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UCLA Anderson | Ms. Tech In HR
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UCLA Anderson | Mr. Military To MGMNT Consulting
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MIT Sloan | Ms. Environmental Sustainability
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Wharton | Mr. Data Scientist
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Half Of B-Schools Expect Enrollment To Decline In 2020

Crisis illustration

Nearly half of business schools expect a drop in enrollment across all programs over the next six months, according to a new survey by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the global nonprofit accreditation agency. The survey, published May 6, is the first in a planned series examining the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on AACSB member schools around the world. Of the 227 schools that responded, 46% expect a drop in enrollment for terms that begin between now and October 2020; a fifth of responding schools expect that decline to amount to 10% or more.

Schools with terms beginning in July and August have the highest rates of pessimism about enrollment. For example, 52% of schools that get underway in July expect a decrease in enrollment, and another 19% expect the enrollment to stay about the same. Another 19% say they have no idea what will happen with enrollment. Only 11% of schools beginning in July expect to see an increase in enrollment. In August, 53% of schools expect a decrease in enrollment, and 16% expect the enrollment to stay about the same. Those expecting an increase in enrollment, however, jumps from 11% in July to 17% in August.

Those expecting decreases in enrollment declines in September and October when 49% and 43%, respectively, expect a decrease in enrollment. The rate of schools expecting an increase in enrollment drops off to just 6% in September and 10% in October while those expecting enrollment to stay the same surges to 30% in September and 38% in October.

AACSB Survey


Asked the percentage that they expected enrollment would change, the majority (27%) said they expect it to remain about the same, or within 1 percentage point of what it was this past year. The next highest category is the 20% that expect a decrease in enrollment by 10% or more. Another 15% expect a decrease in enrollment at a rate of 5% to 9% and 11% expect a decline of 1% to 4%, which makes up the 46% of responding schools that expect a decrease in enrollment. On the flip side, 6% of respondents expect an increase in enrollment by 1% to 4%. Another 3% expect an increase in enrollment from 5% to 9%. And an optimistic 4% of responding schools expect a 10% or more increase in enrollment in the next six months. In total, just 13% of schools expect increases in enrollment of more than 1%.

“Our findings suggest that, just like in most industries around the world, business schools and higher education are experiencing a high degree of uncertainty for what the future holds, especially in regard to enrollment and recruitment efforts,” the report reads. “We are seeing that business school leaders are taking into consideration various scenarios that could change from month to month. Many of the differences across enrollment impacts and anticipated changes are and will continue to be dependent on what part of the world a school is located in, as well as what many of our schools would point out—differences in the types of students they attract, their missions, and other specific contexts and qualities.”

AACSB survey


In terms of actions schools are currently implementing or anticipating implementing, moving online is by far the most popular option. Some 31% of schools report they have already decided to move their classes “wholly online/virtual” over the next six months. Another 47% say they are still considering the move. Just 13% reported they are not considering moving online. The next popular action item is implementing a deferral system. Just 9% of schools say they have already decided to do that and another 27% say they are considering it. Interestingly, more than a quarter (27%) of responding schools say they are considering increasing the “modularization” of the semester or term into even smaller sessions. Some 2% of schools report they have already implemented that.

Besides decreases in new school enrollments, many business schools might also have to contend with current students taking a year off. Poets&Quants has learned through various communications with first-year MBAs at schools around the U.S. that many are considering the idea of taking next year away from school. A factor playing in this decision is likely if schools will hold on-campus classes or not. One way or another, however, school will happen this fall. Just 1% of respondents said they’ve decided to cancel the entire term or semester and just 2% are actively considering it.

“One major finding that stands out is that a significant majority of respondents indicated that they are not actively considering actions including the following: canceling the term/session entirely, reducing the number of courses, relying on courses available through another higher education provider, and relying on courses through a non-higher education provider,” the report reads. “This response is consistent across terms beginning in each of the next six months.”

AACSB Survey