The Data Is In: Huge Drop-Off In International MBAs

It’s no longer a question of when or whether the long-anticipated international student freeze at U.S. schools will happen. The data is clear: Winter is here.

Of course, not all schools are feeling the chill. In fact, most of the brunt is being borne by the second-tier schools, not the elites. A Poets&Quants analysis of U.S. News data for the Class of 2019 found that of the schools ranked 21-51 in our latest ranking, 19 saw decreases in their international student enrollment from the year before. Some saw drastic declines: Texas A&M’s Mays Business School lost 40.5% of its foreign students in one year, going from 33.1% to 19.7% total enrollment; the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business lost 11 points, or 32.1%, dropping to 23.3% from 34.3%.

At the top, the story is different. P&Q‘s top five schools saw small increases or no change in their international student enrollment. But the next five schools in the ranking — and much of the top 25 — all saw drop-offs, the worst being Columbia Business School’s five-point decline from 48% to 43%.

In a separate but related analysis, P&Q examined salary data for international and U.S. grads for the top 50 schools and found a similar dynamic: top schools are humming along, adding value (in some cases incremental) over last year’s salaries. Most of the top 10 schools added value in both categories, and only a handful of schools in the top 50 saw declines in both categories. The biggest increase in international salary came at Georgia Terry, which grew its mean by an incredible 45.9% from the year before, to $94,450; the biggest U.S. grad mean salary growth happened at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business, which jumped 8.7% to $82,247.


Last year when we covered this story, two schools — UC-Irvine’s Merage School of Business and the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School — had topped 50% in international enrollment. This year both schools still lead the list, but both dropped below that mark to 47.9% and 46.9%, respectively. Overall, of 49 schools in the top 51 examined by P&Q — leaving out the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, which has eliminated its full-time MBA, and Temple University’s Fox School of Business, which continues to suffer the ramifications of a data-falsification scandal — 31 schools saw declines, 11 saw increases, and three stayed the same. Data for four schools was not available.

Interestingly, from last year to this year the same number of schools topped 40% international enrollment: seven. The top schools for foreign students this year, after UC-Irvine Merage and Rochester Simon, are Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management (44.5%), Columbia Business School (43%), Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business (40.6%), Stanford Graduate School of Business (40%), and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (40%). What schools brought up the rear? Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business was the lowest at 13.1%, having lost more than 37% of its total from last year; also below 20% were BYU’s Marriott School of Business (19.2%, down 2 points) and Texas A&M (down 13.4 points). A pair of northern publics, the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management (20.5%) and Wisconsin School of Business (20.2%) were at the low end as well, though in Carlson’s case the total represented aa jump of 4.4 points from last year.

Schools with notable gains in international enrollment include Purdue Krannert (+4.4), Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business (+4.2 to 30.3%), and Arizona State University’s Carey School of Business, which grew its foreign student total 3.6 points to 32.2%.

A last note about the top 10 schools: The average international enrollment for the elite schools is 35.7% — down from 2016’s mark of 36.5%. The top school with the fewest foreign students? Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, at 29.6%. It’s also important to note that in terms of actual numbers of students, the leading schools are all leading: Harvard Business School paces the pack with an estimated 650 students, with Wharton (563) and Columbia (558) the only other schools above 500.

Finally, this data is for international students only — dual citizens and permanent residents are not factored in. Including those populations changes the picture considerably — for example, Dartmouth Tuck would jump from 29.6% to 37% international enrollment.


A disclaimer about salaries. Salary fluctuations year-over-year can be caused by one very successful or one very unsuccessful grad. That said, there were some wild swings from 2016 to 2017, and not all in a good way. Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business saw its average for international grads drop nearly 16%, to $93,744, and Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business saw a 13.8% decline in the same category, to $95,311. In U.S. graduate salaries, Georgia Terry led all declines with a 7.5% drop to $88,150, and Boston University’s Questrom School of Business also lost ground, dropping 5.4% to $97,869.

In total, 18 schools saw declines in their international grads’ base salary averages, and 12 schools saw declines in U.S. salaries. A handful of schools saw declines in both: Minnesota Carlson, Georgia Tech University’s Scheller College of Business, Indiana Kelley, Ohio State Fisher, BYU Marriott, and Boston Questrom. But far more schools saw increases in one or both categories: 28 in international, 34 in U.S.

In the top 10, most grads got salary bumps. Stanford led all schools for the highest average salary in both categories: $138,632 international (+4%) and $146,712 U.S. (+2%). Yale SOM, meanwhile, had the lowest salary average in both categories for a top 10 school: $115,561 international (-2.2%) and $121,937 U.S. (+6.9%). The average top 10 international graduate salary is $127,354; top 25, $119,392. The average top 10 U.S. graduate salary is $131,861; top 25, $123,904.

By way of comparison, we put together salary numbers for a batch of schools outside the U.S. (see below). At the five European schools, base salary is much higher than at any U.S. counterpart.

See the next pages for complete international student enrollment data, including base starting salaries, on the P&Q top 50 schools.

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