Executive MBA Apps Fall in the U.S.

More than half the Executive MBA programs in the U.S. are reporting declines in application volume, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reported today (Sept. 13). Some 53% of programs responding to GMACs annual application survey said applications declined in 2011 over 2010.

Admission directors largely laid the blame for the decline on the economy. The continuing economic crisis was causing companies to cut education reimbursement budgets and individuals to “hang on to their money in uncertain times,” GMAC said.

“In the last two years more people were willing to pay from their own pocket for education,” an unidentified B-school respondent told GMAC. “As companies cut educational budgets, however, the biggest problem turned out to be that companies refused to give people time off for education as well.”

GMAC said the average acceptance rate for EMBA programs this year is estimated to be 74%, with an 84% enrollment rate. By comparison, the acceptance rate for full-time MBA programs is 44%, while the acceptance rate for part-time MBA programs is 73%.

The survey’s results are based on responses from 67 Executive MBA programs which received 5,352 applications for the fall 2011-2012 class. GMAC said the number of applications received per program varied greatly, from just less than ten to more than 590. The average number of applications received was 81, down slightly from 97 reported in 2010 survey results. In the U.S. however, the average number of applicants for responding EMBA programs was only 69 with nine foreign applicants and 15 female applicants.

By region, added GMAC, European EMBA programs fared considerably better than their U.S. counterparts. In Europe, 75% of the responding programs reported an increase or no change in application volume.

Despite the downturn in the U.S., respondents told GMAC that the quality of the candidate pool remained strong. Some 95% of EMBA programs indicated that their applicants were as qualified or more qualified than applicants in 2010.

EMBA respondents, said GMAC, characterized their applicants as “getting more sophisticated and demanding,” often looking for more than just business skills. Some said that these candidate qualities have had an impact on program class offerings. “The new trend of the program is classes on personal development, personal leadership, art and business, not only professionals skills,” one respondent told GMAC.

Part-time MBA programs in the U.S., meantime, experienced varying rates of growth, the study found. “Overall, 56% of part-time programs in the Northeast reported increases in applications, compared to 44% in the South, 30% in the Midwest, and 29% in the West.

Overall, 109 part-time MBA programs participated in the survey, accounting for 17,247 applications for their 2011-2012 class. The number of applications received per program varied greatly, GMAC said, from just less than five to more than 1,250. The average number of applications received fell to 158, from 185 reported in 2010 survey results.

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