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Seventy-three percent of two-year M.B.A. programs in the United States saw declines in applicants last year, according to a report from the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Reports of declines in M.B.A. applications have been circulating for two years now, but the GMAC survey is generally considered definitive.

"Fifty-eight percent of programs report domestic application declines, and 74 percent report international application declines. Among programs that responded to both this year’s and last year’s surveys, total applications were down 10.8 percent, domestic applications were down 6.7 percent, and international applications were down 17.1 percent," the report says.

As for why, the report cites two reasons. One is the decline, at many institutions, of international applicants. The second is the economy.

"In times of economic expansion -- like the current period following the Great Recession -- the opportunity cost of pursuing a degree is higher and candidates are less likely to opt to leave the workforce and pursue a degree," the report says.

Nearly two-thirds of programs (65 percent) reported reducing class size this year.

With pressure growing on two-year M.B.A. programs, more colleges have been starting one-year M.B.A. programs, but those programs are not doing well, either.

The survey found that 58 percent of them saw declines in applications this year. And applications were down 18.6 percent.

Online programs continue to see growth. Most reported either growth (50 percent) or level applications (10 percent).

All of the so-called M7 or very elite business schools reported drops in M.B.A. applications this year, according to a survey by Poets and Quants. The drops ranged from 2.6 percent at Columbia University to 8.2 percent at the University of Chicago. Despite these drops, the business schools are all reporting stellar statistics on students and graduates.

The Story Abroad

The picture abroad is much more encouraging.

  • Nearly two in three European business schools (63 percent) reported application increases.
  • In Asia-Pacific region, 63 percent of programs were reporting increases, and 9 percent were reporting stable applicant pools.
  • In China, 73 percent reported increasing applications.
  • In India, 50 percent saw application growth, and 11 percent saw stability.

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