Getting a degree online still isn't seen as credible as attending a bricks-and-mortar institution, but a legendary CEO wants to change that. Starting next month, you can get an online or in-person MBA that's blessed with the approval of Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric. He built GE into the largest company in the world and was named by Fortune as "Manager of the Century." Not a bad guy to pick up a few business tips from, right?
Up until this year, Welch (who doesn't have an MBA himself) has been teaching a group of hand-picked MBA students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. But starting January 4, his Jack Welch Management Institute will be open to MBA students under the shelter of the Chancellor University System LLC in Cleveland, a, little known, for-profit system which was formerly the bankrupt Myers University and is still on probation with education accreditors.
Welch paid more than $2 million for a 12% stake in Chancellor. Why the interest? According to this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Welch was swayed by Michael Clifford, Chancellor's leading investor, who told him there needed to be an online business degree called "The Jack Welch MBA."
Admission to the Jack Welch Institute isn't as hard as getting into the Ivy Leagues -- and it isn't as pricey either. An MBA will cost about $22,000. Students need a 2.8 GPA to get in but they don't need to take a GMAT or GRE exam. Clifford says the target audience is a mid-level manager, not a 20-something braniac. Think a 35-year-old woman with a couple of kids who manages a Verizon store, not a Ivy Leaguer who wants to work for McKinsey or Goldman Sachs. Still, as top business schools keep getting pricier, Jack Welch and Chancellor may draw more interest from elite applicants.
Welch, who is 74 and recently had back surgery, will not be teaching classes, but his views on current topics will be heard in online videos, and his management philosophy shapes the 12-course curriculum. But Welch's take on running a business may not be for everyone.
True, he built GE into a behemoth and loved to slash bureaucratic red tape, but "Neutron Jack" earned that nickname by firing the bottom 10% of his managers every year and rewarding the top 20% with bonuses and stock options, and shutting down factories and cutting payrolls in the industries which GE could not be the number 1 or number 2 player. He also said publicly that he's not concerned with the big discrepancy between the mega-salaries of CEOs and those of average workers. That may have been fine when he was CEO in the 1980s and 1990s, but does his style of management work in the "Great Recession" of the 21st Century?
If you're scouting around for an affordable MBA program, Jack Welch's may be right for you. But get an idea beforehand by picking up one of his best-seller management books like Winning or Straight From The Gut. Then you'll know whether "Neutron Jack" can turn you into the CEO you want to be.
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