A Poor Economy Makes Applicants Second-Guess Getting an MBA

October 12, 2011 · Leave a Comment 

Usually, come a recession, graduate applications to masters programs increase on the whole. Many return to school to get an edge in the job market, improve their connections, and/or try to “wait out the storm” while furthering their education. However, with the current economy that not only is in a recession, but in one that is stubbornly lingering, applicants to graduate schools are actually dropping. In some of the top-tier business schools, such as Loyola Graduate School of Business, applications were down as much as 9.5 percent; and in Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, applications dropped 5.6 percent.

Applicants Question the Value of Business School

Luckily, some schools that are not as expensive have had increases in application rates, such as DePaul University’s Kellstadt School of Business. However, the statistic seems to speak to the importance of applicants’ concerns about money. Melissa Booth, the director of admissions and recruiting at Kellstadt, mentions that the rise in their application rates is largely attributed to those who choose to attend graduate school after they have been laid off from work.

However, for most, graduate school’s attraction has lessened as joblessness rates remain high; now 9.1 percent nationally. As many masters degree graduates are still suffering along with the rest of the country, many are questioning the value of higher education. This has led to the drop in applicants.

GMAC President and CEO, Dave Wilson, states, “the caution in this year’s survey for full-time MBA programs is unsurprising in the current economy as students weigh the financial and time commitments to pursue a graduate business degree.”

The Future Is Not Looking Bright

Many doubt that application rates are going to increase until the economy improves; and application rates are more likely to drop before they increase. Eliot Ingram, co-founder of Clear Admit, a Philidelphia-based MBA admissions consultancy, expects that drops will probably be moderate, but continuous. However, for smaller, regional schools the impact is going to be felt the most.

However, with such prestigious schools such as Northwestern’s Kellogg School, University of Chicago’s Booth School, Harvard Business School, Cornell University’s Johnson School and University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business all reporting drops in application rates over the last year; it seems likely that even top-tier schools will not go unaffected by economic impacts on their application rates.

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