Recruit Foreign Students More Selectively: Rochester Dean

University of Rochestor Simon Business School dean Andrew Ainslie

University of Rochestor Simon Business School dean Andrew Ainslie

It happens so often: it turns out that the easy fix is not really a fix at all.

For business schools competing strenuously for students, a pool of very bright, high-performing potential applicants appears to offer salvation – and rankings glory. And when that pool contains millions of individual saviors, why, it makes sense to dip right in and start hauling them out.

The problem is, when you’re talking about business schools recruiting foreign students, there’s a stiff price to pay for short-term gains, says the new dean of the University of Rochester Simon Business School, where foreign students, mostly from Asia, make up about 40% of the student population.

MBA program administrators like to bring in foreign students because they can pluck from a massive reservoir of candidates with high GMAT scores, which favors a business school in U.S. News’ annual ranking because GMAT scores account for slightly more than 16% of the weight in its ranking.

Simon, where the average GMAT score is 680, took No. 38 in the 2014 Bloomberg Businessweek rankings, but its student satisfaction ranking was 52nd. Poets&Quants’ recently ranked the school 33rd, up four spots from last year’s 37th place.

SIMON DESERVES BETTER?

For Simon Dean Andrew Ainslie, who started there in July, the school ranks lower overall than it should, considering that Businessweek ranks it at No. 20 for intellectual capital.

“It’s a rock star faculty,” Ainslie says. “I walked through the doors and spent a few months looking at things. We’ve been playing a short-term game.”

In admissions, focusing on high GMAT scores  – and admitting a lot of foreign students who carry those high scores – boosts a school’s measurements in the area of input, which describes the caliber of incoming students, Ainslie notes. Whether those students lack experience and skills that will help them succeed in their careers can fall by the wayside, he says. “The quickest way to get a jump in those metrics is to bring in a class of very-high-GMAT students,” Ainslie says.

Graduate Management Admission Council data put the average GMAT quant score for U.S. students at 33–five points lower than the mean score–while it’s in the 40s for applicants from Asia, including India, Ainslie says. A quant score of 51 to 60 puts a candidate in the 97th percentile.

“The top end of that set of people that come out of China and India in particular is just extraordinary – what a talent pool,” he says.

But if your input consists of large numbers of foreign students – who may be very bright, with high GPAs and GMAT scores, but who lack experience recognized by U.S. firms and may not be able to get visas to work in the U.S. – student satisfaction will likely suffer.

PROFIT NOW, PAY LATER

“That really bites you a couple of years later when the class doesn’t place well and are dissatisfied as a result,” Ainslie says.

Ainslie came to Simon after running the MBA program at UCLA Anderson School of Management since 2010. At Anderson, he’d seen the same issue – the school had heavy-hitting faculty but seemed doomed to “languish in the rankings,” Ainslie says. He and departmental colleagues asked Anderson officials to give them “the latitude to drop five points in GMAT to build a more well-rounded class,” Ainslie says. Average GMAT went from 710 to 705, and “student satisfaction started going up, students started getting placed,” he says.

“You play the long game and after a while you see the benefit on those short-term metrics,” Ainslie says. “That, to me, is much more sustainable, much more ethical, and generally much more reasonable. Students get more, employers get more.”

Simon, in the late ’80s, ranked in the high 20s among U.S. business schools, “within spitting distance of Cornell,” Ainslie says. The implosion of Kodak in Rochester, and downsizing by Xerox and Bausch + Lomb, contributed to Simon’s decline in the rankings, but the school’s intake practices can’t be ignored, Ainslie says. “Admissions strategy is part of it,” he says.

Ainslie doesn’t argue that schools should reduce their intake of international students. But, he says, MBA program officials need to start looking more closely at how prospective international students will do post-graduation. “It really helps if they have experience at a company that American companies will recognize,” he says. “That’s either a truly global company, like Samsung, for example, or perhaps a Chinese or Indian branch (of a major U.S. firm).”

‘THE VERY DIFFICULT SKILL OF BEING FLUENT IN ENGLISH’

English language ability is another important consideration, if schools want to see their graduates getting jobs in the U.S. and giving high marks in satisfaction rankings, Ainslie says.

“We need to find applicants with the very difficult skill of being fluent in English,” he says.

  • Bertie Bert

    So in terms of network, would a former dean at the Philly Fed count? Or how about a professor who studied under Bernanke? Or a Valuation professor who bested Damodaran? Or Ken French? Or all the specialty rankings which survey other university professors? These surveys put Simon at the top for Finance, Economics, and Accounting. The network is there. How about Elliott Capital Management with our alumni at the helm Paul Singer(One of the largest hedge funds out there)? Or the founder of Jefferies, Rich Handler?

