After enrolling its smallest MBA class in decades this fall, Harvard Business School today (Nov. 9) announced that for the next two years it plans to admit and enroll the largest MBA cohorts in its history of about 1,000 each.
The school had left open the possibility of increasing the size of its incoming classes of 2023 and 2024 when it disclosed in September that its newest crop of MBAs would be composed of just 732 students, roughly 200 fewer MBA candidates than a more typical incoming class. Last year’s cohort totaled 938 students. The shortfall occurred after HBS gave all Class of 2022 admitted students the option to defer their enrollment for a year or two and decided against pulling more of its applicants from an enlarged waitlist.
The announcement of the larger classes was made in a blog post by Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid. “In April, when we announced our one-time deferral policy for those admitted to the Class of 2022, we were already thinking ahead to those of you applying in the next two years,” he wrote. “We did not want you to be disadvantaged by spots already reserved for those who deferred from the Class of 2022.
‘HBS WILL ADD A SECTION OF 90 PLUS STUDENTS FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS
“For this reason, even as we prepared for this year’s class, we have been working diligently with Harvard University and our faculty and staff teams at HBS to explore increasing the HBS class size. Though uncertainty remains around the world, we have developed robust plans and contingencies for a great experience for enlarged HBS Classes of 2023 and 2024.”
It’s unlikely that the enlarged classes would impact the school’s acceptance rate of about 12% to 13% because many of the students who deferred their admission will be taking up seats in the new classes over the next two years. As a result, most of the school’s increased capacity has already been absorbed by deferrals.
Harvard would have to add a section of MBAs to increase the size of its classes over the next two years. In any given year, HBS breaks up each class into 10 sections of 90+ people in the first year. Each section boasts a diverse cross-section of people from different countries, backgrounds, and interests. All the first-year classes in the required curriculum are taken with these 90 people in the same classroom.
ENLARGED CLASSES A ‘TEMPORARY MOVE’ FOR TWO YEARS
The decision to enlarge the next two classes occurs at a time when MBA applications are surging. Many business schools had the advantage of large boosts to their MBA application volume last year when they extended their final application deadlines. Harvard did not participate in that pandemic-fueled boom because its final deadline for applicants to the Class of 2022 was in January before the outbreak of COVID.
As a result, the HBS Class of 2020 represents the smallest entering class at HBS since the early 1950s when enrollment was impacted by the Korean War and a new $15 application fee established to discourage casual candidates from applying to the school. The reduced numbers of MBA students will cause a significant financial hit to tuition revenue estimated at $16.4 million this year as funds from tuition fall to roughly $123 million from $140 million in fiscal 2019.
Losee called the decision to expand the size of the MBA classes over the next two years “temporary.” “HBS has always strived, through a thoughtful design of the learning and student experiences, to offer the breadth of opportunity of a large business school and the intimacy of a small section of fellow students,” he added. “This deliberate balance will continue as we temporarily expand enrollment at HBS for the Classes of 2023 and 2024 to about 1,000 students each.”
He also shared news of a new summer internship requirement in the MBA program: “Last week, the faculty expressed their support for a proposal to require summer internships for MBA students,” he wrote. “Beginning with the Class of 2022, then, students will be able to fulfill this requirement through successful completion of a summer work experience—either with an established organization or by launching an entrepreneurial venture, and in either a paid or an unpaid position. Any student facing circumstances that preclude an internship, including personal circumstances such as the birth of a child or caring for a family member, will be able to apply for a waiver.”
Losee said he expects the requirement to be well received. “We expect this to be seen as good news throughout the HBS community given that 99% of students usually pursue an internship opportunity,” he adds. “We have long considered summer internships an important extension of our curriculum—one that enhances learning and provides important practical experience. Beyond formalizing their vital role in our two-year program, the shift will benefit a number of our international students by offering them U.S. employment eligibility and ensuring that they can pursue unpaid internships.”