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Nation's Only All-Women MBA Program To Close

Simmons College announced it will close the campus master's degree program in business, the only one of its kind in the nation exclusively for women.

Simmons, a private college in Boston with a women's undergraduate school and a co-ed graduate school, has been operating the brick-and-mortar program for 40 years. Now, it says, the degree will transition to an online program for both men and women. NPR member station WBUR reported that the school's dean says Simmons' MBA can no longer survive in a competitive business school market.

"School Dean Cathy Minehan told students and graduates at a campus meeting Tuesday that other MBA programs are aggressively recruiting women, and that Simmons is not big enough to compete in Boston as a brick-and-mortar business school. Instead, Simmons will offer an online MBA, for women and men, through an outside company, 2U."

The Boston Globe's editorial board offered an analysis Thursday that pointed to "disruptive technology" and the increasing popularity of online degrees in higher education, citing the school's president, Helen Drinan.

"... Drinan characterized the move as being part of a larger, longer-term strategy to strengthen the online offerings of the school's graduate programs. This follows a successful launch of an online-only nursing master's degree program two years ago — there are about 1,000 students enrolled in it now, Drinan says. But full-time enrollment in the MBA program has declined. According to data provided by the school, the number has decreased 38 percent since 2008. Currently, there are 105 students in the MBA program, both full-time and part-time. 'From our point of view, the strength of the program can't be sustained only on the part-time side,' says Drinan. 'It's not a good financial model.'"

The business school's website, however, still offers a recruitment video for the original MBA program, advertising a highly personal experience with an emphasis on opportunity for women. The film is full of classroom footage of students and teachers interacting. Interviews with alumni and current students advocate lovingly for a community that will soon cease to exist.

"Go take a class, go sit in a Simmons classroom and judge it based on the experience," says Senior Operations Manager Julia Jackson.

"It really feels like the world is my oyster," says student Jessica Halem. "As a woman, it feels sort of like the ultimate ticket to whatever might come next."

What comes next might need to be a new recruitment video.

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