It’s November 2024 And Donald Trump Has Been Reelected. How Do B-Schools Respond?

Petia Whitmore, founder of My MBA Path and a former dean of MBA admissions at Babson College, agrees that a Trump reelection is something on everyone’s mind in leadership at U.S. and global business schools. The questions about what would happen, she says, “lead to concerns that I’m sure the schools are not taking lightly.”

If Donald Trump wins in November, Whitmore tells P&Q, “there could be numerous challenging implications for business school and their students.” Among them: “The potential for continued restrictive immigration policies affecting students and also faculty is far from trivial. The political climate under Trump might affect the perception of the U.S. as a welcoming destination for international students. Stricter visa policies will undoubtedly lead to a decline in international applications and enrollments, with increased uncertainty and difficulty in obtaining student and work visas.”

Moreover, Whitmore adds, “The concerns over safety, discrimination, and the overall treatment of international students in the U.S. could further affect the ability of business schools to attract a strong global applicant pool.”

A ‘NATIVIST, ANTI-GLOBALIST INWARD TURN’ FOR AMERICA?

Kellogg MBA Rajdeep Chimni, founder of Admissions Gateway in India, is this year's top-ranked MBA admissions consultant for the second consecutive year

Rajdeep Chimni, founder of Admissions Gateway in India and a Kellogg MBA: “Especially in India, students take great comfort from the OPT and look for schools with a STEM designation to even get an extended OPT period”

Paul Bodine, founder and president of Admitify, says U.S. business schools are the world’s best — due in large part to their intellectual capital and traditions and feeder relationships with the world’s leading corporations. But another big reason for their sterling reputation, he says, is “because of the economy and society they represent: free, tolerant, diverse, aspirational.” And that’s where Trump is a grave threat.

“A Trump reelection would signal to the world that America is continuing its nativist, anti-globalist inward turn and is no longer a welcoming place for other countries’ best and brightest,” Bodine tells P&Q. “A Trump reelection might mean one or two more conservative Supreme Court justices, which might result in decisions (e.g., around gun rights, religion, immigration, sexuality, affirmative action, etc.) that make America feel less tolerant and welcoming to diverse non-U.S. applicants. His reelection would be followed by closed-door visa/immigration policies that would make it more challenging for ambitious international talent to work and settle in the U.S.

“A Trump reelection would weaken American business schools by forcing them to focus more on U.S. applicants as international applicants look elsewhere. This would potentially weaken their brands vis-à-vis non-U.S. competitors in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. In terms of the specific reactions of U.S. business schools to a second Trump term, they would pivot pragmatically. This could involve more marketing spend on non-U.S. applicant pools (to offset the ‘Trump effect’), less overt diversity/inclusion language in MBA applications as America steps further away from affirmative action ideas, and perhaps more money for lobbying to defend business schools’ and universities’ interests in an anti-education Trump presidency.”

‘AN EROSION OF SYSTEMS THAT WE ARE USED TO’

Betsy Massar, founder of Master Admissions, says B-schools would initially respond to Trump’s reelection as they did when SCOTUS ended affirmative action in college admissions: “Everyone had a lot of meetings and played wait-and-see for a while,” she says. “In the end they changed some policies but they’re still trying to figure out how to handle all of the ancillary issues that arise from that case as well as other knock-on effects. That was just one very narrow aspect of policy that was changed.

But with a second Trump administration, Massar adds, “policies across the board will change and some of them very quickly, ranging from student loans to immigrant visas to academic freedom to vendettas against his critics, some of whom have come from academia.

“Academic institutions are not exactly known for rapid response. So I think it’s going to be an erosion of systems that we are used to. It will certainly make U.S. schools less attractive because of the uncertainty academically and economically.”

CONTRASTING WORLDVIEWS ON THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

Rajdeep Chimni, founder of Admissions Gateway, an Indian consultancy, says foremost on the minds of many of his clients is that Donald Trump’s last tenure saw efforts to make it harder to obtain work permits, proposed rules that would put in question visa-holders’ status, and initially even a travel ban on people from seven countries. “There were also policies discussed that could bar the entry of family members into the U.S., which would create an untenable situation for H1-B visa holders,” Chimni tells P&Q. Trump also wanted to curtail or eliminate the OPT (Optional Practical Training) program, “with views that the F1 visa was meant solely for students to study in the USA and not for students to later work in the U.S. on an OPT. While the OPT was not restricted the optics were unnerving for international students. Especially in India, students take great comfort from the OPT and look for schools with a STEM designation to even get an extended OPT period.”

In comparison, Chimni says, President Joe Biden “provides an optimistic view on the best and brightest contributing to U.S. society and growing in the USA. In the end it is about optics: Students attending MBA programs in the U.S. want to feel welcome rather than uncertain. The fee for U.S. MBA programs is high, and if Donald Trump returns to the presidency many international students may not feel confident of taking huge student loans to study in an uncertain environment. While the top 10 B-schools will probably not suffer because of brand recognition, lower-ranked schools could definitely see applications decline as students balk at taking higher perceived risk to attend.”

It’s a debate that hits home for Chimni, Poets&Quants‘ top-ranked MBA admissions consultant in both 2022 and 2023, who adds in closing: “Hope I can still get a U.S. visa haha.”

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