  • mikeab

    There is a tone of unknown Hedge Funds in NY which have almost next to no reputation. Do you know what is the difference between Blackstone and Xing Xung Zhang Brothers Hedge Fund ?

    The difference is not just the money. It is the network and network wont appear in 2 days. It requires alumni network and strong relationships with government and the Street !

  • Ken

    Schools are accepting a lot of (in your opinion) Indian and Chinese applicants because there are A HELL LOT OF them. India and China have the largest population in the world, and have the largest number of international applicants. Assume that schools have a constant acceptance rate across different countries, shouldn’t they accept more Indian and Chinese applicants simply because there are more?

    However, the reality is that the acceptance rates in Indian and China are lower than that in the U.S. and in many cases, other countries, such as the UK, France. It is actually unfair to Chinese and Indian applicants.

    Also – why do you assume indian and chinese students are less desirable to employers? First of all, a lot of these students are going back to their home country, where they are very much appreciated by their employers. Second of all, the quality of a student is determined by the student him/herself as a whole, and not their nationality.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    And I’m sure its inputs were completely the same (and its ranking algorithm was completely the same) as those used by the ranking organizations /sarcasm.

    Anyone can adjust the inputs and the algorithm to create whatever ranking they want.

    But multiple ranks put it in the 30’s, not one or two but multiple ones, that indicates that they are not a top 30 school, let alone top 25.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    Never said they don’t ever place, I just said they probably aren’t that good at it compared to the top tier

  • Bertie Bert

    I got a job as a research analyst for a Hedge Fund. Simon does place.

  • Bertie Bert

    For the final exam for Adv. Stats, we were asked to reconstruct the rankings for Simon based on its inputs. The school should be about 25.

  • KOZKAZ

    even, in Notre Dame mendoza one year MBA, the international students did terrifically well!! I think the problem is within the Simon’ leadership.

  • teja

    Blaming international students for the Simon’s placements and student satisfaction levels is illogical because there are schools like Emory that consists 43% international students in its but has far better placements in both quality and quantity. Mr.Andrew Ainslie has to search for the real problems in his school’s performance instead of blaming international students

  • Klaus

    Look, all what they want from the international students are, GMAT for rankings and Money. NO more, so bring up an excellent GMAT score (whatever the way you use, they do not mind lowering the ethical barriers ) and bring Money for the professors, cafeterias, apartments, cars..all services will benefit from you while your two stay there!! congratulations.

  • Part of the problem is US immigration law and the lack of immigration reform. A 2013 study I did at the American Institute of Physics found that between 1/4 and 1/3 of American high-tech startups are founded by immigrants. We were told that the number would be closer to 50 percent were it not for our current immigration restrictions. Several VCs and high-tech founders told us America was losing up to 50 percent of its innovative capacity, in part because of immigratio restrictions. It could cost up to $100K to keep a graduate technologist legally in the US after they finished their degree. I’m assuming that MBA’s from Asia have similar problems and costs. Hence the potential placement dissatisfaction. At the same time these MBAs are going somewhere, most likely to China and India where the technologists are going and where in 20-40 years we will be paying technology rents because of our lack of immigration insights. I further note that American businesses do notoriously poorly in many, if not most Asian markets and will down the road be forced to deal with management that understands America all to well but whom American managers will assume operate just like the US. We don’t do well in Asia for a reason. We want Asia to adopt western business culture rather than attempting to find ways to fit western businesses into diverse global cultures.

  • elitebrakct

    what r u talking? r u under a rock?
    most wall street firms second biggest offices oustide new york are in bangalore & mumbai- not texas and south carolina and
    also tons of tech companies
    hong kong is the third largest financial center in the world, much bigger than chicago or los ageles
    the ivy league and top wall street firms love indians and chinese top students becasue they are the fastest growing economies in the world and can help them grow
    ignorance is bliss as they say !

  • GMATsignificance

    As is mine. Same inputs and two slightly different conclusions. As the world turns I suppose. It least it makes for interesting conversation. Thank you.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    Except its not about rounding, US news has them far below 30, P&Q has them below 30, others have them below 30, this isn’t a top thirty school by any of their measures.

    Actually I’m a US citizen (I also detect quite a bit of racism in your comment, especially at the part where you assume I’m somehow self-loathing, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you spoke out of ignorance and without thinking as opposed to malice).

