For as long as most people can remember, receiving a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree has been the first step in becoming an entrepreneur and starting one’s own business. After gaining some significant prior work experience, an MBA degree candidate is expected to dedicate two academic years to taking courses structured around core business concepts.  These programs are costly; the 2 year MBA degree at Harvard Business costs upwards of $56,175. And even with 65% of students receiving some form of financial aid, many are beginning to wonder: is the cost of education worth the risk of starting up a business that has a chance of failing?

Proponents of the traditional MBA agree, and believe that the names of prestigious institutions such as Columbia, Babson, and Wharton can attract potential investors to start up projects. However, a new, unconventional option is gradually becoming more available to future entrepreneurs. “Startup schools” are appearing throughout the nation and aim to educate students just enough in all aspects of entrepreneurship to enable a successful business startup. These programs, such as General Assembly and Startup Institute in major business centers such as Chicago, Boston, and New York City are becoming an inexpensive and timelier alternative to receiving a two-year MBA.

Instead of spending two years and tens of thousands of dollars for courses, students of General Assembly are able to learn financial modeling, problem-solving techniques, and market analysis for only $7,500 during a ten week period. Compared to the costs of MBA programs at reputable institutions, the price for courses at General Assembly seems like a much smaller expense. The problem of growing post-educational debt can be seen in many countries other than the United States like Canada, Chile, Germany, and the United Kingdom where students have been protesting tuition and fee hikes.

Startup Institute also incorporates other business-related aspects into their coursework. Throughout their 8 week programs, about 3 days a week are spent by students learning design and business development. But for the remaining 2 days a week, students focus upon team projects which strengthen their ability to work with others, a necessary component in the business world. This format could prove to be more practical for those planning to implement their skills immediately following completion of their education.

Business schools throughout the world are becoming more readily aware of these alternative programs. But instead of feeling threatened that their own curriculum is being rivaled, they believe that the content being taught at institutions such as General Assembly and Starter School merely supplement the concepts their own professors consistently teach. Additionally, it is difficult to for these institutions to emulate similar results of business schools in regards to gaining new customers from insightful professors. Even so, students may keep their money and run to startup schools. In order to save their MBA programs, business schools will have to continually attempt to build relevant and interesting curriculum, integrate expanding technology into classes, and engage today’s generation of plugged in students. So what do you think? Has the need to go to business school been eliminated, or will receiving a secondary education always be the most viable option for future business owners?

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