Kaplan Test Prep Survey: Depressed Outlook for Business Schools Offers a Hint of Optimism for Potential MBA Applicants

Note to editors: Kaplan is a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC)

Press Contact: Russell Schaffer, russell.schaffer@kaplan.com, 212.453.7538
Twitter: @KapTestNews, @KaplanGMATPrep

New York, NY (November 13, 2019) ⁠— Between 2014 and 2018, the number of accredited full-time MBA programs in the United States dropped 9 percent to 1,189 — a trend that a new Kaplan Test Prep survey of over 150 business schools across the United States finds is likely to continue*. Of the admissions officers polled, 63 percent predict that the downward trajectory won’t abate—not surprising, as this comes at a time when applications to business schools across the United States are suffering their worst drought in many cycles, even at top-ranked programs. 

The Kaplan survey finds the drop in applications is being fueled by multiple domestic and global trends. When asked what the biggest factor behind the application drop is, 42 percent say it is because the strong economy is keeping prospective students in the workforce; 22 percent say it is because of lingering doubts about the value of an MBA; 18 percent say it is because potential international students put off by the current U.S. political climate are deciding to attend business school in other countries instead; 13 percent say it is because the cost of a business education is too high; and 5 percent say it is because prospective students perceive fewer jobs require an MBA than in years past.

Notably, even as B-schools face declining application numbers, the outlook is brighter for their students: new data show that graduates from top programs continue to rake in record salaries and bonuses.

“What we would say to those who are on the fence about going to business school is that as far as admissions odds and earning potential go, this is one of the best times in recent memory to enroll and earn your MBA. Lower application volume means less competition to get in, though to be clear, top-ranked programs are never hurting for top talent. It’s also the case that starting salaries and bonuses for newly minted graduates from some business schools have hit record levels, which shows us that the ROI for an MBA is still strong,” said Jeff Thomas, executive director of graduate programs, Kaplan Test Prep. 

Thomas noted that while this may be a good time for aspiring students, the decline in applicant volume is causing many MBA programs across the United States to think about the financial sustainability and need to innovate the traditional two-year, brick and mortar model, or to invest more comprehensively in online and part-time programs to meet students’ changing educational demands. 

“To adapt to students’ changing learning preferences and with a likely eye towards the future of Graduate Management Education, many business schools have invested significantly in their online MBA programs, a majority of which grew in application volume or at least kept pace with last year. We will be tracking these statistics and trends carefully to keep aspiring business school students updated with the most accurate information. The most successful applicants are the most informed ones,” Thomas said.

Kaplan will release additional results from its 2019 survey over the next few months, which will provide applicants and the Graduate Management Education community with additional insights and analysis. 

To schedule an interview about the survey results and MBA admissions landscape, contact Russell Schaffer at 212.453.7538 or russell.schaffer@kaplan.com

*Based on the results of a Kaplan Test Prep survey conducted by phone between August and November 2019. The survey included responses from 156 business schools, including 35 of the top 100, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

About Kaplan Test Prep

Kaplan Test Prep (www.kaptest.com) is a premier provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. Established in 1938, Kaplan is the world leader in the test prep industry. With a comprehensive menu of online offerings as well as a complete array of print books and digital products, Kaplan offers preparation for more than 200 standardized tests, including entrance exams for secondary school, college and graduate school, as well as professional licensing exams for attorneys, physicians and nurses. Among those tests are the SAT®, PSAT®, ACT®, GRE®, GMAT®, LSAT®, MCAT®, NCLEX-RN® and bar exams. Kaplan also provides private tutoring and graduate admissions consulting services.

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