Written by Alyssa Walker

Troubling news for the MBA sector: application numbers are plummeting across the board. 

Poets & Quants recently revealed its preliminary study of 2017-2018 MBA applications in the US, revealing greater-than-expected declines for schools, ranging from a 13.2 percent fall for one school to a 27.7 percent drop for another.

While many officials explain that the drop has not had an impact on the overall quality of the newest incoming classes, many predict it will.

Tina Mabley, at the University of Texas-Austin's McCombs School of Business, which saw a 19.6 percent drop, told Poets & Quants,  “We were coming down off of a ten-year high in applications. We had been going up when some other schools were experiencing drops. So it hasn’t been that much of a concern.” She explained that most of the decline was in international applicants.

Industry-wide, experts predicted a 4-5 percent decline in applications because of fewer international applicants. And business schools might also be starting to see the effects of Generation Z coming to college-age.

William Boulding, dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School and new chair of the Graduation Management Admission Council (GMAC), said, “You’ve seen growth in business schools outside the US, but the US is losing the pipeline of talent. If we are going to maintain our reputation for having the best business schools in the world, we have to be able to attract the best and brightest in the world. Student mobility has become a big issue."

George Andrews, associate dean of Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business told Poets & Quants that a combination of anti-immigration rhetoric and visa uncertainties have prevented students from applying.

He said, "Many prospective candidates talked about knowing friends who were having trouble getting back and forth between the US and their home countries. The perception is that they were being harassed with more searches at airports. If they got a student visa, there was a real worry that they wouldn’t be able to finish the program.”

What will happen? We will see.

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Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.
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