Many — perhaps most — business schools’ MBA class profiles will look slightly different in fall 2023, in terms of the metrics they include and how they describe them. And that’s all according to plan.
The Graduate Management Admission Council’s biennial revision of its Graduate Management Education Admissions Reporting Standards was created throughout 2022 by a task force of 14 representatives from GMAC and leading U.S. B-schools, including Sabrina White, vice president of school and industry engagement at GMAC; Nita Swinsick, associate dean of graduate & executive degree programs admissions at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business; and Eric Askins, executive director of MBA admissions at UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business. The changes were announced in late March.
The changes that will begin to be reflected in B-schools’ MBA class profiles this fall include broader language on program format, type, and delivery mode; clarification on deferrals as they pertain to yield; the addition of a “No Test” line to indicate the percentage of the class that did not submit an entrance exam score; and much broader language on gender identity, sexual orientation, and race and ethnicity. They also include the addition of standards on military and first-generation students, which B-schools have increasingly included in their class profiles.
CHANGED ‘CANNOT BE MORE TIMELY’
GMAC’s revised MBA reporting standards reflect the massive changes in society and graduate business education over the last two eventful years, says Marci Armstrong, marketing professor of practice at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business and co-chair of the task force revising the standards. The changes will lead to a more accurate depiction of the diversity of B-school classes — which will in turn help ranking bodies better portray the schools they rank.
“As graduate management education expands and spreads around the world with a wide range of program offerings and deliveries, our student body also grows and diversifies with people of varying undergraduate and generational backgrounds and racial and gender identities,” Armstrong says. “I believe our efforts to revise the admissions reporting standards cannot be more timely and necessary to reflect the changes we have all witnessed in the past years.”
The most comprehensive changes were made to the guidelines for reporting gender identity. Previously, schools were simply advised to report the percentage of males, percentage of females, percentage of other gender, and percentage who declined to respond to the gender question. The “Gender” category has been amended to “Gender and Sex,” and includes this guidance:
“Schools may ask applicants to report ‘Gender Identity,’ ‘Sex’ (alternately ‘Legal Sex’ or ‘Sex at Birth’) or both, depending on what is required for compliance with a school’s institutional policy. ‘Gender Identity’ is the preferred option for external reporting when such data is available. Where ‘Gender Identity’ information is not available, schools may use ‘Sex’ for reporting purposes.” In the latter case, schools are advised to report according to a set of categories using the data collected for “Sex” including “Female: percentage identifying as woman or female”; “Male: percentage identifying as man or male”; as well as “non-binary” and “other gender identities.”
FOCUS ON 3 AREAS: SCHOOL INFO, APPS & CLASS PROFILES
GMAC formed the task force in 2019 to revise its MBA Reporting Criteria, first published in 2000 and adopted by approximately 200 B-schools. The criteria became the Graduate Management Education Admissions Reporting Standards, which were subsequently endorsed by GMAC members in the summer of 2020. The plan from the start was to revisit the standards every two years “to ensure they continue to guide business schools in distributing reliable, accurate, useful, and comparable admissions data for prospective students and rankings organizations,” GMAC says in a March 23 announcement.
The new task force was formed at the beginning of 2022 to tackle the review and revision process, focused on three areas: school and program information, application process, and admissions reporting and class profile, supplemented by region and areas of study classifications.
“The GME Admissions Reporting Standards ensure that business schools are measuring admissions data in the same way, thereby, enabling prospective students to make apples-to-apples comparisons when evaluating graduate programs,” says Georgetown’s Nita Swinsick, co-chair of the task force. “The 2022 Task Force spent a lot of time reviewing the Standards, both to address questions from business schools and to update our reporting based on changes across graduate business education and society at large. These updates continue to guide schools in distributing reliable, useful, and comparable admissions data for prospective students.
“For example, with regard to class profile data, which is one aspect of the Standards, the Task Force revised race and ethnicity information (a question for U.S. schools only) to include both federal and multidimensional reporting, as well as citizenship region data to better account for students with dual and multiple citizenships. Additionally, we added a new first-generation college student question, and the standards include a more comprehensive classification of undergraduate areas of study. By providing better guidance to schools on how to standardize the data for these questions, prospective students will gain greater insights into class profile data that are comparable across schools.”
MBA CLASS PROFILES ARE GETTING MORE DIVERSE, ALONG WITH THE CLASSES THEY REFLECT
MBA class profiles have changed a lot in recent years, mostly for the better. They are acutely more detailed in measuring the diversity of a class, with most top schools now including ethnicity information that conforms to both federal guidelines and multi-identity reporting standards. Additional new measures of the diversity and experience of each particular group of strangers thrown together to learn advanced management principles include the percentage of first-generation college students in the class, the proportion who already have advanced degrees, the percentage with military backgrounds (active or veteran), and the percentage who identify as LGBTQ+. Some schools now include marriage status, or the percentage of students arriving with partners. See the table below for some of what is and isn’t currently available from Poets&Quants‘ top 25 B-schools.
With GMAC’s changes to the reporting standards, MBA class profiles are about to get even more granular — which is all to the good, says Sabrina White, GMAC’s vice president of school and industry engagement and a member of the revision task force, because more and broader language on reporting standards makes for better and more accurate ranking of B-schools. Most importantly, it also helps prospective students: According to GMAC’s annual survey on prospective students worldwide, candidates rely heavily on school websites and rankings in their program selection process.
“GMAC will continue to be a steward of the standards and will publish a list of schools and corresponding programs that decide to adopt and remain in compliance with the standards. Adopting and complying schools can also receive a badge from GMAC for use in their outreach materials to signal to candidates, ranking publishers and other stakeholders their compliance with the standards,” White says. “It is our hope that more members of the business school community — as well as ranking publishers — will begin leveraging these standards to benefit the people aspiring to better themselves and the world through graduate management education.”
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