Fewer people are applying to US business schools, survey finds

When it comes to weighing the prestige of an elite U.S. business school with its hefty price tag, fewer people are willing to make the costly leap. For the fourth year in a row, Master of Business Administration degree applications for Americans schools are down, according to a survey of 363 schools by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

But this downward trend is not happening everywhere. Asian business schools reported a 67% uptick in applications while American business schools reported a 59% decline. American business schools got 140,860 application this year, a 7% decrease from 2017. Even several elite institutions were feeling the crunch. Applications from Harvard University, Stanford University, and University of Pennsylvania were lower this year than in the previous year, the data shows.

Fewer international students, more options to learn

The lack of international students could be a factor for the slump in American business school applications. Fifty-three percent of business programs in the U.S. reported declines in international applications this year. Many universities rely on international students to fill up their class. For Stanford, 42% of its incoming 2020 class is international. Bill Boulding, dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, cited tighter immigration policies and the expectation that more students can get their degree anywhere, as part of his explanation for the decline in applicants.

Candidates may be considering more options. Going to business school is a decision with long-term consequences. It can reward you with a strong network of alumnae to learn from and share jobs with. But it can also come with debt. A two-year degree can costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to achieve. Why go to school when you can build your career without it? In a strong labor market, candidates are quitting jobs and ghosting future employers. Now, more of them may be saying goodbye to business schools too.