Online MBA School Choice: UNC Kenan-Flagler Vs. Indiana Kelley

They are both premier academic institutions, yet there are notable differences between their online programs

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business are both premier academic institutions with reputable Online MBA programs that draw students from across the globe. At the same time, there are notable differences between the programs.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Vs. Indiana Kelley: Online MBA ranking and price

On rankings, UNC is in joint first-placed in the US News list, while Kelley comes in third place. In the Financial Times ranking, UNC is in fourth place globally while Kelley is in fifth. Poets & Quants rank Kelley in first place with UNC down in fifth.

There are big differences in the price, with Kelley’s course around $50,000 cheaper. The Kelley Direct Online MBA costs $74,520 in tuition fees whereas the total tuition for the UNC program is $125,589.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Vs. Indiana Kelley: Online MBA program comparison  

Both institutions offer super flexible online programs. At UNC, students can earn the credential at their own pace, in as few as 18 months or in up to 36 months. Kelley’s course can be completed in as little as two years or in up to four years. 

Kelley recently revamped the Online MBA curriculum to include a core section of three blocks of courses that students take before selecting a major focus area. There are also a multitude of elective classes on offer.

At UNC there are elective options available in a wide array of diverse fields spanning real estate finance, health systems mergers and transactions, and sustainability reporting and certification. Students can also take Graduate Certificate programs to develop niche expertise in fields such as data analytics, entrepreneurship or finance. 

In addition, UNC offers five academic concentrations to prepare students with the skills employers need most.

One element of difference is that UNC’s Online MBA is STEM-designated, which means overseas students can gain special visa status. This enables them to stay and work in the county for three years after graduation on their student visa — a key selling point. Kelley’s Online MBA does not have this designation.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Vs. Indiana Kelley: Online MBA teaching

At both institutions, the Online MBA classes are not outsourced to adjunct professors, meaning that students are taught by the same faculty as on the full-time MBA program.

Kelley offers one live class per course per week while the rest of the courses are asynchronous, consisting mostly of recorded lectures. UNC also offers weekly live online class sessions that are kept intentionally small to improve engagement between students and faculty.

Kelley also offers two signature in-person experiences where students come together to work on a live consulting project for a real client, both in Indiana and in other locations around the world.

Beyond that, there are multiple immersions in global locations that allow students to develop deeper connections with their peers and faculty while learning about unique business contexts overseas. Students have pitched to venture capitalists in Silicon Valley and worked with Vietnam’s central bank.

UNC, too, has regular in-person summits in Chapel Hill and around the world. In addition, UNC offers week-long intensive courses at the Washington Campus in DC, a nonprofit institution that provides management education focused on the intersection of business and public policy. Participants gain first-hand exposure to members of Congress, the press and lobbyists.

UNC also has its STAR program, an experiential course where teams of students act as consultants to solve companies’ real challenges.

“Collaboration and teamwork are key facets of our MBA programs, and we deliver experiences that enable our online MBA students to engage in deep learning and networking with faculty and their peers,” says Amy Foster, UNC Online MBA program director.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Vs. Indiana Kelley: Online MBA class profile and culture

Kelley’s students are on average 33 years of age with nine years of professional work experience. The median GMAT is 650 and the average GPA 3.4. The cohort represents 50 states and 29 non-US countries, while 11 percent of the class comes from the military. UNC does not break out the data for its class.

Brian Gienko, a current Online MBA student at Kelley, chose the school for three main reasons, the first being its high ranking and impressive alumni network. The second reason was affordability. “I considered applying to UNC-Kenan Flagler as well as Carnegie Mellon Tepper, but those programs come at a massive price increase relative to Kelley,” he says.

The third reason was the opportunity to complete periodic residential modules. “I strongly considered doing a traditional part-time program but the accessibility of doing a world-class MBA in your own office that had an in-person element was the best of both worlds,” says Gienko.

Another Kelley student, Ryan Thompson, chose the school for its reputation. “Kelley launched the Online MBA program well before their peers, and the student experience is much richer for the lessons learned over the years,” he says.

UNC did not put forward any students for an interview.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Vs. Indiana Kelley: Online MBA career outcomes

On careers, Kelley has its graduate career services office, which provides each student with a dedicated career coach and a plethora of resources to help them advance in their careers. Some 64 percent of students reported receiving a promotion while enrolled in the course. At Kelley, the median base salary on graduation is $122,000.

UNC also offers extensive career support, and the cohort achieves a 24 percent average salary increase at graduation and a 39 percent increase one year later. At this point, the average salary including bonus is $159, 557.

UNC also stresses the importance of its alumni network that numbers 42,000 and supports students in securing employment and advancing their careers.

Ultimately, the choice between the two Online MBA programs will be highly personal. Will Geoghegan, interim chair of the Kelley Direct program, recommends that prospective students do their research to make an informed choice between institutions.

“Understand what each school does and does not offer,” he says. “Ask questions of that program if you are uncertain as this is a huge investment – not just financially but also of your time. Find a fit for you, and commit.”

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