The U.S. MBA Programs With The Most International Students

International students are coming to America to attend undergraduate and graduate programs in ever-greater numbers. For the last three years, their arrival has been helping top U.S. business schools overcome a parallel decline in domestic enrollment.

In November, the Harvard Crimson reported that across the Ivy League, international student undergraduate enrollment has grown steadily since 2021, with Harvard College reporting an increase in enrolled international students for the third year in a row: up 32% between the Classes of 2024 and 2027, to 15.6% of the latter class. The number of countries represented among students admitted to Harvard has also risen each year, from 92 in the Class of 2024 to 102 in the Class of 2027. Princeton’s 2027 class has roughly 13.5% international students; Yale and Brown, 12% each; and Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, 17% and 16%, respectively.

The increase follows a nationwide trend, the Crimson reports, with more than one cause. The decline in pandemic-related travel concerns is a big factor, says Michael T. Nietzel, former president of Missouri State University. But perhaps more than that are the reverberations from the June 2023 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down affirmative action in college admissions: Schools looking to diversify their student populations, Nietzel says, “will look to international students as one way” to achieve that diversity.

HIGHEST INTERNATIONAL MBA POPULATION – CLASS OF 2025

P&Q Rank School International Students As A % Of The MBA Class
24 Georgetown McDonough 59%
37 Indiana Kelley 58%
17 Washington Foster 56%
16 Carnegie Mellon Tepper 53%
5 Yale SOM 50%
10 NYU Stern 48%
23 Emory Goizueta 48%

THE TREND FOR INTERNATIONAL ENROLLMENT IN U.S. B-SCHOOLS HAS BEEN UPWARD

As universities and colleges in the U.S. go, so go the business schools that operate within them. While Harvard College has seen an uptick in international enrollment, Harvard Business School’s international MBA student population has likewise increased, growing in each of the last four intakes, from 33% in 2020 to 39% last fall. Across the B-school landscape, domestic applications and enrollment to top U.S. MBA programs have been down for the last three years as schools move out of the pandemic and into a robust economy in which high-paying jobs are more plentiful; international students have stepped into the breach. (All data in this story is from the business schools’ class profiles.)

However, as 2023 MBA employment reports made clear from the small schools to the elite, that dynamic is already changing, as jobs are definitely getting scarcer no matter the pedigree or nationality. And as the data show, international enrollment may have reached a high water mark at the top-ranked U.S. B-schools.

First, the trend, and it’s an obvious one to spot: In 2020, the number of top-ranked U.S. B-schools with 25% or lower international MBA enrollment was 12; a year later, that number sank to 4, and in 2022 it sank to zero. This year just one B-school, No. 25 Florida Warrington College of Business, had less than 25% international students, reporting 22% in the latest class at the Hough MBA program.

Meanwhile, the schools with 40% or more international MBAs have multiplied. In 2020 there were only two; a year later, eight; but in both the intakes of 2022 and 2023, 17 schools reported they were at least 40% international. Five schools in 2023 even reported 50% or greater international enrollment, led by Georgetown McDonough School of Business at 59% and Indiana Kelley School of Business at 58%; two years ago there were none.

Finally, six schools reported 25% or lower international enrollment in 2020/21 that reported 40% or more in 2023: Rice Jones Graduate School of Business, USC Marshall School of Business, Michigan Ross School of Business, NYU Stern School of Business, Virginia Darden School of Business, and Washington Foster School of Business.

LOWEST INTERNATIONAL MBA POPULATION – CLASS OF 2025

P&Q 2024 Rank School International Students As A % Of The MBA Class
25 Florida Warrington 22%
19 Texas-Austin McCombs 26%
21 Vanderbilt Owen 29%
31 Penn Wharton 31%
3 Dartmouth Tuck 33%
20 UNC Kenan-Flagler 34%

THE TREND IS SLOWING

The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania led all top-ranked B-schools with 70 countries represented in the class, though Wharton had among the smallest percentages of internationals at 31%. MIT Sloan School of Management was next with 60, followed by Stanford Graduate School of Business and Chicago Booth School of Business at 55 and 54, respectively.

But the data clearly show that international enrollment is slowing. The number of schools with a one-year gain in international enrollment last fall was 11; in fall 2022 it was 22. The number with a decline was 10; the previous fall it was only five schools. (Another four schools were flat year-to-year from 2022 to 2023.) In a two-year window from 2020 to 2022, 27 schools out of 27 saw gains in international ranks; in the two-year window from 2021 to 2023, 20 did.

Moreover, between the fall of 2021 and 2022, the top schools saw much more dramatic international growth, led by Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business jumping 23 percentage points, or 67.6%, to 57%. Foster and Indiana Kelley reported the largest one-year gain from 2022 to 2023: Both are up 13 percentage points in that span.

