Class Diversity Takes a Hit This Fall

International applications were way down at business schools across the country this year, Alison Damast reported in Monday’s BusinessWeek, and that leaves admissions officers scrambling to rethink their diversity goals going forward.

According to the article, the last application cycle brought a jump in applications from domestic applicants but a sharp decline in international interest. Even at schools where foreign applications held steady, accepted applicants face delays getting visas, BW reveals, and schools worry that many may not make it to class in the coming weeks.

Admissions officers are conducting phone check-ins with students, offering ramped-up orientation programs, and bending over backwards to ensure that students get merit aid or scholarships–all in an effort to ease the fears of hesitant students and meet their diversity goals, BW says. Many anticipate the upcoming application cycle to be equally challenging and hope international enrollment doesn’t drop further in 2010.

“I’m wondering if we’ve hit the peak of international applications,” Brenda Knebel, director of admissions at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management, tells BW. Krannert’s international applications were down 30% this year, although enrollment is still on a par with last year. “I expect the fall to be the same or down, but I don’t expect it to go back to the good old glory days.”

Will employment uncertainties and visa issues drive more applicants to programs overseas? Dave Wilson, president of the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), says that’s almost certain to be the case.

“With so many really good schools coming up around the world, lots of people are saying: ‘Hold it, maybe I’ll get a much better return by staying in my home country than I might if I went to the U.S.,'” Wilson says. “And there’s also the visa situation. It’s getting more and more difficult to get into this country and even more difficult to stay once you get here.”

Visit BusinessWeek for more on why foreign MBAs are disappearing.


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