The Orfalea College of Business is extending its master’s program in business administration to Santa Barbara this fall. It will be the first in the area but will soon be joined by two other universities.

Cal Poly’s M.B.A. program will target the working professional, with night classes available twice a week at the Canary Hotel in downtown Santa Barbara.

Brian Tietje, who is leaving the associate dean position at the Orfalea College of Business to be the dean of Continuing Education, said the M.B.A. program will take about two years to complete and benefit anyone interested in business.

“An M.B.A. is perfect to get the basics of business,” Tietje said. “You don’t need a degree in business to take our M.B.A. program.”

University of California, Santa Barbara, does not offer an M.B.A. program or have a business school. Dean Dave Christy said that a person would have to travel all the way to Ventura to receive an M.B.A.

“There is nothing serving the Santa Barbara market, so it was an opportunity for us,” Christy said.

Cal Poly will be first to offer the M.B.A. program in the area, but Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business will be offering its program in spring and Cal State Channel Islands will open sometime in the next school year.

Douglass Gore, director of public relations for Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University, said the college is reaching out to University of California, Santa Barbara graduates and has arranged facilities with the Mosher Alumni House at UCSB.

“We’re not worried,” Gore said about the competition. “We are a 40-year-old program, servicing the area out of Westlake for years. We’re fully accredited and we’re ranked.”

Lisa Chance, a corporate account representative for Pepperdine, said the cost for one unit for the fully employed M.B.A. program is $1,352. For the entire program of 52 units, the cost would be $70,304.

Gary Berg, dean of extended education at Cal State Channel Islands, said the college has planned to serve higher education in that area since the campus opened in 2002.

“We welcome competition, but we feel we have a place in serving students in that region,” Berg said. “We see it as part of our mandate.”

The website for Cal State Channel Islands says the course fee for its M.B.A. program is $550 per credit. It is possible to finish the M.B.A. with 33 units if the student has the appropriate prerequisites from an undergraduate business degree, otherwise, the M.B.A. will take 49 units.

Since three schools are planning to have M.B.A. programs this year, Cal Poly relies on affordability and teaching methods to attract students.

“We have a learn by doing philosophy at Cal Poly, and our faculty are steeped in that tradition of learning,” Tietje said. “Also cost, we’re cost competitive. Our program will cost about $2,000 a course. If you play that out to 15 courses, it is about $30,000.”

The $30,000 will cover everything from textbooks to parking, said the website for Orfalea College of Business.

A person can find cheaper M.B.A. programs but they do not compare to accredited programs that are committed to excellence, Christy said.

Christy said M.B.A. programs are an investment and recent fees imposed on all CSU’s are influencing the way costs are determined.

“We want to make sure that our pricing permits us to provide a high quality experience, but doesn’t price us out of the market,” Christy said.

To combat higher prices and provide more experience in distance learning, two-thirds of the program will be taught in person by a Cal Poly faculty member and the remainder will be taught online.

Bradford Anderson, a law lecturer for graduate business programs at Cal Poly’s business college, said in an e-mail that the online portion will support what the students learn in class as well as challenge students to apply the skills learned in lecture.

“The online modules are designed to be available at a convenient time for them to view, and not a ‘live’ televised feed,” Anderson said.

Although both the faculty and the college are ready, Cal Poly has only been taking applications for a couple of months.

Since the program hasn’t had a full year to recruit, class sizes may be smaller. Orfalea College of Business has extended the application deadline to Aug.1, said Victoria Walls, assistant director of graduate programs at the business college.

“We have been taking applications since mid-May and it takes two to three weeks for us to receive an application from the database,” Walls said. “We have one applicant so far, but the process is long. I suspect that there are some others in the pipeline.”

Christy said that he is not concerned about having some small enrollment in classes in the first year.

He said that enrolling in an M.B.A. program is a big decision for people to make.

“One thing that we know about students pursuing an M.B.A. is data shows that they think about it for a full three years before they actually enroll. We’re going into a market where that door wasn’t open,” Christy said. “Part of it’s going to take time for people to get their arms around it.”

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