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The $89,000 Online MBA Degree

One of the world's top ranked business schools is taking its MBA program on a new course.

Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill begins its first ever online MBA program this week.

Even though the program is conducted online, tuition is the same for students who physically attend class. Both degrees cost $89,000. 19 students—mostly in their 30s - are enrolled in the online version.

"We thought there was an opportunity to reach an audience that hasn't been reached before," said UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School Dean Jim Dean. (Yes, he's Dean Dean.) "People who are qualified to do a top tier MBA, but couldn't quit their job for full-time or travel can do this… Frankly, this is something the world has never seen before."

The significance is that this MBA online program is being conducted by a highly ranked school. The Wall Street Journal rates UNC Kenan-Flagler as the nation's sixth best business school. BusinessWeek has it as 16th.

Dean Dean said, "We firmly believe the quality of education in the online program is comparable or fully the same as the full-time program. The students have to pass the same tests."

The question is: Will Wall Street firms and big business view the online degree with the same prestige as traditional MBA programs?

The Hunter Search Group President Karen Roth, who recruits for some of Wall Street's top financial institutions and hedge funds, said current online graduate and undergraduate programs do not have the same cache as the more traditional ones.

"I suppose as they gain in scope and popularity perhaps the prestige or better said, the lack thereof with which they are perceived, will also change," said Roth.

With no other top tier business school offering such a program - UNC Kenan-Flagler is in a class by itself. Time will tell if the online MBA program will make the grade.

Stephanie is Squawk Box producer. Follow her on twitter @StephLandsman

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