MBA applications rise as other schools falter

The University’s full-time, two-year MBA program counted a 15 percent rise in applications last week as overall applicants to graduate business schools dropped for the fourth straight year.

The increase in popularity for the business school’s Global MBA program came in a year when similar MBA programs at Duke, Yale, Michigan State and Indiana universities reported falls in application numbers between 7 and 21 percent.

Fifty-four percent of programs across the country reported a decline, with the Graduate Management Admission Council reporting a median drop of 22 percent.

The bump brings GW almost back from the school’s lagging application year between 2010 and 2011, when it fell by one-third in just a year. Last fall’s global MBA class included 119 students.

Liesl Riddle, associate dean for GW’s MBA programs, attributed GW’s wider applicant pool to its broad range of academic offerings like entrepreneurship and international management, which go beyond a traditional Wall Street-focused MBA.

“I think that, in many ways, these sort of cross-cutting themes helps GW School of Business appeal to a broader audience and, in many ways, might have helped us as we’ve gone through this moment of economic challenge and turbulence,” she said.

The MBA program was ranked No. 52 in the country by Bloomberg Businessweek and No. 79 internationally by the Financial Times.

The business school’s graduate and professional emphasis has been a main focus for Doug Guthrie in his third year as dean. He has said the school could make its mark internationally by offering specialized education for business leaders, and by adding programs that mix business with a social consciousness.

This fall’s MBA class comes from 18 different countries, Riddle said, part of an effort to raise the diversity levels of the program.

Students at many of the top schools that saw drops in applicants are more likely to go down the tumultuous Wall Street track than are those at GW.

About 12 percent of last year’s MBA graduates at GW went into careers like those on Wall Street, compared to a program like Yale’s which sends nearly a quarter of graduates into financial services jobs.

Aaron Brachman, a senior financial associate at RBC Wealth Management, said D.C. attracts MBA candidates because it offers more jobs outside of financial services.

“Wall Street is not located in D.C., but there are regulatory agencies and other top-tier positions that are not necessarily on Wall Street,” Brachman said.

Andy Brown, a first-year professional MBA student, said the business school’s broader classroom focus likely kept student interest up as Wall Street became less alluring for students after the financial crisis.

“My classmates come from such a diverse range of jobs and industries, and the program itself gives you a very wide range of experiences outside of finance,” Brown said. “If anything, it shows how the MBA can be applied to a host of fields beyond financial institutions.”

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