Would You Get a Jack Welch MBA?


After having Sacred Heart University’s MBA program named after him, Jack Welch is diving deeper into the university business by funding Chancellor University’s new Jack Welch Institute, an online MBA program. The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Glader has more:

Mr. Welch is paying more than $2 million for a 12% stake in Chancellor University System LLC, which is converting formerly bankrupt Myers University in Cleveland into Chancellor University. It plans to offer most courses online. Chancellor will name its Master of Business Administration program The Jack Welch Institute.

(Michael) Clifford (Chancellor’s leading investor) and Mr. Welch say they want Chancellor’s MBA program to be high quality and have met with several Ivy League professors, but declined to disclose names. Noel Tichy, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and former head of GE’s Crotonville executive training program, will be the dean of the Welch Institute starting in July.

Mr. Welch says the MBA program will integrate his philosophy of leadership and human resources into a 12-course curriculum designed for mid-career workers. He doesn’t initially plan to teach any courses, but will record a weekly video for students. In addition to the MBA, Chancellor also plans to offer bachelor’s degrees and a master of management program.

MBA applicants will need an undergraduate grade-point average of at least 2.8, and won’t be required to submit Graduate Management Admissions Test scores, the test widely used by graduate business schools to help select students. An undergraduate degree will cost about $40,000 and an MBA will cost about $21,600, not including fees, says Mr. Clifford.

“I think it’s a real education,” says Mr. Welch.

Glader reports that Clifford has a history of launching online education initiatives. He is behind Grand Canyon University, Ashford University, and University of the Rockies, which all feature online degree programs. He’s also no publicity wallflower, having worked in broadcasting/telecommunications with evangelical Christians like Jerry Fallwell in the past, according to Glader.

Welch was reportedly inspired by the success of online giant Phoenix University. He and other Chancellor investors are pouring $16 million into rebranding and expanding Chancellor, writes Glader.

Welch needs to rebrand his own statements. He “thinks” it’s a real education? That’s not a very strong endorsement for a program rooted in a questionable industry. Online education doesn’t have much of a reputation for quality. Welch isn’t helping anything by slapping his name on a program that only requires a 2.8 GPA and no standardized admissions tests.

Welch, however, could be betting on Chancellor’s long-term success. He is recruiting Ivy League professors to help with the project. If the Welch name and eminent professors attract enough students, Chancellor will have to start being more selective. By upping its admission standards, it will gain prestige. If Chancellor gains prestige, and students flock to it, Welch will be in an advantageous position when the online education market starts maturing.

If Welch is indeed betting on long-term success, I don’t think his wager is a good one. Once established brick-and-mortar schools effectively publicize similar online programs (MIT, for example, offers free coursework), online programs situated inches from diploma mills don’t stand a chance.

Some WSJ commenters claimed
that Welch’s main motivation is simply to leave a legacy. I’m inclined to agree.

  • His motivation isn’t based on legacy. It’s based on money. Corporations reimburse for online courses — so if you’re investing in education, it’s a better bet than working through the bureaucracy of traditional financial aid departments.

  • Jacoline loewen

    Jack has a great brand and I would be interested to see how the online MBA would work. I listen to his podcasts and learn a great deal about practical ways to improve my own business. Also, remember that jack started up the “work out” university at GE which has been credited with building the culture and energy. He knows how to motivate and focus.
    I have been wondering when MBA school was going to use podcasts for distance learning. Jack’s school may pick up many non Americans and more practical minded people with the dropping of GMAT requirements. Sure this might make money but it will give education to more people and that counts too.

  • David Addams

    My Experience with the Jack Welch Institute at Chancellor University

    I found myself in the perfect situation for enrolling in an online MBA program and found the Jack Welch Institute (JMI) program from the initial press coverage of Jack Welch`s newest venture. I needed an online MBA program because my Brazilian fiancee and I need to wait anywhere from 8-12 months for her USA visa paperwork to process. Therefore, an online program gave me the flexibility of not physically being in the USA while still getting an American MBA. However, I withdrew shortly after enrolling because the MBA program at Chancellor University needs to educate itself on proper business practices.

