Texas McCombs’ Full-Time Program Counters Gloom & Doom About The MBA

In Texas, The Full-Time MBA Flexes Some Muscle

McCombs School of Business at University of Texas-Austin saw a modest increase in applications to its full-time MBA in 2023 — and a less modest increase in applications to its MBA programs overall. Courtesy photo

Applications are down at MBA programs, big and small, all over the world. But not at the premier program in Texas.

The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business, ranked No. 19 in the United States by Poets&Quants and No. 20 by U.S. News & World Report, joined only one other elite U.S. MBA program in reporting application growth in its full-time MBA program in 2023. And though the increase was modest — about 1.2%, to 1,889 — it serves as a tonic to the prevailing pall over the future of the MBA.

More importantly from Texas McCombs’ perspective, the app growth “underscores our status as a top choice for business education,” says Rodrigo Malta, McCombs’ managing director of MBA recruiting and admissions, pointing out that the school saw a substantial jump in interest across its five MBA programs on three Texas campuses.

“We are very excited about the strong momentum of our MBA program at Texas McCombs,” Malta says. “One of the reasons our MBA program is so attractive is its strong return on investment. Prospective students are likely recognizing the tangible benefits and value of the education they receive in terms of more affordable tuition (when compared to other top-20 MBA programs), strong career outcomes and the long-term benefits of being associated with the brand and reputation of Texas McCombs.”

In Texas, The Full-Time MBA Flexes Some Muscle

DECLINES (MOSTLY) ACROSS THE BOARD

Playing a “pivotal role” in the increased interest in McCombs’ full-time MBA program: “The attractiveness of Austin as a study destination,” Malta says. “The city’s vibrant and dynamic ecosystem, coupled with its thriving business environment, cultural diversity, and quality of life, may be contributing to McCombs’ appeal. As students increasingly seek not only a top-tier education but also an enriching overall experience, the combination of a strong MBA program, robust ROI and the allure of Austin could be a significant driving force behind the heightened interest in McCombs.”

Not every B-school is so fortunate. The Graduate Management Admission Council reported in October that business school applications worldwide declined about 5% in 2022-2023. The slump was not hard to see coming. In 2021, 19 of the top 25 U.S. B-schools reported application growth in their flagship full-time MBA programs; a year later, that number had declined to just nine schools. This year, among elite MBA programs, besides Texas McCombs, only one other has reported application growth: the MBA program at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Some of the cycle-to-cycle declines were significant: a 30% cratering at UCLA Anderson School of Management, a major drop-off for a second straight year at Columbia Business School. The downturn afflicted the elite of the elite, the M7, as well as the second tier of schools to which Texas McCombs belongs. Chicago Booth, Wharton, and Harvard Business School all reported drop-offs of varying severity; so did Yale School of Management. Virginia Darden, Michigan Ross, NYU Stern, and Duke Fuqua had declines, too. Many schools saw declines for a second straight year; some, like Wharton, for a third.

Some, of course, were minor: At MIT Sloan School of Management, apps declined by just 32 from the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 cycles. And Cornell Johnson School of Management reported the smallest decline possible: a year-over-year drop of exactly one application to its full-time MBA.

HUGE JUMP IN FIRST-GEN STUDENTS

In Texas, The Full-Time MBA Flexes Some Muscle

Rodrigo Malta: New MBA class members are “unafraid to confront challenges and, at the same time, are enthusiastic about collaborating to make a meaningful impact on the world”

An increase in applications — even a minor one — can lead to all kinds of happy outcomes, or at least help bring attention to them. Though cause-and-effect is hardly definitive in any case, in addition to its app boost Texas McCombs in 2023 reported a significant increase in enrollment (9.5%) to 241, while growing domestically 74% (up from 72% in the Class of 2024) and welcoming a record-setting 20% of first-generation college students (up from 11% in the Class of 2024).

“This class brings with them a blend of experiences,” Malta tells P&Q, pointing out that McCombs maintained or exceeded its previous class’s academic benchmarks including a Graduate Record Exam average of 321, up from 319, and a class average GPA of 3.46, down insignificantly from 3.48. The class Graduate Management Admission Test average of 704 is down from 706 but well in line with McCombs’ historical trend.

Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, the class is highly diverse, with 18% as U.S. under-represented minorities (up from 16%) and 35% identifying as U.S. minorities (down from 36%). Thirty-five percent of students identify as female, same as last year, and 8% as LGBTQIA+ (up from 7%); 26% come from international backgrounds (down from 28%), representing 31 countries (up from 28). Additionally, 14% of students have U.S. military service backgrounds (up from 13% in the Class of 2024.

McCombs welcomed 37 Consortium members, 60 Forte Fellows, and 15 dual-degree students in the Class of 2025, “further enriching the diversity and breadth of experiences within our class,” Malta says. According to a blog post on the school website, “The Texas McCombs MBA Class of 2025 is not merely a reflection of our program’s excellence, but an embodiment of our vision for the future. The increase in applications and class size, coupled with the growth in underrepresented minorities, women, and military veterans, showcases the program’s appeal and its role as a leader in the ever-competitive MBA landscape.”

‘POISED TO LEAVE A POSITIVE, LASTING IMPACT AT McCOMBS’

It’s not only McCombs’ full-time MBA that got a boost in 2023. Its entire portfolio of graduate business offerings, which includes Working Professional and Executive MBA programs across campuses in Austin, Dallas, and Houston, saw an overall increase in applications in the last cycle, exceeding 2,300 total apps. Overall graduate business class size also expanded, by 9%, up to 509 incoming students in fall 2023.

Among this flood of new learners, 25% are composed of under-represented minorities, a 7-percentage-point increase. Women in the class also grew substantially, rising to 33% (up 4 percentage points), while the proportion of military veterans grew to 15% (up 3 percentage points). First-generation students climbed to 20% of the class, up 7 percentage points) — “demonstrating our commitment to providing accessible and impactful education, particularly to aspiring business leaders who are the first in their families to attend college,” the blog post reads.

“I frequently mention at our admissions events that orientation and graduation stand out as my favorite moments of the year,” Malta says. “The orientation for the class of 2025 surpassed my already high expectations. Our intelligent, talented, and diverse students not only connected with each other instantaneously openly sharing their aspirations and areas of improvement. They are unafraid to confront challenges and, at the same time, are enthusiastic about collaborating to make a meaningful impact on the world.

“The Class of 2025 has started with great momentum and is poised to leave a positive, lasting impact at McCombs, the University of Texas, and the vibrant city of Austin.”

DON’T MISS HOW CMU TEPPER CONFRONTED — AND OVERCAME — A CHALLENGING 2023 MBA JOB MARKET and 2023 MBA CLASS PROFILES & EMPLOYMENT REPORTS 

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