GMAC’s Massive New Survey Finds — You Guessed It — MBA Apps Still Declining


“Year-on-year declines in applications were most acute among large and highly ranked U.S. full-time two-year MBA programs,” GMAC’s Matt Hazenbush writes. “Twenty-one percent of programs with 201 or more students report total application growth this year compared with 44% of programs with 50 or fewer students.

“Just 6% of responding programs ranked in the top 50 of the U.S. News and World Report 2020 ranking (published March 2019) report year-on-year total application growth (n=47), compared with 38% of responding unranked programs (n=37). Programs ranked in the top 50, however, received a median of 6.0 applications per seat and most report that their applicant pool was equally (67%) or more (11%) qualified compared with last year.

“International applications were a significant factor for highly ranked programs this year, as 47% of responding top 50 programs indicated their international applications were significantly down (-21% or more) compared with last year. Among international business school candidates with a self-reported GMat score of 700 or above — candidates who would be competitive applicants to highly ranked programs—the share that planned to apply to a U.S. program declined from 69% in 2017 to 62% in the first half of 2019.”

Source: GMAC


“Even against the current of a strong economy, most U.S. online MBA programs either grew (50%) or maintained (10%) their application volumes year-on-year, and among the 40% that report declines, most declined only slightly (23%). While as a whole the more traditional U.S. professional MBA program types had better outcomes this year than last year, no specific program type was able to keep up with the pace in relative growth of online MBA programs. A majority report total application declines among part-time lockstep MBA (53% report declines), part-time self-paced MBA (54%), and flexible MBA (56%) programs. Segmenting part-time lockstep and self-paced programs by their scheduling options shows similar results, as most weekend (56%) and evening (55%) programs were also down this year.

“Are online MBA programs taking candidates away from part-time programs? Data from the Prospective Students Survey suggests that at least a growing share of part-time MBA candidates are considering online options. In 2018, 42% of U.S. citizen candidates who were considering a part-time MBA also considered an online MBA, up from 36% in 2017 and 32% in 2015. The percentage of U.S. part-time MBA considerers who said they’d prefer an online MBA, however, has stayed at about 1 in 10 from 2015 to 2018.”

Source: GMAC


“For the first time, this year’s survey asked about programs’ STEM certification. A total of 195 of the 804 responding U.S. programs (24%) self-reported that their program is STEM-certified. Among them, the most common program types were Master of Data Analytics (28% of self-reported STEM- certified programs), Master of Finance (22%), and Master of Information Technology (14%).

“While a majority of both STEM-certified (53%) and non-STEM (57%) programs report declines in total applications this year, STEM-certified programs tended to fare better with international applicants. This year, 43% of STEM-certified programs grew their international applications compared with 26% of non-STEM programs.

“Among non-U.S. citizens who prefer to study in the United States, 36% say they are considering a STEM GME program. Non-U.S. citizen graduates of STEM-certified programs can apply for an additional 24-month stay in the country as a part of the optional practical training (oPt) program.”

Source: GMAC


“Two in three UK programs report that their international application volumes either grew (61% of programs) or held steady (5%) compared with last year, marking the third admissions cycle since the 2016 Brexit vote in which a majority of UK programs reported overall growth in international applications. Among programs that responded to both this year’s and last year’s surveys, international applications were up 5.0%, and total applications were up 5.4%.

“Consistent with past years, the vast majority of applications to UK programs were international this year (86%). The largest volume of total applications came from citizens of East and Southeast Asia (39%), Western Europe (25%), Central and South Asia (13%), and Africa (6%). Survey responses from late last year of non-UK citizens who sent a GMAT score report to a UK business school program show that 54% say Brexit has no impact on their decision to study in the United Kingdom, up from 46% two years earlier.”


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