The decline in full-time B-school applicants is now a three-year trend, as students opt for part-time, exec, and non-U.S. programs
The news for B-schools just keeps getting worse. With interest in management education already on the wane, the Graduate Management Admission Council today released the results of a study that shows applications to full-time U.S. MBA programs down for the third consecutive year.
In 2005, just 19% of full-time programs in the U.S. reported an increase in application volume, down from 21% in 2004 and 84% in 2002, when applications reached an all-time high. The 2005 decline was the least severe of the post-2002 drop-offs -- a sign that perhaps applications have bottomed out.
"NO DOUBT ABOUT IT." David A. Wilson, GMAC's president and CEO, in a conference call with reporters Aug. 9 said the number of prospective B-school applicants taking the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) was up nearly 4% so far in 2005, an indication that applications may rise in coming years.
"There really has been a decline, there's no doubt about it," Wilson said. "[But] we're seeing a recovery. The market is coming back."
The reasons for the continued decline are complex. GMAC, which publishes the GMAT, cites several.
MUTED REACTION. More students are migrating toward part-time and executive programs in order to remain employed while working toward their MBAs. A strong job market also encourages potential students to postpone graduate study. There has been a surge of interest in non-U.S. programs, which are drawing students -- both American and foreign -- who would have otherwise attended U.S. programs.
Students also appear to be waiting longer to apply to B-school than they have in the past. And with some schools becoming less selective, students are applying to fewer programs, driving overall applications numbers down.
Reaction from B-schools was muted. Some deans say the GMAC numbers shouldn't be interpreted to mean the MBA curriculum is becoming irrelevant or that the value of the MBA is sliding.