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Drastic decline in MBA applications hurts business schools

What was once coveted as an industry standard to obtain is now becoming a forethought in today’s society by both national and international travelers alike. 

Applications to some of America’s most elite business schools fell at a steeper rate this year, as universities struggled to attract international students amid changes to immigration policies and political tension between China and the United States.

In the fiscal year end of Sept. 30, 2017, the State Department issued 393,573 student visas, known as F-1s. That is down 17% from the previous fiscal year and nearly 40% below the 2015 peak. 

The drop-off was particularly dramatic among Indian students this year, with a 28% decline in visas from the second-biggest feeder of foreign students to U.S. colleges
according to The Wall Street Journal.

This has caused financial duress due to the fact that they also boost schools’ finances amid state funding cuts. 

At public universities, nonresident students often could pay two or three times as much as local in-state students. Funding at U.S. public colleges per student in fiscal 2016 was 15% below its 2008 level, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

To give an example, at Baruch College, tuition is $3,465 a semester for resident undergraduate students. For international students, that cost could be as high as $7,440. 

The pain is most damaging to the elite high-level private universities who rely heavily on their endowments and alumni without the public funding that a CUNY school is able to obtain. 

The declines affected some of the nation’s top-rated programs at Harvard University and Stanford University, among others, all reporting larger year-over-year drops in business school applications. 

Institutions such as Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, posted double-digit percentage declines. This can be seen as much more than a societal or political shift, but a global one.

It is not that the Master of Business Administration has become any less rigorous. Rather it’s easier to gain access to many MBA programs, this has changed what the MBA degree means to employers.

Employers are continuing to seek newer and more dynamic ways to screen applicants. After years of looking at the data, Google has found that things like college GPAs and transcripts don’t really matter critically for its business model.

Following these revelations, the company is hiring more and more people who never  went to college. 

In an interview with The New York Times, Google’s Senior Vice President for People Operations Laszlo Bock stated in 2013 that the number of degree-less hires has trended upward, as they’ve stopped asking for transcripts for everybody but the most recent graduates.

Bock was very adamant about debunking GPA as a hiring metric. He says the academic setting is an artificial place where people are highly trained to succeed only in a specific environment.

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, the founder of Jack Hammer, a South African firm, says she is all for jobseekers trying to become better qualified. However, she goes on, firms no longer see MBA as a “differentiating factor,” unless it was obtained at one of the world’s best business schools. 

Not only are more business schools now offering MBAs, but there are also a multitude of different ways to study for it according to an article “Nothing special: MBAs are no longer prized by employers” by The Economist.

Online MBAs are increasing in popularity, and the number of part-time courses helps those who would not be able to devote time to a full-time program due to family or work commitments. 

Simply put, MBAs are no longer rare or a good indicator of employee performance and as such are no longer a guarantee of employment. There is now much greater emphasis on networking, experience, problem solving, compatibility and employability as higher factors to receiving job opportunities.

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