Values Help Decide Best School Choice

MMBA - iStock_000007901834XSmallAlong with operating Military MBA, I volunteer to offer advice on colleges to students and their families. The situation with colleges has changed dramatically over the past couple of years. Institutional aid is certainly not what it used to be even two or three years ago. Less aid is not an isolated event, it applies to both public and private institutions in every state. I see higher costs and a greater focus on outcomes driving what I believe is a new era in Higher Education. I will cover more on outcomes in future posts. 

Fortunately, in terms of higher costs, the education picture is somewhat different for military students and their families. This is due to tuition benefits of legacy programs such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill. While changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill will continue, you can count on it to offset a large part of your future education costs. That’s because the program is fully funded through 2018 and will see zero impact from either government budget cuts or sequester.

Nevertheless, the “sticker price” of most MBA programs is still expensive. And such costs, less all forms of financial aid and future income potential, should be a main factor in deciding on your choice of schools. Whenever choice and money enters into a decision, tradeoffs must be considered. And whenever there is consideration of tradeoffs, an individual’s values become increasingly important. 

The New York Times recently wrote an article on Measuring College Prestige vs. Cost of Enrollment. It is a useful article to read. “Prestige” is often associated with a lot of subjective criteria such as name recognition, reputation and even quality of education.

In my opinion, many of these intangibles can translate into important benefits. This is especially true when indirect benefits lead to acquiring greater knowledge, more skills and a professional network. However, the other “flip” side of prestige is closely associated with ego and in my experience any type of arrogance can lead to bad decisions that are costly. The difficult part is measuring prestige, which brings me back to values and the student I helped recently.

The student I helped was not an MBA candidate. He was an 18-year old weighing his college options for an undegrad degree. However, I believe much of his situation applies to choosing an MBA school.

This kid was a very good student who was mature and well-directed for someone his age. He had a better offer of institutional aid at an out-of-state public university, which really wanted him to enroll. It would have been an easy choice resulting in a very competitive, low-priced option with good engineering programs. However, he decided against this option. He also very deliberately walked from prestigious universities, two privates and one public, which represented three of his most expensive options.

In the end, he went with his values and decided to attend a university that most effectively balanced greater name recognition with price and quality of engineering concentrations. While his choice was neither the best financial aid package nor the lowest 4-year cost of enrollment price, the extra he spends will yield a better-quality education and 80%-90% guarantee he’ll find a job once he graduates.

You can also make the right choice by using values to help you decide the best MBA school to attend.

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