MBA Applications Plummet: 2018 a Disaster Year for U.S. MBA Programs
MBA applications this past year plunged at 18 of the Top 20 U.S. business schools. Only two schools bucked the trend and not by very much: Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, saw a one percent gain over its year-earlier number, and at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, applications rose 3.3%.
Just outside the Top 20, only one other prominent school could report an increase: the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, which saw just a one percent uptick. But ten highly prominent MBA programs suffered double-digit declines, including the University of Texas’ McCombs School and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
There are a couple of quick conclusions once you look at the data. One is that even the very best schools, including Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB and Wharton, could not evade the downturn. The so-called M7 schools, which include those three plus Booth, Kellogg, MIT Sloan, and Columbia, saw a combined 4.7% drop. Booth saw an application falloff of 8.7%.
SCHOOLS RANKED TENTH TO 25TH SUFFERED TWICE THE DECLINE IN MBA APPS AT THE VERY TOP MBA PROGRAMS
Another is that schools ranked from tenth to 25th suffered twice the decline in MBA applications in 2017-2018 than those in the Top Ten. Altogether, the Top Ten MBA programs experienced a 4.9% fall in applications; the next 15 ranked business schools saw their applications decline by 9.7%.
In several cases, the falloff has been so severe that it is shocking. At Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Management, there was a 27.7% year-over-year drop in MBA apps. At Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Management, MBA applications plunged 23.9%. And at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, applications fell by 20.5%.
In all, 70% of U.S. business schools reported declines in their MBA applications, according to a survey of the schools by the Graduate Management Admission Council. According to GMAC, U.S. business schools experienced a nearly 7% decline in app volume from last year, including a 1.8% decline in domestic applications and a 10.5% drop in international volume across all program types.
AT RICE AND UVA DARDEN, THE DOWNTURNS WERE MADE WORSE BY UNUSUAL EVENTS
By now, the reasons for the decline are well known. International MBA candidates, scared off by anti-immigration talk in the U.S. and concern over their ability to get a work visa, are now applying to European and Asian MBA programs or just postponing their graduate education ambitions. The strong economy is keeping domestic applicants in their current jobs because there already are plenty of opportunities at work. And the sticker shock applicants may experience when they calculate the full costs of an MBA are putting off many others who might be willing to apply and enroll in a two-year program.
There’s no doubt that immigration policy is having a negative impact on U.S. business schools.
In some cases, however, the falloffs were exacerbated by other issues. At Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Management, the downturn was made worse by last August’s Hurricane Harvey which dumped 51 inches of rain on greater Houston in two days.
AT DARDEN, ROUND ONE APPS LAST YEAR PLUNGED BY 27% AFTER THE CHARLOTTESVILLE PROTEST
At UVA Darden, the downturn was fueled in part by the violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Va., last August. As if international candidates needed another reason not to apply to a U.S. business school, the protest which made headlines all over the world didn’t help.
The highly publicized protest scared off many applicants, particularly from abroad, causing round one applications to fall by 27%.