GMAC Report Shows A Decline In Applications For Full-Time MBA Programs

August 27, 2010

Professor talking in front of students in a classroomAre less people interested in earning MBAs? What does this say about the usefulness of business degrees in today's economy? The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) has released its Application Trends 2010 Survey Report of the demand for worldwide graduate management education in an attempt to answer those questions and more.

The survey analyzed responses from 665 graduate management programs at 327 business schools, including 476 MBA programs, 156 specialized master's programs and 33 doctoral programs in business. These schools come from 39 countries and 39 different states within the U.S.

According to The Wall Street Journal, after years of growth, applications to full-time M.B.A. programs have dropped 2% for the class entering this fall. Applications to online programs dropped 4% and part-time program applications fell 7%. However, the GMAC itself says the survey illustrates that these part-time programs might be emerging from a two year period of slow application growth since 43% of the part-time programs included in the survey reported a year-over-year increase in applications volume, just as in 2009.

Bloomberg Businessweek attributes this decline to the current economic situation. As one survey participant said, "Last year, the financial crisis brought more people to seek further education. This year, as the economy picked up, the applications are more realistic." Application volume trends do have a cyclical nature in general, however, so this could also merely indicate that full-time MBA programs have reached a natural turning point after exhibiting years of strong growth.

On the other hand, 59% of Executive M.B.A. programs reported an increase in applications, reversing a three-year downward trend. These programs target people with substantial work experience under their belts. Bloomberg Businessweek suspects this could also point towards a recovering economy, since the sharp rise in EMBA applications could signify companies' willingness to once more send employees to these programs. That practice had pretty much disappeared the last few years since EMBA programs have such high costs.

Specialized programs also saw a boost in applications. 60% of master's degree programs in finance, accounting and management received more applications in 2010 than they did in 2009. Individual schools have reported similar gains in their own unique programs as well. For instance, Vanderbilt reported swelling interest in its Health Care M.B.A. program and Baruch College's Zicklin School of Business saw an 11% increase in applicants to its Masters in Accounting program.

The Wall Street Journal sheds some light on this growth, explaining that specialty programs typically last only 12 months instead of two years like a full-time M.B.A. By their very nature, specialty programs also delve deeply into subjects valued by certain employers like international banking or financial mathematics.

Dave Wilson, president and chief executive officer of GMAC, reported in the press release, "The findings from this survey underscore the importance of flexibility and creativity in delivering management education. People can always derive great value from going to business school; our surveys attest to this fact. But many changing factors affect the kinds of programs that best meet their needs. Applicants need to find the very best fit for their own game plan."

Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff


"Applications to Executive MBA Programs Rise Sharply," gmac.mediaroom.com, August 25, 2010

"Application Trends 2010 Survey Report," gmac.com, Graduate Management Admission Council

"M.B.A. Applications Muted," online.wsj.com, August 26, 2010, Diana Middleton

"MBA Application Numbers Reach 'Turning Point,'" businessweek.com, August 25, 2010, Geoff Gloeckler

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