One pitfall in examining international student data is that apples-to-apples comparisons are harder and harder to make between schools, or between past classes at one school, as schools adjust how they categorize students who, for example, have dual citizenship or those born outside the U.S. Some prominent examples:

  • Stanford’s international student community is 36% of the class per the Graduate Management Admission Council’s Graduate Management Education Admissions Reporting Standards; however, 47% of the class are considered international, including DACA and otherwise undocumented, dual citizens (8%) and U.S. permanent residents (3%).
  • At Chicago Booth, 36% of the MBA Class of 2025 are considered international, but 49% are students “born outside U.S.”
  • At Dartmouth Tuck, 33% are international but that number rises to 40% counting dual citizens — but NOT counting Canada.
  • Duke Fuqua School of Business now publishes a number “based on primary citizenship outside the U.S.”: 47%. Duke changed how they report international representation in 2022 to give a more precise number that excludes dual-citizenship. As a result, numbers from past years are not direct comparisons.
  • At Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management, the 29% international population includes foreign nationals, dual citizens and U.S. permanent residents.

MOST COUNTRIES REPRESENTED AT LEADING U.S. B-SCHOOLS

P&Q Rank School International Students As A % Of The MBA Class Countries
31 Penn Wharton 31% 70
14 MIT Sloan 40% 60
1 Stanford GSB 36% 55
11 Chicago Booth 36% 54
6 Duke Fuqua 47% 51
5 Yale SOM 50% 46
10 NYU Stern 48% 46
3 Dartmouth Tuck 33% 40
24 Georgetown McDonough 59% 40

LOOKING AHEAD

Former Missouri State University President Michael Nietzel told the Harvard Crimson in November that the “not very hospitable environment” created for international students by the Trump administration from 2016 to 2020 stymied foreign student enrollment. With Trump vying to return to office, international students may opt to stay home rather that try to move and study in a hostile country. Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Emiliana Vegas adds that higher education in the U.S. is “one of the most expensive in the world” — a major factor for students coming from countries where the exchange rate is less favorable.

However, Nietzel said he anticipates that international enrollment will actually keep rising as the number of American high school seniors declines in the coming years. “There is an attempt to build other kinds of markets for them and international students certainly constitute one of those markets,” he said.

And Vegas said despite the hurdles, there are still incentives for developing countries to send their students to study abroad to grow “their human capital.”

“It’s a dual role,” she said, “where you want to create the conditions for students — both to get a great education, but also for them to be able to use that great education in a labor market that is growing and will pay back the economic return to education that they expect from the investment.”

INTERNATIONAL MBA STUDENTS AS A PERCENTAGE OF THE WHOLE CLASS — CLASSES OF 2022-2025

P&Q 2024 Rank School International Students As A % Of The MBA Class Countries Represented – 2023 Internationals 2022 Internationals 2021 Internationals 2020
1 Stanford GSB 36%* 55 46% 47% 35%
2 Harvard Business School 39% NA 38% 37% 33%
3 Dartmouth Tuck 33%* 40 43% 41% 25%
4 Columbia Business School 47% NA 51% 48% 44%
5 Yale SOM 50% 46 48% 44% 40%
6 Duke Fuqua 47% 51 39%* 47% 38%
7 Cornell Johnson 42% 39 43% 35% 34%
8 Virginia Darden 41% 33 43% 40% 24%
9 Michigan Ross 43% 39 36% 28% 23%
10 NYU Stern 48% 46 44% 32% 32%
11 Chicago Booth 36% 54 37% 39% 30%
12 Northwestern Kellogg 39% NA 38% 36% 26%
13 UCLA Anderson 47% 41** 47% 36% 36%
14 MIT Sloan 40% 60 40% 43% 33%
15 UC-Berkeley Haas 47% 39 41% 37% 30%
16 Carnegie Mellon Tepper 53% 24 56% 34% 28%
17 Washington Foster 56% NA 43% 24% 24%
18 Rice Jones 42% NA 42% 39% 20%
19 Texas-Austin McCombs 26% NA 28% 24% 10%
20 UNC Kenan-Flagler 34% 32 35% 26% 11.5%
21 Vanderbilt Owen 29% 19 31% 25% 10.3%
22 USC Marshall 41% 28 41% 34% 22%
23 Emory Goizueta 48% 17 50% 35% 28%
24 Georgetown McDonough 59% 40 50.2% 37% 27%
25 Florida Warrington 22% 5 16% 23% 17%
27 Georgia Tech Scheller 37% 16 26% 19% 19%
31 Penn Wharton 31% 70 35% 36% 19%
37 Indiana Kelley 58% 18 45% 42% 31%

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