The first MBA totally free

The Arizona State University awards 100% scholarships to all students of the master’s degree in business

Hector Ramos says he did it just for the sake of trying, which seemed like a crazy idea. He typed in Google “free MBA in USA” and got a surprise: Arizona State University offers a free business master’s degree since this year. Ramos had decided to enroll in a Master in Business Administration  (MBA) and the WP Carey school, which depends on that house of studies, was one of his preferred options. But it was very expensive: 54,300 dollars for Americans and 92,900 for foreigners like him, who is Mexican. Everything changed in 2016, when the university implemented a scholarship system that covers 100% of the cost for all students of the two-year full-time program. The only condition is to be among the 120 selected candidates. Hector is one of them.

The announcement of the full scholarship sparked interest in the program. Some 1,159 applicants submitted admission applications in 2016, the tripe than the previous year. More than half of those who entered are graduates in economics, engineering or business careers. Like Ramos, who has a degree in marketing and defines himself as “the guy who always wanted to do an MBA”.

The aim of the university (ASU, for its acronym in English) is, however, to attract students with profiles that traditionally do not study this type of masters, says Stephen Taylor, assistant dean of the WP Carey for graduate careers. The manager assures that in an MBA one learns as much from the professors as from the classmates and, therefore, it is key to form a diverse group. “We are looking for students from different geographies and specializations. We want to attract promising leaders of the future  who have worked in different industries, including non-profit organizations, “sums up the assistant dean. The idea, in short, is that the Hector Ramos meet someone like Cesar Padilla.

“Money is not that important to me”

Padilla speaks as an activist, not as the student of a business school. “I want to do something to change things, money is not so important to me,” says this biologist from Los Angeles, the son of Mexican immigrants. At WP Carey, he is pursuing his second postgraduate degree, before he took a master’s degree in global health that led him to contract a debt that he is still paying. “Without the scholarship, I would not have been able to study the MBA,” admits the Californian.

The motivations of Ramos and Padilla are very different. The American dreams of extending the coverage of the  California health system so that it reaches more people and trusts that the master’s degree will provide him with the tools to work on it. The Mexican expects the MBA to help him achieve a managerial position with a better salary and staff in charge.

Academic prestige and job placement are two of the strengths of the business school. WP Carey is ranked 42nd in the latest MBA ranking by The Economistmagazine  and has among its professors the Nobel Prize for Economics Edward Prescott . 95% of graduates get employment in less than three months and earn an average of $ 102,578 per year (96,234 euros), according to university data. The salary level is 14% higher than that of the MBA graduates of the Spanish business school IESE, but 24% lower than that of those who study this type of master’s degree at Harvard .

The opportunity cost

The university subsidizes 100% of the tuition, but this does not mitigate the opportunity cost. “They are two years out of the labor market. I had some savings, but I had to take out a loan for the rent and expenses, “explains Padilla.

“Even if you do not have to pay tuition, it’s not easy,” confirms the Mexican, who sold a van to pay for the first year in Temple, Arizona. The program requires students to complete a three-month internship in a company during the summer. Ramos has already secured a contract in the telecommunications group AT & T.  “With what I earn, I’m going to live the second year,” he reasons.

The program is financed with the money donated in 2003 by real estate mogul William Carey to the business school, which since then bears his name. A contribution of 50 million dollars with which the management of the institution plans to pay for the scholarships during the next years. Hector is excited about the idea of ​​making a donation in the future: “If I can, I’m definitely going to do it.” The ASU opened a door for me and I’ll be grateful all my life.

A more diverse group

The university assures that it has fulfilled the objective of increasing diversity. 48% of students are graduates of humanities, social sciences or exact careers. The proportion of women in the student body has grown from 30% to 43% in one year and the number of countries represented has jumped from 9 to 24. One in three students is foreign, none Spanish. “Right now I’m in a group with a partner from Uganda, another from Nigeria and another from India,” says Kevin Malone, a graduate in Hispanic philology from Illinois.

When Malone found out about the WP program, Carey was hesitating between taking an MBA and doing a PhD in Spanish. The scholarship inclined him in favor of the first option. “The MBA is an opportunity to change careers,” explains Malone, who worked as an English teacher in Spain and has a postgraduate degree in Spanish teaching from the University of Barcelona.

Kevin is not worried about the lack of familiarity with the business world and says he would like to engage in marketing, where he believes he can take advantage of his relationship with the Hispanic world. “Not always the best in the class is someone who studied business. Any career, any job has something to do with business. We all have a valuable experience to share “, concludes the philologist.

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