    I didn’t take his comments personally, but I did believe he was shifting blame and perhaps engaging in racial bias, something I do not approve of.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    My commentary is based on the rankings and the words of the Dean, you can doubt me, but those are facts

  • Anthony

    @Avinash I am not going to explain rounding or the fact that more than one school can hold a ranking as they do in most of the ranking out there (US News has Michigan and Virginia 11th hmm that means more than 30 school are in the T-30) . But to your second comment. He has been the dean since July of this year. The ranking does not reflect his tenure. Now, with no evidence, so excuse me if I am wrong. You sound like you took his comments a little personal and they MAY have hit home to some extent ( are you a foreign student who was not prepared when admitted to a program and couldn’t find a job?)so your comments are biased and you futile attempt to mask your own self-loathing on reaffirms my suspicion. Look all of the rankings and programs have flaws. He is making an effort to fix them and not game the system.

  • GMATsignificance

    Well with all due respect, I happen to doubt your commentary as well – but I am also listening…

  • GMATsignificance

    Taking international students out of the conversation for moment anyway – Ryan you have hit upon my primary point exactly: which is that the USN rankings methodology, while lauded by many, is potentially driving a number schools to take potentially the wrong students simply in order to satisfy USN’s rankings methodology. I would rather have students (international and domestic), even with somewhat lower GMATs/GPAs if it led to a more positive in-school and post-school experience. I happen to think many would agree with this sentiment. This why I think the primacy of USN Rankings is unfortunate.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    I doubt it, but I’m listening, so please tell me what you think I’m missing

  • Avinash Tyagi

    According to the P&Q ranking, they are number 33 (US news puts them even lower)

    Not top 30, and judging by the comments of the Dean, its clear its a deserved ranking.

  • Anthony

    @Avinash but they do place very well ( like all schools did this year in the T30). They are considered top 30. With a faculty Ranked T-20 and student who’s GMAT is average is 690. Such schools like SMU and other of the sort have lower gmat scores… look at BYU. He is saying he is NOT going to use only the GMAT as a measuring stick for new admits that they need to bring more. In fact, it pretty clear he is setting a hardline on utilizing GMAT at all to game rankings. Frankly, most dean are someone held accountable for rankings he is saying he will rather lose points in the GMAT like he did with UCLA and increase the # of PREPARED students. To me, it also sounds like he is ready to divert resources to programs that return NO value to the consumer ( the student being the consumer). Really, I have friend at top 10 school that all admit it was a vacation with friends most of which couldn’t even afford to do it. Hey, all I did was read the article with unbiased perspective. Try it sometime.

  • Ryan S.

    I think you’re missing the broader commentary.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    There is a reason the Simon School isn’t even in the top 30, let alone anywhere near the top tier, if they could place their students, they’d be ranked higher.

  • Ryan S.

    Ha, okay pal.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    Even assuming that those characterizations are true, which they aren’t (and I’m assuming you’re only commenting on what other people have said and don’t believe them yourself), there is nothing preventing the Simon School from placing these individuals at Multinational corporations which have an existing presence in India or China or other Asian Countries already.

    Since we know many companies already exist in or are interested in getting into those countries already, there is no reason why they wouldn’t want to utilize American educated individuals from said countries to act as a bridge.

    The fact that they are unable to do so casts a negative light on their own capability.

  • Ryan S.

    Yes and no, it’s as much their fault for accepting applicants that can’t place. Chinese and Indian applicants are stigmatized, rightly or wrongly, by employers. Many don’t want them due to social skills (or lack thereof) and expenses associated with sponsorship and getting them a visa. Additionally, they’re a high risk hire compared to other foreign nationals such as Britons, Canadians, Australians, even Latin Americans.

    It’s not his fault certain foreigners are less desirable, they just are.

  • Ryan S.

    As an international applicant, this is something that I’ve been told by a lot of people. The reality is that a lot of schools are selling their soul to boost their rankings, by accepting a lot of Indian or Chinese applicants because they will boost their rankings in the short term due to higher GPAs and GMAT scores.

    The long term ramifications are a bit more significant though, a dissatisfied alumni group who can’t get a job because they are generally less desirable to employers and more challenging to get visas for.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    Sounds more like he’s trying to shift the blame for the poor placement program his school offers.

    If his school wants to be considered top tier, it needs to be able to place its students.

    That isn’t a problem for the top tier schools which take in a good amount of foreign students, but still manage to have placement levels of 85% plus.

    His comments just sound like someone trying to shift the blame for his school’s lower ranking rather than accept the blame on the school’s weaker placement capabilities.

  • GMATsignificance

    Great to actually hear a Dean of a well-regarded business school actually take some shots at the GMAT as some ultimate bschool admissions tool. While important, there are far more important things than the highest GMAT scores possible. USN rankings, as important as they are, are weak IMO because they place way too much weight onto the GMATs and GPAs than deserved. just my thoughts.