Since he won the presidency last November, Donald Trump’s effect on business schools — in particular their ability to attract top talent from countries outside the United States — has been the subject of concern and consternation among deans and faculty. In short, because of the 45th president’s fiery rhetoric on immigration, B-school deans and professors have anticipated a messy and less-diverse landscape in the Age of Trump. Now a new poll shows that students share their concerns.
In a new poll of MBA applicants from around the world, admissions consulting firm Stacy Blackman Consulting has found that more than 80% believe Trump’s immigration policies — whether they become law or not — will reduce diversity in U.S. B-schools. Though just over 20% wholly or somewhat agree that Trump’s policies will personally affect them, 80.3% say overall B-school diversity will be reduced, to the detriment of business education.
“Almost immediately in November we had inquiries from international people who want to work with us, and they were asking, ‘Am I even going to be able to go to business school — or if I go for one year am I going to be kicked out before my second year?'” Stacy Blackman tells Poets&Quants, adding that it works both ways: More U.S. students are expressing an interest in applying to international schools, too. “No one knows what’s going to happen, but that’s why we ask these questions in the survey.
“There’s a lot of wait-and-see. We don’t really know what’s happening yet. There is an effect — it is impacting action, for sure — but there is an even greater impact on what people think could happen.”
HEDGING THEIR BETS
The annual poll of 755 respondents was conducted in spring of this year. Most of the respondents were from the U.S. (373) or India (192), with Asia (52), Europe (41), Latin America (27), and Africa (26) also represented. The poll was not, however, confined to questions about the president’s policies. Among the other key findings: 54% of respondents plan to apply to more than five business schools, up from 37.6% last year.
It’s called hedging your bets, Blackman says. “The number of programs that people are applying to is increasing. When we started (six years ago) it was more like three, and now 50% are applying to four and five schools and more,” Blackman says. “So they are applying to more schools and that’s a pretty significant trend that I’m seeing.
Taking a closer look, more than 26% of respondents plan to apply to five schools, 12.62% to six, 6.64% to seven, and 9.3% of respondents plan to apply to eight or more schools, according to the survey. “I think it’s hedging their bets, it’s throwing in an international program, where before they may not have,” Blackman says. “So they’re really like, ‘OK, I really want to apply to Wharton, Kellogg, Chicago, and I’ll also do INSEAD or LBS,’ or something like that.”
DESPITE OPTIONS, FULL-TIME MBA PROGRAMS VASTLY PREFERRED
Blackman’s poll found that the most popular post-MBA career continues to be consulting (47.92%), followed by finance (24.93%). That represents a small slip for finance from last year (26.75%). Meanwhile, even as MBA programs recalibrate to accommodate budding entrepreneurs, Blackman’s poll found that interest in entrepreneurship declined for the third straight year, capturing 23.41% this year compared to 26.47% last year. Technology is also a top career choice, with 23.82% compared to 23.11% last year.
“The entrepreneurship numbers are interesting,” Blackman says. “It’s hard to say why interest seems to be plateauing. It could be just ebbs and flows. There are a lot of great stories in entrepreneurship, and they can spark twentysomethings’ interest and get more on their radar. I think right now a lot of people want to get some solid experience before starting their own businesses.”
In terms of MBA study options, full-time, two-year programs continue to be the most popular, with 90.63% considering that avenue (up from 85.75% last year) and 30.39% considering full-time, one-year programs. Only 10.84% said they were considering part-time programs, while 2.14% were mulling studying online.
“For a while it seemed that more people were considering alternative programs, part-time, online — different formats,” Blackman says. “But this survey is showing that like 90% are doing the full-time, traditional one- and two-year programs. That’s kind of surprising to me because I feel there are more and more types of offerings and more options for online. Education is becoming very innovative, and changes are coming, so I’m surprised that this generation isn’t looking more at alternative types of programs.”
(NEARLY) EVERYONE AGREES: IT’S GOOD TO GET A CONSULTANT
Other key survey results:
• What is the most important factor influencing the decision to attend a particular business school? More than half — 50.2% — indicated that reputation is the most important factor, followed by 19.43% for strength of job placement, 12.4% for culture of program, and 5.8% for strength of alumni network.
• Career advancement continued to rank as the top reason to attend business school at 44.74% (47.76% ranking it as most important in 2016), followed by career change at 37.55% (32.31% in 2016).
• How important are rankings in the selection of an MBA program? Sixty-seven percent indicated that rankings are extremely important, while 32.72% said they are somewhat important.
• Admissions consultants are still held in high regard. More than half of respondents — 51.5% — plan to definitely work with an outside business school consultant, and 36.92% may work with an outside consultant, in their business school application process.