said...


I follow along the storyline of Dawn... I was first considering UM-Dearborn but realized it is like a different school from the nationally ranked UM-Ann Arbor. I live near GR, and graduated a couple years ago with my bachelor's in Electrical Engineering. I am now considering the WSU, which I never knew was so highly thought of out of the Michigan schools. I plan on applying to WSU and UM (AA). Which school did you end up going with?

Ben M Abler said...

To close out this thread, I have applied and am currently taking classes at Wayne State University. I'm finding the program to be challenging but not overwhelming, which is what I was looking to accomplish for a part time MBA program.

Anonymous said...

Curious - why have you ruled out WMU?

Ben Abler said...

WMU did not have an option for a part time and online MBA program unless you lived on the west side of the state.

I earned my undergraduate degree from the Haworth College of Business and believe it was quality education at a good value, but I needed the flexibility and location.

Ben Abler said...

This has been published since this thread was started: