P&Q Survey: A Third Of Admits May Defer, While 43% Want Tuition Lowered If Classes Are Online

The disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic is fueling a lot of anxiety among MBA applicants, admits and students in the top MBA programs. Roughly a third of prospective students already admitted to top business schools say they may want to defer their admission this year if classes fail to return to campus in the fall. Even more worrisome for B-schools, 43% believe tuition fees should be cutback by an average of 37.5% if the first part of their MBA program is shifted online due to the pandemic.

The results come from a Poets&Quants survey of more than 300 current admits to top MBA programs this year. Some respondents believe their tuition bills should be cut on a prorated basis for the time they are denied a more fully immersive on-campus learning experience. Only 17% of the prospective MBA students say they would be okay attending online classes, while 96% say that missing out on the full on-campus experience such as face-to-face classes, participating in co-curricular activities, building a network with peers and relationships with faculty is a major concern.

“I’m sure the education will be great, but I will be missing out on social and personal growth opportunities that I hoped for with my MBA,” explained one respondent. Added another: “If the university already has an online program, then I would expect that the first semester would mirror the cost of that program.”


The results reinforce worries that admission officers already have about admitting students, particularly internationals, who may have trouble coming to the U.S. due to travel restrictions and the inability to gain student visas. Nearly four out of every ten international MBA admits at the top schools would prefer to take a deferment if classes were online (see chart below). That’s on top of a general decline of international students in U.S. MBA programs due to previous uncertainty over work visas and anti-immigration rhetoric in the U.S. Since 2017, for example, 31 schools in the top 52 as ranked by Poets&Quants have seen declines in their foreign student ranks, 22 by double digits (see U.S. MBA Programs With The Most International Students).

But it also shows that a good portion of domestic residents would prefer to defer if they are denied an on-campus experience: Nearly one in four, or 24.1%, of domestic admits said they would take a deferment if they could (see chart below). That may well be because incoming students realize that the schools have shifted not to well designed online courses with both asynchronous and synchronous coursework but rather to remote instruction using Zoom. When the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business put its MBA program online last year, each professor spent anywhere between 100 to 200 hours rethinking their courses and putting them in a format that would maximize a course’s learning objectives.

While there have been no public protests by B-school students over paying campus tuition rates for virtual class sessions, more than 2,200 students at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts have signed an online petition asking for some of their tuition money back because they say remote instruction classes aren’t what they paid for. The annual tuition at Tisch, $58,552  is similar to what it would be at most of the prestigious MBA programs.


The Poets&Quants online survey, conducted on Friday, found that business schools need to be aware that admits to this fall’s incoming classes have a lot on their minds.  All told, nearly 800  admits, applicants and students responded to the survey of registered users at Poets&Quants.

Despite the uncertain environment caused by both the coronavirus pandemic and an ensuing global recession, the majority of admits to this year’s incoming classes still believe an MBA degree will have a positive impact on their professional, financial and personal lives—even if it is deferred a year.

The survey results show that just about everyone—current applicants, this year’s admits so far and MBA students—all are pretty anxiety-ridden at the moment. Students are getting nervous about the MBA job market when they graduate in a few months. Applicants worry about having to settle for online courses that would force them to miss out on the full MBA experience, and candidates already admitted to a program wonder whether it’s worth attending, especially if they have to start the program online.

Source: Poets&Quants online survey


Other findings among candidates already admitted to a top business school this year:

  • 72% reported they fear not being able to get the internship or job of choice as a major concern
  • 51% are worried that they will not be able to attend in the fall due to domestic or international travel restrictions
  • 39% fear their visa application will be denied or unavailable
  • 19% are worried about their health or that of their family

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.