By Sarah Wanger, Executive Director, Kelley Direct Online MBA Program
At Kelley Direct, our approach to business education is drastically different from any other MBA program. We deliver our #1-ranked online MBA program—with signature in-person experiences and an innovative curriculum taught by full-time faculty—at a much lower price than our competitors.
Our high-quality MBA program is designed and delivered in-house by the dedicated faculty and staff at the Kelley School of Business in Bloomington, Indiana. We practice what we preach—our business model is proven to bring more value and lower prices to the consumer.
If that doesn’t seem like a big deal—it is. Many business schools partner with external, for-profit vendors, called online program managers (or OPMs), to outsource many aspects of their online MBA programs. This can include everything from admissions and marketing to course design and the learning platform itself. The cost of these services is high: According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, online MBA programs typically pay online program management companies 40% to 80% of all tuition revenue.
That means most of your tuition dollars are going straight to the online program manager and its shareholders—not to the program or school you’re attending. It’s an important detail to consider when you’re looking at MBA programs.
At Kelley Direct, your tuition gets reinvested back into the program and your academic experience. And because we’re not paying anything to an OPM, we can keep our tuition rates lower. This empowers us to sustain a lower-price model that delivers high value to you—our students.
This vertical integration strategy (which simply means we do everything in-house) benefits your wallet and your overall experience in the program. Here’s how:
Full-time faculty—no adjuncts.
Kelley Direct instructors are the same faculty who teach in the Kelley School’s renowned in-residence programs, including our full-time MBA program. No competing priorities. No substitutes. Your faculty members design the courses, provide live weekly instruction, grade your assignments, and advise you throughout the program. Our 125+ Kelley Direct faculty craft learning experiences that will make you better at your job and prepare you to advance. When schools pay big revenue shares to OPMs, they sometimes cut costs by relying on adjunct faculty (who often aren’t required to have business degrees or even business backgrounds).
One-of-a-kind in-person experiences.
At Kelley Direct, you’ll get to meet your Kelley School of Business faculty face-to-face at Kelley On Campus and Kelley On Location, our two required in-person courses. These same full-time faculty also design and teach at 12+ optional global and domestic immersions offered each year in locations throughout the US and around the world. In 2023, Kelley Direct students traveled to Ireland with Kelley Direct Chair and professor Will Geoghegan—Irish himself—to visit and study high performance organizations, including Google and Meta. In 2022, teaching professor Tatiana Kolovou led a global immersion to Greece, her home country, that gave students the opportunity to consult with the Olympic Athletic Center of Athens. These immersions are impactful experiences—in part because of the strong relationships students create with their faculty, classmates, and client organizations.
We don’t pay a vendor to design our in-residence experiences either—we take pride in creating truly valuable and unique experiences for our students. Every Kelley On Campus and Kelley On Location is new each time we offer it; you won’t find recycled course content at Kelley Direct, though it’s the norm for many programs using OPMs. For each Kelley On Campus, we partner with a new client who presents a real-world business challenge for our students. For Kelley On Location, we travel to new cities filled with fresh opportunities to learn about local business culture.
Some programs use a cookie-cutter approach with canned immersion curriculum or flashy travel experiences with little substance. Some programs offer no immersions at all. If this is an important MBA component for you, be sure to ask the programs you’re considering how their immersions are created and delivered.
Full-time staff dedicated to Kelley—and you.
Admissions employees at online program managers promote many different schools and have competing priorities. When you contact us at Kelley Direct, we answer from the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, Indiana (Go Hoosiers!). Our dedicated admissions advisors know the Kelley Direct Online MBA program inside and out, and they are focused on helping you get the info you need to make a truly informed enrollment decision. If you ask a question they can’t answer, they cross the hall to chat with our student experience team or academic advisors. All of our staff will be here to greet you when you come to Bloomington for your in-residence course. They even give the best restaurant recommendations!
We also have an in-house Kelley marketing team. Every email, web page, video, and social media post you see from Kelley Direct was created by our team right here in Bloomington to answer your questions and show you what your experience will be like as a student. We don’t flood your inbox with automated emails like most OPM-partnered programs. Instead, we want you to know that we are here to answer your questions as you find the MBA that will take you the furthest, fastest.
An online learning experience that doesn’t feel like one.
Our students get the experience of feeling like they are in a live classroom thanks to Jellison Studios, located on the first floor of the Kelley Direct building. Made possible by a $10 million alumni gift (sourced by Kelley’s in-house development team), Jellison Studios and its full-time staff enable faculty to be on the leading edge of interactive instruction, increasing the value of your online classroom experience.
We take pride in making our classes dynamic—no one wants to sit through hours and hours of recorded lecturers. Our students connect with one another and actively participate with faculty in live classes every week. You’re part of the discussion. Your professors know your name. Again—this isn’t guaranteed in other programs that educate only through recordings.
Lifetime career support.
Our executive career coaches are 100% dedicated to Kelley Direct Online MBA students, a rarity as most online MBA programs assign students to outsourced coaches or coaches that serve in-residence students, too. Our executive coaches partner with you to get you where you want to be—now and anytime you need support throughout your career. You can meet one-on-one with them virtually or visit them at Kelley’s Conrad Prebys Career Services Center when you’re here on campus.
The bottom line.
As you zero in on the online MBA program that’s best for you, consider how each program makes the most of your tuition dollars to deliver lasting value for you and your career. Don’t assume that every business school uses this vertical integration model—they probably aren’t. Online program manager partnerships are the industry norm.
Our MBA program faculty and staff are proud to be pushing the boundaries of what an MBA education should look and feel like for students, an idea that was started with Kelley Direct in 1999 and pushes us to be exceptional today.
Sarah Wanger is the executive director of the Kelley Direct Online MBA Program. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested in earning a Kelley Direct Online MBA? Here’s how to prepare a strong application.