Executive M.B.A. Grads Decide to Look Elsewhere

Corporations are using tuition reimbursement for E.M.B.A. programs as a cost effective-way to help employees transition to a new job.

Mr. Bryant says that when he was downsized, BroadVision was “definitely sympathetic” to the fact that it promised to contribute to his tuition. He received three weeks’ severance pay and some vacation pay, but wasn’t offered transition assistance to help him find a new job. “In a way, this was outplacement,” he says.

More Study Needed

GMAC researchers plan to continue to study the reasons why graduates may be leaving their companies. The Executive M.B.A. Council, an organization of schools and employers based in Orange, Calif., also plans to study the issue, but its members object to the conclusion that the programs are being used to help executives separate from their firms as part of a severance agreement or outplacement strategy.

Business schools rely on companies to pay tuitions for a percentage of students and if employees sponsored by their companies seek new jobs, employer support might dwindle, says Diane Badame, associate dean and director of the E.M.B.A. program at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

“There is a concern that employers won’t pay for the E.M.B.A.s and that this source of funds will dry up,” says Dean Badame.

Big changes would be in store for E.M.B.A. programs as a result. According to GMAC, a shift in the student mix toward job seekers could move the E.M.B.A.’s emphasis from personal development to the development of marketable skills, while the classroom environment could become less collaborative and more competitive. Plus, a greater contingent of students paying their own way could drive E.M.B.A. tuition lower and force even more accommodating schedules. Further, E.M.B.A. programs would have to start offering job-search assistance to their graduates.

No Job-Search Assistance

Currently, graduate business schools don’t offer E.M.B.A. participants help with job hunting — at least not openly — for fear of harming employer relationships. Some schools provide only help with resume writing or offer career assistance to students paying their own way. Other schools say they provide E.M.B.A. participants with training in such skills as networking and interviewing because that benefits executives internally.

But most B-school career-services offices don’t have contacts or job listings suitable for seasoned executives. The best job-search resources currently are other E.M.B.A. participants, who are usually hiring managers at their companies. By networking among themselves, students often learn of new opportunities and receive referrals.

John Hendrick, 47, says he didn’t plan to leave his employer, a consulting firm in Baltimore, when he began E.M.B.A. studies at the University of Maryland’s University College. The company was paying almost all of the $45,000 tab, and Mr. Hendrick promised to stay on for one year after finishing it in 2002.

But the president of Constellation Energy Source, a Baltimore energy-services company, was in an M.B.A. program at the university, and he and Mr. Hendrick talked one day. With the president’s blessing, Mr. Hendrick applied for a job at Constellation. He started there four months before graduation and is now a construction-project manager.

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