MBA In Decline? Not At Top-Tier Schools


Outside the Top 20 schools, the decline of enrollments from peak levels has been equally pronounced for both domestic and international students (see table below). For schools in the lowest tier, domestic enrollments reached their peak for the Class of 1995, but these schools were able to increase their international enrollments until the Class of 2012.

Schools ranked 21st through 50th saw a total full-time MBA enrollment decline of 36% from the peak year of 2002, with domestic enrollment falling 37% from a peak of 2000 and international enrollment dropping 38% from a 2003 peak. But the fall is much more severe for the MBA programs ranked between 50th and 130th, plummeting 51% from a 1995 peak, with domestic enrollment falling by 53% and international enrollment declining by 58%.

In contrast, the top 20 schools have fared quite well. For the Top 10 schools, the Class of 2019 represents a new peak in MBA enrollment. The decline for the next ten schools, ranked 11th through 20th, was a mere 2% from a high point for the Class of 2013.

MBA Enrollments From The Class Of 1995 To The Class Of 2019

The trends are also variegated within the tiers.  For instance, while aggregate enrollments have grown at the top 20 schools, there are notable declines at some prominent schools, including UT-Austin’s McCombs School of Business, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and New York University’s Stern School of Business (see table below).

The biggest changes, however, have occurred at second-tier business schools. Fordham University’s full-time MBA enrollment fell by 92% from its peak in 2014 to just 83 from 1,103 as the school shifted its strategy to focus more on the specialized master’s market in business. Drexel University in Philadelphia saw enrollment plunge 88% from its 1995 peak to 42 from 351.

Notable Changes In MBA Enrollments From Peak Levels

Significant falls in international students have had something to do with many of the schools whose enrollments are well off their peaks. At the University of Florida in 2005, international MBA students made up 35% of the study body. Today, it’s just 15%. At Tulane University, the proportion of MBA students who are international fell to 14% from 45% in 2005. The steepest decline? Oregan State University experienced a drop of 53 percentage points to 33% from 86% in 2017 (see below table).

Notable Changes In International MBA Enrollments From Peak Levels

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