Unites States universities have long attracted international talent to their graduate programs in business administration. Bright students from around the globe were willing to pay the premium tuition prices for education and perhaps a share of the American dream. This is changing. The application rate to MBA programs in the U.S. is on the decline. There are several factors that suggest why.
The largest, as one would guess, is cost. The top-ranked full-time MBA program by the Statistics Portal, was Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, where costs to students total $117,604 to complete the two-year program. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business was second with a cost of $136,420 to complete the two-year program. The cost of MBA programs has outpaced the salaries that recent grads are able to make.
Another factor for the international student is the length of the typical U.S. MBA program, which is usually two full years. European universities have realized this and have created a shorter, one-year curriculum that is drawing these students away from the U.S.
The MBA degree may be the canary in the coal mine, so to speak, for the U.S. college and university system. If you look at the top tier schools in the chart above, applications to their programs are at all-time highs, while programs further down the list are struggling to gain enrollment. The unforeseen loss of international students coupled with the expectations of continually higher tuition have caught these universities off guard. The same can be said for their undergraduate programs, where the chasm is much greater between tuition and ability to obtain a job at a competitive salary. The watering down of the quality of higher education is finally coming to be. As more and more students turn to the trades and away from college, these schools will be in a precarious position. They will have to lower tuition to attract students, which means that class sizes will inevitably get larger. As with any industry, education has its business cycle and will ultimately downsize the number of institutions to meet the falling demand. Value will only remain in the top tier schools.
The vast majority of international students that come to MBA programs want to remain in the U.S. This is a good thing. Students are able to stay for a year after graduating under the Optional Practical Training program, but only 4 months in the UK. Intellectual property in the form of advanced training in education granted to foreign students should be closely watched. One should ask what benefit is there to the United States to train Chinese students in business and the sciences, only to take that knowledge back to a geopolitical system that is dynamically different from ours. In war terms, this might be considered aiding and abetting the enemy.
In the end, this international student exodus will be a good thing for all. American universities will consolidate, with the top tier schools continuing to dominate demand as they always have, with lesser programs leaving the business. The cost will always remain high at Duke and Penn, but perhaps the supply and demand of middle and lower tier schools will allow for a more affordable education. For the international student, a plethora of opportunity exists outside the U.S., without worries of visas. The rise in popularity of European programs, as well as the advance of Asian programs, has given the international student more, and affordable options. Again, perhaps another win-win scenario.