October 5, 2018

MBA applications fall — and not just at Yale

Yale School of Management.

Among young aspirants to the top rungs of American business, MBA programs are losing their luster.

Once considered a prerequisite for climbing the corporate ladder at major corporations, the MBA's hold on distinguishing the highest-performing rising talent for employers has loosened measurably.

This year, applications to the Yale School of Management declined from 4,098 to 3,785 for the MBA class of 2020, a decline of 7.6 percent from 2017 applications (MBA Class of 2019).

That figure is in line with national trends in graduate education. Overall, 2018 marks the fourth consecutive year of declining applications to MBA programs at U.S. schools.

For the application year ended this spring, U.S. business schools received 140,860 applications for programs including the traditional two-year MBA, down 7 percent from the previous year, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).

The decline is most noteworthy at elite schools, previously considered insulated from admissions trends affecting lower-status universities. Harvard's graduate business school, which received more applications to its MBA program than any other U.S. university, saw applications fall by 4.5 percent this spring — the largest such decline since 2005.

The declining-applications trend is evident in Connecticut, and not just at Yale. Quinnipiac University's School of Business posted a similar decline in applications from 2017 to 2018 — from 378 to 350, a decrease of 7.4 percent year over year, according to John W. Morgan, QU's associate vice president for public relations.

Other area schools this year recorded admissions numbers that buck the national trend, albeit based on significantly smaller sample sizes.

The University of New Haven's business school saw applications soar by more than 50 percent this year — from 208 to 316, according to Dave Cranshaw, UNH's director of digital content and social media.

And at Southern Connecticut State University, applications to SCSU's recently established graduate business program increased from 22 to 31 between 2017 and 2018. "Looks like we are bucking the trend," joked SCSU's media-relations manager Joseph A. Musante.

What accounts for the recent reversal of a long-term trend in graduate education? For one thing, Americans are saddled with more college debt than ever, and they have grown increasingly disinclined to take a leave from jobs for a year or two to pursue one of the most expensive graduate degrees, especially as the economy has improved.

To respond to that trend, universities in recent years have launched cheaper, more flexible or more customized master's degrees in areas such as data science and supply-chain management.

Contact Michael C. Bingham at mbingham@newhavenbiz.com

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