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How Is Gen Y Changing MBA Programs?

The debate rages on about the value of spending a hefty sum on an MBA, with Penelope Trunk calling biz school a waste of time (and even the venerable Economist suggesting potential biz students think twice before applying). But perhaps there is one simple idea that's missing from the debate -- if MBAs are outdated and overly expensive, they are also not monolithic and eternal. Programs can adapt to changing realities and shift to reflect the demands of their applicant pool.

So how are the expectations of the current great demographic wave hitting biz school admissions offices -- Gen Y, aka the Millennials -- shaping MBA programs? Recently in an interview with Poets & Quants ultimate MBA insider J.J. Cutler, deputy dean of admissions and career services at Wharton, offered his opinion:

We are starting to see the impact of the Millennials. There is a sort of social justice component that we haven't seen in a long time. The cynical argue that when the economy comes back, they will all run back to investment banking firms and investment management firms. We'll see. They apply earlier in their careers. They want to pursue dual and joint degrees like a J.D./M.B.A. and take language classes and get involved in all the clubs and learn about all the regions of the world. This is probably a function of multitasking and their comfort with new technology. Their dreams and aspirations are much bigger and broader, and they see business schools as a platform to help them get to those dreams.
Of course these changes do nothing to address the question of MBA program's hefty price tag, nor the Economist's eyebrow-raising concern that MBAs teach "cute stratagems and frameworks" while student really need to learn to make money "in the robust manner of the 19th-century American robber barons" unencumbered by "guilt induced by some watery ethics course" (Really Economist, after the last crisis, we need MORE ruthless robber barons?).

The changes do suggest, however, that MBA programs are not immune to evolution and in the face of mounting criticism will change (or die), perhaps becoming less of a right of passage for aspiring robber barons and more a place for those with other ambitions -- be they saving the world or running a media empire -- go to get the skills they need to achieve these dreams. How do you see MBAs evolving?

And what does Cutler think of the debate surrounding the value of the MBA? Even he concedes that the huge costs of the program should make students cautious: "It's a big opportunity cost. It's a very serious calculation. It's very long term and requires a level of security and sophistication." He also offers lots of advice for applicants in the interview, so if you've already decided to apply, check it out.

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(Image courtesy of Flickr user C.K.H., CC 2.0)