Several of the nation’s top business schools are reporting solid increases in MBA application volume this year, reversing several years of declines.
While most business schools have yet to officially report their numbers, the largest single percentage increase so far is at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. Applications to Johnson’s two-year MBA program have risen 12% following the school’s news to open a New York City campus.
According to a survey by BusinessWeek today (May 9), several other schools are reporting healthy increases. They include the University of Virginia’s Darden School, up 11%, and the University of Chicago’s Booth School, up 10%.
As previously reported by Poets&Quants, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management had a 9% increase in applications for its two-year MBA program and a 30% rise for it’s one-year MBA program for students with undergraduate business degrees.
For many of the schools, the increases represent something of a rebound. The University of Michigan’s Ross School, which is reporting an 8% increase in MBA applications, saw its application volume fall by 16.8% a year ago. That drove up the school’s acceptance rate to an unusually high 40.6%, 8.4 points more than the 32.2% acceptance rate for the school in 2011. Columbia Business School, which saw applications fall 19% last year, says it is up 7% over the same time last year.
“Coupled with what we’re hearing from our peer schools, there seems to be a significant uptick of interest industry-wide,” said Christopher Cashman, a spokesman for Columbia.
The rising volume of applicants is not entirely unexpected because it follows an 11% increase in GMAT testing volume for the year-ended last June.
Dean Idie Kesner of Indiana’s Kelley School attributed the 11% increase in MBA applications to improved rankings. “We have had a real run-up,” she told PoetsandQuants. “That is in contrast to most MBA programs which I believe will be flat this year. We’ve had a very good year. The rankings are up. When you’re No. 1 in student satisfaction, career services and faculty you get student attention. They care about those things,” she added, referring to last year’s Bloomberg BusinessWeek ranking. BW ranked Kelley 15th in the U.S., up from 19th in 2010.
Kelley’s underlying numbers show especially strong growth: Kesner said that domestic full-time MBA applications, which have especially been down in recent years for U.S. schools, are up 30%. International applications increased 4%. MBA Consortium applications rose by 10%. Perhaps most impressive of all, applications to the school’s online MBA program, Kelley Direct, are up 55%.
But not every school is experiencing an uplift. UCLA’s Anderson School of Management also saw a decline in applications this year on the heels of its impressive 22% leap in applications last year. “This year we’re down from that peak 7%, but we’re up quite a bit relative to two years ago,” says Judy Olian, Anderson dean. At the University of Southern California’s Marshall School the story didn’t change much. “Applications are okay but not setting the world on fire,” says James Ellis, Marshall dean. “There is so much written on the negativity of the MBA, but it is still the most valuable degree in the business world.”