If you’re looking for a top-shelf business program for less than half the cost of comparable programs, look no further than Bloomington, Indiana. Those claiming you get what you pay for have probably never been to the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. At just under $80,000 for four years, Indiana residents can earn a degree cheaper than nearly any other elite business student in the nation, and even nonresidents can earn one of the most elite business educations around for less than $185,000 — an absolute deal compared to other elite public universities.
But it’s certainly no secret. For the application cycle of students entering this fall, Indiana Kelley sifted through nearly 13,000 applications before admitting just over 5,000 and enrolling 2,021 incoming freshmen. The four-year program currently has 6,873 full-time business students majoring in one of 12 majors — five of which have just been introduced in the past two years.
And with so many students, Josh Perry, faculty chairperson, says they know one size doesn’t fit all, and it’s important that students have an extensive menu of academic options. To accommodate the different paths students may want to take, the Kelley School has a deliberately flexible curriculum. Freshmen year classes cover a traditional business core, as well as the Kelley Compass, a series of three classes designed to help students figure out what their passions and skills are, and to help them choose between the 18 offered majors.
“The freshmen experience is about discovery,” says Lukas Leftwich, director of the undergraduate program. “Discovery of who they are, and how they fit into the greater population and the global business environment.”
He says they follow the guiding principal that students don’t know what they don’t know, meaning that it isn’t fair to ask them to make a decision about the rest of their live before they’re ready to.
“We’ve worked really hard to create a customizable, flexible curriculum that allows students to choose from a really diverse menu of disciplinary avenues,” Perry says. “These include everything from traditional business disciplines to more cutting edge opportunities, like sustainable business, international business, business analytics, and many others.”
STUDENTS WEAR ‘I SURVIVED I-CORE’ T-SHIRTS
During the second year, students can expect the Global Foundations Core, another three course required sequence. This time, the focus is on “strategies to analyze and interpret the economic, social, political, legal, cultural, and technological influences that drive the global economy.” During their junior year, Kelley students are required to complete the Integrative Core. Organized as a semester-long block of four courses, the “I-Core” is designed to combine everything learned within and outside the classroom in the first two years at Kelley.
Perry describes “I-Core” as a Shark Tank environment, where students are expected to come up with a business model, plan, and product of some sort. Ultimately, they pitch their ideas to both faculty and venture capitalists.
Taylor Exline, an alumna from the Class of 2014, says I-Core was challenging, but also rewarding, and gave her a glimpse of career realities. As a group, her team put together a 100-page report on their business case, and Exline says working as a group encouraged them to get to know each other – something she appreciated at a school as large as IU.
“Our students wear ‘I Survived I-Core’ t-shirts as proudly as anything that has to do with our culture,” says Leftwich. “We have a big breakfast when they hand in their final projects, and we make a very big deal out of it, because it’s such a significant moment. And students wear those shirts proudly, because they have earned the right to now take on their major of choice.”
DON’T FORGET THE PASSPORTS
Other than I-Core, there are a number of ways Kelley students can get practical experience. In fact, Perry says they’re only half joking when they tell students to show up on Day One with their passports ready. “It’s really our hope and our goal that all students have some significant exposure to the global business environment,” he says. “We have a required course that exposes them to the global landscape, and in the last couple years, we’ve begun offering short-term global immersion classes, which give students the opportunity to spend a week to 10 days in a country, really understanding the business landscape.”
And students can participate in more traditional study abroad programs as well, which gives them the time to complete internships abroad. Julia Lamorelle, an alumna from the Class of 2014, says she minored in Spanish at IU, so she studied abroad in Spain where she lived with a host family – a mother with three daughters who only spoke Spanish.
“You could choose to live with a host family or live in an apartment with other students,” she says. “And all my classes were in Spanish, taught by a Spanish professor.”
But her program wasn’t just about the language. She says she visited three different Spanish businesses while she was there, to see how they operated and to observe cultural differences in the workplace. And on top of that, she was able to do an internship.
“At the beginning of the semester, we built out a Spanish resume, and we practiced interviewing in Spanish,” she says. “I ended up working for a soccer team on the press side, so I translated articles from Spanish to English for their website.”
Overall, she says it was one of her favorite college experiences, and that her education at Kelley gave her the tools to be confidant doing real-world work.
A VIDEO GAME IN ETHICS
And Kelley also has a new, less-traditional experience that every student is required to take – an ethics class taught via video game. “We believe it’s the first of its kind in the country,” Perry says. “It’s an immersive video game designed to teach ethics, and we just recently implemented it as a required course for all undergrads.”
Perry says the ethics class is capped at 50 students at a time, so they can engage in conversation about the game, which they call The Crimson Dilemma. The game takes students through a simulated series of ethical dilemmas, both in the workplace and on campus, and Perry says it brings these dilemmas to life in a way that reading about it or having a conversation doesn’t always.
“It’s an exciting time to be a student at Kelley,” he says. “This new ethics course, the new global business experience opportunities, and the momentum now at Kelley for recruiting – it’s an exciting time to be part of the Kelley community.”
And all this appears to be paying off. Respondents of Kelley’s graduating Class of 2014 are more satisfied than nearly every other business school ranked by Poets&Quants. Indiana Kelley was awarded an impressive 9.23 overall alumni satisfaction ranking on a one-to-ten scale. At 9.81, Kelley alums are more likely to recommend their alma mater to a friend than any other alumni base. Alums also scored Kelley 9.18 from alumni on the “effectiveness” of the school’s “career advising effort.”
KELLEY’S STRENGTHS FALL IN TOP NOTCH CAREER SERVICES DEPARTMENT
The high scores certainly make sense – Kelley boasts some impressive career outcomes stats. For the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015, some 94% and 95% of those seeking employment had accepted job offers, respectively. Average salary for the 94% in 2015 was $58,662. For the graduating Class of 2016, the average salary jumped to $60,510. And Kelley is apparently teaching their students how to negotiate. Some 70% of the Class of 2015 finagled signing bonuses to the tune of $8,495 for an average. In the Class of 2016, the percentage of graduates with signing bonuses fell to 67% but the average amount ticked up to $8,760.
With a total four-year tuition for Indiana residents at under $46,000 and a starting salary of more than $60,000, Indiana Kelley proves to be an intriguing option…especially for those searching for a cost-effective program.
WHAT ALUMNI SAY
“Junior year, everyone in the business program participates in Integrative Core (I-CORE), four courses that bring together the pre-requisite business course learning and provide in-depth understanding or finance, marketing, operations and strategy. The end of the four courses culminate with a 10-day business case that applies and challenges students along the four disciplines. Coming out of that semester, I had a holistic understanding of business, how components must work together to succeed and strong critical thinking skills for approaching and solving business challenges.” – Class of 2014 Indiana Kelley alum
“We did a wide array of simulations and real-life experiential learning. We also did a lot of projects that were service learning and helped local businesses with our work. It was awesome to be able to work on things that were representative of the real world and also to know we were making a true impact.” – Class of 2014 Indiana Kelley alum
“I did three trips with Kelley to India, Greece, and Spain. Each of them taught me valuable lessons about communicating with other cultures and how to thrive in the business world.” – Class of 2014 Indiana Kelley alum
Where the Class of 2016 went to work:
Oracle America, Inc.: 25
Protiviti Inc.: 23
KPMG LLP: 22
Cummins Inc.: 13
JP Morgan Chase & Co.: 12
Kohl’s (Corporate): 12