- The application declines experienced by U.S. MBA programs on the whole are beginning to afflict elite colleges, which were thought to be immune to the trend, according to The Wall Street Journal, which attributes the shift to a drop in applications from international students as well as young professionals who are thriving in a strong job market.
- Harvard Business School saw 4.5% fewer applications for its fall 2018 entering class than a year ago, its biggest decline since 2005. The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and Stanford University's Graduate School of Business saw applications drop 6.7% and 4.6%, respectively.
- This is the fourth-consecutive year total MBA applications dropped, with those to the 360 programs surveyed down 7% from last year, according to data from the nonprofit Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT admissions test. The number of international students applying dropped 11%.
MBA programs concerned about fewer applicants are recruiting students who aren't traditionally on their radar — including students with liberal arts backgrounds — with incentives and alternatives such as specialized degree tracks and certificate programs that can be completed in less time than the traditional two-year degree.
They are also recruiting more widely and seeking more international students, but that is expected to be a challenge in light of the current U.S. political climate and tightening immigration criteria. The number of student visas issued by the U.S. dropped 40% from its peak in 2015 to 2017, the Pew Charitable Trusts' Stateline reported. Other factors include fewer scholarships available from their home countries and growing interest in higher education outside of the U.S.
The Association of MBAs ranked student recruitment as the second-biggest concern for business school leaders in a survey last year. A report last week from Inside Higher Ed surveying nearly 500 admissions directors found they needed one or two more months beyond the traditional May 1 deadline to meet their targets for total enrollment.
When planning for the future, master's programs should be more precise about their direction but flexible about students' learning needs especially in light of projected strong demand for online degrees and the hot job market.