    First, I will admit to being skeptical of online education but thought the Jack Welch name would add some credibility to the program. I fought through the ¨likes¨ and ¨you knows¨ of a few bubble-gum chewing college kids on the phone to enroll in classes. After enrolling, I kept receiving emails asking me to enroll. Then, snail mail started coming to my mother (I am traveling still) at the rate of 2 or more letters per week. Also, phone calls started at the rate of 2-3 per week and each from a different person. The confusion on my end grew. Did they enroll me or not? A phone call to yet another agent cleared it up, and so I ordered my books. Upon arrival, I started reading the Communications textbook and found a section on ´noise´. Wow, was I getting a lot of noise from JWI. There was so much communication (most of it pointless) that I quickly became put-off. It was too many emails, letters, and phone calls. Do I want to be part of a university in which the organizers of the school do not follow their own teachings?

    Then the torpedo arrived. A letter came to my house stating that based on my resume and transcripts I needed to take two ´bridge´ classes. These were 2 pre-requisites courses. The first was in financial accounting. Okay, I never studied accounting in detail but did have 2 courses in Economics along with a Statistics course as an undergraduate. I could live with having to take this course (and the additional $3000 fee). But the second pre-requisite course was too much. They wanted me to take a Management and Leadership course. I graduated with Dean´s List honors from the United States Military Academy at West Point. I have had quite a few courses in management and leadership including one explicitly stated on my transcripts as Behavior Science and Leadership. Plus, I was an Army Officer for 3 years which included leading soldiers in a combat zone. Now, I was angry. I called the Registrar´s office that sent out the letter. The woman asked me who signed the letter. Wow, I could not tell her the name because there was a signature but no signature block underneath that printed the name and title of the signer. She gave me a few names as I guessed at the signature. This is business communications 101! Finally, I talked with a woman at the Registrar who said she would review my transcripts and work experience and get back to me. The next day she called to say that she could not waive either ´bridge´ course. After some disagreement, she agreed to take it to the Dean. In my 6 years of business experience as a sales representative, she should have taken it to the Dean before calling me back. I later that day called the Admissions people to drop-out. The man said he would email me with a confirmation. He never did. I had to email him to get the confirmation.

    How can an MBA program teach me good business practices if it cannot practice good business? Was all the talk of Jack Welch (mentioned repetitedly on every call and coorespondance) just a sales pitch? Would Jack Welch be happen with my experience? Were the 2 ´bridge´ courses (along with a new expansion of the program from 10 to 12 courses ) an attempt at maximizing student revenue? The JWI MBA failed to sell this former salesman.

  • Bob Sipawitz

    A couple of things you might want to think of:

    1. Do you want to learn how to run a business from the man that ran GE into the ground? He didn’t step down, in essence he got fired!

    2. He’s paying 2 million to get his name on a building for his own sake not yours. Its called getting filthy rich.

    3. He isn’t even teaching the classes himself so its not a Jack Welch education.

  • eddie andrews

    @Bob Sipawitz,

    I’m not sure which Jack Welch or which GE you’re talking about. Jack Welch is a living legend, not one who spent his career talking or pontificating about how to succeed and excel, but one who is a master of DOING. That’s one of the components missing in many of the business courses, so it should be a welcome addition to enrollees. And yes, Mr. Welch will be involved in aspects of the classes.

  • Mitch

    @Bob Sipawitz
    Please go to business school and read a few case studies about Jack. He made GE the most valuable and one of the largest companies in the world. Great CEO

  • Glen

    Bob, Jack didn’t get fired from GE. Have you read any business books? His strategic thinking and direct approach in handling his departure from GE is one of the many examples I use in running my business and it has worked great. Although some of Jack’s ideas may seem complex, they are not. They are simple unless you lack common sense and the willingness to learn. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, he just insists on looking ahead.

  • Antonia

    I am enrolled in the Jack Welch MBA program and couldn’t be more impressed! It is challenging and the course material is relevant and can be applied immediately in the business world. Also a lot of the students come from high level positions and there is a tremendous amount of interaction with fellow students as part of the requirements. I’m am learning a lot and couldn’t be happier that I joined the program!

  • Dominique

    I am in my 4th class in the MBA program and couldn’t be any more pleased with my student success as well as the interactions I have been part of. The 8 week sessions accelerates my learning capacity. I think that anyone that passes on this opportunity is passing on great futures in management.