University of Illinois to Offer Low-Cost Online MBA


The University of Illinois has announced that it is launching its iMBA program through online education platform Coursera next spring — for free.

The MBA program materials will be available at no cost, and interested students will be given the opportunity to either complete the program in its entirety or select certain courses. About 200 students will be admitted during the pilot phase.

Students completing the online program will receive a certificate only if they apply for the complete MBA program, which charges $20,000 in tuition fees. The same program on campus costs about $50,000, while the executive MBA is priced at $100,000.

According to Bloomberg, $20,000 for an MBA is significantly lower than other online-based MBA programs, especially considering how the University of Illinois will be offering a complete list of MBA courses that other institutions do not currently offer.

The iMBA lets students accumulate “stackable credentials” each time they complete three courses.  This means students don’t have to sit through the entire MBA program for a certification and instead have the opportunity to obtain mini certifications.

Daphne Koller, president of the online education platform that will host the iMBA, says:

“Unlike a degree, which is this binary, zero-one thing, students are getting benefit at every step along the way,” she says. “It’s a completely innovative way of aggregating credentials, which really allows people to consume what they want, when they want it. If you want to learn digital marketing, you can sign up for that specialization; if you want to learn about business negotiation, you can do that; and if you want the full MBA, you’re on the path for that as well.”

The Chronicle reports that while the course materials can be viewed on Coursera at no charge, one has to pay about $1,000 for enrolling in a course.

The University of Illinois is not the first education provider to offer online courses with a light price tag. Arizona State University just last month announced a program in which students can complete their freshman year program online at a discounted price in partnership with edX.

Only officially enrolled students are eligible for federal financial aid. Federal rules say students can receive financial aid only for to-be-acquired, rather than completed, knowledge. With the iMBA, Coursera and the University of Illinois aim to raise awareness on both the on-campus and online MBA programs and garner important data from enrolled students to offer more tailored, relevant and valuable education to students.