Haas School of Business faces nationwide decline in MBA applications

Elina Blazhiyevska/Staff

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The business schools of Harvard University, Duke University and UC Berkeley — ranked among the highest in the nation — have one recent issue in common: a drop in MBA applications.

Lower graduate business school applicant numbers have been a nationwide phenomenon, with the Haas School of Business seeing a 7.5 percent drop from fall 2017 to fall 2018. According to Executive Director of the Haas Full-Time MBA Program Admissions Morgan Bernstein, Haas is considering new degree programs as one way to attract applicants.

“Application volume for the full-time MBA programs softened last year for many top business schools, and Berkeley Haas was no exception,” Bernstein said in an email. “Our 7.5% decline was in line with what many of our peer programs reported.”

According to the Financial Times, student preference for a global perspective may have reduced applications to U.S. business programs — this may have driven many students to apply to European schools instead.

Haas School of Business junior Fiona Massana said that although she plans to stay in the U.S., she understands that many may value an international experience in graduate school.

“Since business has become more of an online platform, people are expanding internationally,” Massana said. “I would say people either want to speak another language or get a different perspective.”

Haas graduate student Rebecca Rowe chose to apply to Haas because of its reputation and name recognition. She decided against applying outside the U.S. because she had already studied abroad during her undergraduate years. Rowe noted, however, that business students can benefit from “getting that global perspective.”

According to the U.S. News & World Report, the Haas School of Business is the seventh-best business school in the nation and has the second-best undergraduate program after the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Beginning in fall 2018, Haas launched a new program for incoming freshmen who want to experience business internationally. The Global Management Program, or GMP, expands on Haas’s existing Global Management concentration to offer classes to incoming students, assistant dean of the undergraduate program at Haas Erika Walker said in an email. It is designed to prepare students for international careers, according to Walker.

Walker said Haas expanded the existing concentration because students find global exposure “increasingly important.”  She added that GMP was created to accomplish the school’s goal of emphasizing international business as one of the three “strategic pillars” for undergraduate education.

Walker said 33 students are currently enrolled in the GMP, and that Haas will continue the program in 2019. As a part of the program, freshmen come to UC Berkeley for eight weeks during the summer and then study abroad in London through the campus’s Global Edge program. According to the GMP website, the freshmen are able to grow their knowledge of what “makes culture and business thrive.”

With international experience available to Haas students, Bernstein noted a different factor in the decrease in applications: the lure of staying in the workforce instead of obtaining an MBA.

“Variations in volume are to be expected since there are many factors at play – the relative strength of the US economy being one of them,” Bernstein said in an email.

Despite the decrease in applications, Bernstein said she is sure that students will continue to choose Haas for their MBA.

“Our degree is ranked among the best,” Bernstein said in the email. “Students continue to choose Berkeley Haas for our distinctive culture and Defining Leadership Principles as well as our Bay Area Location.”

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.

Correction(s):
Because of misinformation from a source, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Morgan Bernstein is the executive director of the Haas Full-Time MBA Program. In fact, she is the executive director of the Haas Full-Time MBA Program Admissions.