Tuck Math: 4+1 = MiM

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Recently, President Hanlon announced a plan to add a “4+1″ program to Tuck by 2016. The program would tack on a year of business classes to the four years of an undergraduate education to earn a “Masters in Management” (MM or MiM) degree (hence, 4+1).

Along with “Who is Spain?”, “Ho-ho beriberi,” and “Balls,” a good question to ask about the program is “What exactly is an MM and why is the College offering it?” First and foremost, an MM is not an MBA (Masters of Business Administration), which Tuck already offers. The MBA, which everyone knows and, presumably, loves, is the gold standard of postgraduate business education. It entails two years of classes in such pertinent fields as accounting, economics, management, and statistics, and there is much of a practical air about it. Its students often have a few years of business experience under their belts (their average age is about 28) and use that real-world knowledge in Tuck’s myriad discussion classes. Importantly to employers, the MBA is a degree with a history reaching back to the late 1800s, with several accreditation bodies that specifically check each program for consistency and quality of instruction.

An MM, as perceptive readers have probably gathered by now, is aimed at a different crowd from the MBA, much in the way that a secondhand bicycle is aimed at a different crowd from a BMW. To shift gears into a different metaphor, an MM is to an MBA as roentgenium is to gold (the two lie in the same periodic table group, indicating similar properties, but roentgenium’s half-life is considerably shorter; a half-life is … oh, never mind) — the MM’s curriculum covers similar topics (economics, management, and so on), but is shorter (making it by definition less intense) and more theoretical; as the website Masters in Management Compass puts it, “In an MBA program … you may never ask for the origins of accounting techniques such as the EVA (Economic Value Added, (c) Stern Stewart) but focus only on its appliance, instead.” The most important difference to a prospective student, however, is probably the fact that the MM is not yet an official degree — insofar as a degree is just a piece of paper, the MBA is one that, according to several independent certification agencies, says that the institution in question has provided the holder with an adequate education to be a business manager.

The MM does not have such specialized agencies evaluating the programs as the MBA does. As a result, there is quite a variance in what Human Resources departments can expect from MM holders, probably the reason why none of the six Ivy League business schools offer them (yet). (It’s a different story with state schools, where a little more experience with business classes could put you ahead of tens of thousands of other students in the eyes of recruiters, but getting ahead of barely a thousand other College graduates in your class, who also have the Dartmouth brand on their resumes, might not be worth the money.)

So why is Dartmouth seeking to expand Tuck’s array of choices (currently you can get any degree you want as long as it’s an MBA) to include this relative newcomer to the business degree family? To answer this, let’s go over the possible issues that might arise from instituting this program and try to think of any reason that would strongly override it.

From interviewing a few Tuck students, the major concerns of how the program may turn out revolved around the word “dilution”, which tempered their cautious optimism about the program’s upside. There’s the problem of dilution in the discussion-based classes; previously, only a few M.D.-MBA students per year have been in such classes with no substantial business knowledge to bring to the table. The 4+1 plan would bring in one hundred twenty freshly minted undergrads, who would likely share classes with the Tuck students (the aforementioned Masters in Management Compass site did a study which showed an overlap of about 30% between MM and MBA curricula). One can imagine conversations in the discussion classes: “…And that’s what two years at Goldman-Sachs taught me.” “Does anyone have anything to add?” “Well, from what about I learned from, like, my summer job at McDonald’s/internship in Congressman Whatshisname’s office, payroll is, uh, important.” There is the possibility that the influx of new students would lead to new professor hires (as one student mentioned, Tuck doesn’t have many professors focusing on energy) that could help round out the business school, but the addition of students could also have them spreading their already thin attention between the MM and MBA students.

Another problem of adding the 4+1 plan would be the diluting effect it could have on Dartmouth’s image. To beat a metaphor with a dead horse, a secondhand bike and a BMW are aimed at different groups, but a BMW dealership that starts selling secondhand bikes out of the parking lot will probably look kind of strange. If done properly, as another student pointed out, the new program could be an excellent feeder into Tuck’s MBA program, but if done improperly, could lead to a loss of focus. Tuck already has its Summer Bridge program, which is a four-week crash course for recent graduates entering the business world; this doesn’t have a large opportunity cost, as the teachers and campus are already there for the summer months and not doing too much. By comparison, the 4+1 plan would require a much bigger time and resource commitment.

The main reason for introducing this plan could probably be guessed fairly easily – the thought of a hundred twenty students paying in sixty grand for another year on campus probably has the money-changers in Parkhurst reaching for hydrocortisone to soothe their itching palms. But as aspiring business students, most prospective MiM students have probably already figured that out… right?

 

– Charles W. Jang