Why US ranking business schools are losing vital foreign students

*Visa restrictions, deadly COVID-19 pandemic, and virtual classes are forcing prized international candidates to shun the American MBA

* What we need to worry about is: Are we actually taking actions that are reducing the number of people who want to come to this country and cutting off the supply of good talent for our economy? ─ Bill Boulding, Dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

Despite that total enrollments at the 20 top US schools increased by by 1.7 percent from 2019, and besides the far-reaching effects of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the number of foreign students entering America’s top business schools is down sharply because of tight visa rules.

It was learnt the overall enrollments and applications are up—a bad sign for the United States (US) programmes that depend on international Master in Business Administration (MBA) candidates for diversity and full tuition.

International students in the entering class of the 20 top US MBA programmes, as ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek, declined 14% from 2019.

The development followed a 1.2% decrease from 2018, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek Best B-Schools analysis of admissions data.

Report indicates if all the elite programs were jammed together, foreign students would make up 29.5% of the class that began at most schools in August or September 2020, down from 34.9% two years ago.

Report stated that the decline comes as dimmer prospects for networking—and earning—take some of the shine off the American MBA.

Foreign students are frustrated by the loss of face time and relationship building as classes go online to curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus. They’re wary of paying full freight, only to miss out on the jobs and salaries that drew them to the US in the first place.

Prestigious summer internships go virtual, and employers balk at higher barriers to sponsoring international graduates for work visas.

And they face the additional stress of distant travel as the virus surges.

Specifically, at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School, which experienced one of the sharpest decreases, about 50 international students, or about 15% of this year’s entering class, deferred their entry after the school announced a blanket deferral policy for foreign students.

Spokesperson Danielle Richie says that visa and border issues and the political climate could help explain a plunge of almost 50% in the share of foreign enrollments from the 2019 admissions cycle,

Duke University’s Fuqua School is one of the few where international enrollments were flat from the year before, but Dean Bill Boulding says the general trend is still troubling.

Boulding stated: “I try to make it consistently crystal clear that no one is going to feel sorry for Harvard, Stanford, and Duke if our applications are down.

“What we need to worry about is: Are we actually taking actions that are reducing the number of people who want to come to this country and cutting off the supply of talent [that] is good for our economy?”

Second-year students, too, may be unable or unwilling to return to the US to continue their education.

James Theuerkauf, a German student at Harvard Business School (HBS), is deferring his second year to work on a pandemic-related startup.

After reading about clothing retailers around the world burning cash as they sat on excess product, he and a friend launched a predictive-analytics software company to help them to manage inventory.

Most of his friends who have deferred, from Germany and elsewhere, are doing virtual internships or coding boot camps as they wait for in-person instruction to resume—or simply to get into the US, Theuerkauf says.

He said: “People are doing internships—mostly not in the US but in their home countries, in Latin America, in Europe.

“For many Americans, it was like, ‘Oh yes, fine, we can just defer and we can just stay in Boston, we’ll get the MBA experience’ ” hanging out together, even if classes are virtual.”

“For us, that was a bigger issue, just because of the location.”

He’s based in London for now, working on his startup, and hasn’t decided when—or whether—he’ll go back to Harvard.

Meanwhile, total enrollments at the top 20 US schools are up 1.7% from last year, Bloomberg Businessweek found.

Even before the pandemic, foreign applications were down for the third year in a row, according to a 2019 report by the Graduate Management Admission Council, which cited stricter immigration policy.

According to report, uncertainty over entry to the US adds heft to growing competition from overseas MBA programmes.

That’s both an institutional and a financial problem for US schools, where foreign students have proved a fiscal boon.

The vast majority pay in full, a bill that can top $80,000 annually for a two-year programme.

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