Jack Welch’s online M.B.A. program began with a bang two years ago, heralded as an unprecedented venture that could shake up online education.
Now Mr. Welch is shaking up his own program.
The former CEO of General Electric said on Friday that his management institute would move to Strayer University from its current home at a struggling Ohio for-profit institution called Chancellor University. The Wall Street Journal reports that Strayer is paying about $7-million for the program, with Mr. Welch kicking in $2-million of his own.
In an interview with The Chronicle, Mr. Welch sounded like a baseball player who had been traded to a wealthier team with a better chance of making the playoffs.
“We needed a bigger game,” he said. “We’re going from 500 students with limited resources to 55,000 students with 82 campuses and much more reach.” Strayer’s advertising and technology budgets were part of the appeal, he added.
The Jack Welch Management Institute offers executive M.B.A.’s as well as certificates in subjects like “becoming a leader.” For students, part of the attraction is weekly Webcam sessions with Mr. Welch, who weighs in on current events like the situations in Greece and Italy.
Or baseball: One discussion focused on the umpire whose botched call spoiled a perfect game for the Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga. The umpire, Jim Joyce, admitted his error. ”We use that as a wonderful teaching tool about coming forward when you make a mistake,” Mr. Welch said.
Mr. Welch doesn’t call his deal with Chancellor a mistake, saying he is “pleased as hell” with a venture that has attracted 200 students in its first 20 months. He described those students as “high-ambition middle managers” in companies that include Microsoft, Merck, and ESPN. Seventy percent of them either pay full tuition or have the cost covered by their employers, he said.
Robert S. Silberman, chairman and CEO of Strayer Education, said Mr. Welch raised the idea of a purchase to him in a telephone call in April: “He was looking for a new academic home.”
In the course of evaluating the institute, Strayer also looked into acquiring all of Chancellor, which was once a nonprofit university and is now owned by private investors. But Mr. Silberman said his company determined that the only part of the university it wanted was Mr. Welch’s institute.
Strayer was attracted to the curriculum of the executive-M.B.A. program and the short leadership courses. Strayer now offers similar courses on a limited basis but is looking to offer more of them, said Mr. Silberman. Such courses, typically paid for by students’ employers, help Strayer University keep its proportion of revenues from federal student-aid programs well below the 90-percent maximum allowed.
The purchase will very likely be a plus for Strayer. Unlike some of its for-profit competitors, the university has not been tarnished by allegations of wrongdoing. And its recent declines in enrollment—it has just reported that new-student enrollment fell by 21 percent—have been smaller than those of many other providers.
But at a time when many students are becoming increasingly conscious of colleges’ academic reputations and averse to high-cost educational programs, some analysts have questioned whether Strayer’s brand is strong enough to outweigh the competitive challenges it faces from for-profit and nonprofit colleges alike. The Welch institute could add some luster.
Goldie Blumenstyk contributed to this report.Return to Top