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Wisconsin’s MBA Apps Plunged 33% Last Year

Students at the Wisconsin School of Business

The University of Wisconsin’s Business School is apparently paying a price for the very public faux pas of its previous dean who sought to shut down the school’s full-time MBA program. 

MBA applications plunged 33% for the fall semester of 2019, falling to just 311 from 465 a year earlier. As a result, the number of students enrolled in both full-time and evening MBA programs reached the lowest point in a decade, with 67 full-time students and 40 part-timers. 

Ranked as having the 37th best full-time MBA program in the country by U.S. News last week, the school reported accepting 136 candidates out of the 311 to enroll a cohort of 67 students for an acceptance rate of 43.7%. The average class GMAT score was 658. When the proposal to shut down the program occurred in October of 2017, the school had just enrolled an incoming class of 104 students.


Wisconsin admitted 46 of the 52 candidates who applied to its part-time MBA program to enroll a class of 40 students, with an average GMAT score of 556. The acceptance rate for the part-timers was 88.5%.

Dean Vallabh Sambamurthy, recruited from Michigan State University last August, attributed part of the decline to the uncertainty revolving around the school’s announcement in 2017 by Dean Anne P. Massey to consider suspending the program (see The Politics Behind Wisconsin’s MBA Bungle). But Wisconsin has not been alone in experiencing a decline in MBA applications. Overall, apps have declined for full-time MBA programs for each of the past five years.

Massey had been in the job as dean for less than three months when the school revealed it was seriously considering a proposal to shut down its full-time MBA program in order to devote greater resources to potentially more lucrative specialized master’s degrees. The uproar that proposal caused led to a student revolt and alumni petitions, Massey’s departure as dean and a reversal of the proposal


But Sambamurthy says a turnaround is in progress. “Once I arrived here in August, I declared that we are strongly committed to the full-time MBA, and we have been focused on marketing and advertising, and not surprisingly, we have seen that our applications are up by 20%, so that’s the big story,” Sambamurthy told The Badger Herald.

“[The] bottom line is that by emphasizing how we help students succeed in careers, how we are a STEM [certified] program, and how we do a lot of experiential learning and how our alumni are deeply involved as coaches and mentors, we expect that we will be able to still differentiate ourselves and maintain our class size, even though many schools are seeing the applications are indeed [in] decline,” Sambamurthy said.


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.