MU business school looks to adapt as MBA enrollments decline nationwide


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The number of students applying for Master of Business Administration programs is dropping at universities nationwide. MU is no exception.

In one year, the number of applications to all U.S. graduate business schools nationwide decreased by 6.6 percent. Also, 70 percent of full-time, two-year MBA programs in the U.S. reported fewer applications in 2018 than 2017, according to the Application Trends Survey Report from the Graduate Management Admission Council.

MU MBA enrollment is down

As applications to MBA programs around the country dropped, enrollment at MUís Crosby MBA, a full-time, two-year program at the Trulaske College of Business, has been sliding for several years.

As of November, the Crosby program had 82 students, a 42 percent decrease compared to 2013, when there were 142 students enrolled, according to the website of the Trulaske College of Business.

International student enrollment drops

Nationwide, fewer international students are applying to MBA programs, contributing to the overall decline in applications. Jana Stern, director of graduate programs at the business school, said she thinks a decline in international student enrollment is among the reasons for the Crosby MBA enrollment drop.

International applications for U.S. business schools dropped by 10.5 percent between 2017 and 2018.

This school year, 23 percent of MBA students at MU are from other countries. Thatís down from 2013, when international students made up 31 percent of the MBA program.

Fewer international applications for graduate business schools in the U.S.

Stern said stronger economies in Asia Pacific and South America may be contributing to lower global demand for U.S. MBA programs.

As the national debate over immigration policy intensifies, U.S. companies are less likely to hire international students, Meredith Shaw, director of graduate program career services and corporate engagement at the business school, said.

Shaw said most U.S. companies hiring international students in the Crosby MBA program are large corporations such as Sprint, FedEx, Dish Network and Payless Holdings that are familiar with negotiating the visa process.

Shaw said Crosby MBA invites a local immigration attorney once each academic year to explain the procedure of obtaining U.S. work authorization to the international students.

Along with other MU organizations, such as the international center, the program also pays for student access to GoinGlobal, an online database listing job offers from all around the world and from U.S. companies that have issued H-1B visas Shaw said thatís one of many resources students can access.

The program also offers one-on-one career coaching seminars on how to write a resume and mock interviews. Stern noted that 92.7 percent of the most recent class of Crosby MBA graduates found a job within three months of graduating.

Staying relevant

Despite the drop in enrollment, full-time, two-year MBA programs are still useful, Stern said. They not only offer business education but also teach marketable skills, such as emotional intelligence, critical thinking, teamwork and lifelong learning, which are in high demand, she said.

ďHow you think about a problem, your ability to walk that back and articulate your thoughts concisely and precisely, thatís going to prepare (students) to solve problems that companies donít even know they have yet,Ē Stern said.

The Crosby program gives students opportunities outside the classroom too, said Annie Sieckhaus, a second-year Crosby MBA student from St. Louis. Sieckhaus specializes in health care and will start work at pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly after she graduates in December, she said.

Sieckhaus and three of her classmates went to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to compete the Southeastern Conference MBA Case Competition on April 14 and won a $3,000 prize. The MU team finished in third place among MBA students from all 14 SEC universities, according to a news release from MU College of Business.

In 24 hours, the participants prepared and presented a plan to increase sales of Raising Caneís Chicken Fingers, a fast food company based in Louisiana, according to the release.

Sieckhaus said the team proposed that the company provide tuition assistance for employees who are students or who want to go back to school. They also pitched a mobile application that gives customers points for every purchase, which can increase customer loyalty, she said.

Sieckhaus said the Crosby MBA faculty give students opportunities, such as competing in the SEC competition or going to Nicaragua to complete a consulting project with a local cooperative.

Innovating to survive

Crosby MBA increased its credit requirements from 48 to 57 in August 2014. Stern said this gives students the chance to improve soft skills, like communication, and take career professional development courses.

The soft skills and career courses help students develop their brand and communicate with potential employers, Stern said.

Lycus Woo is a second-year MBA student from Penang, Malaysia, who works at Coegi, a digital marketing company in Columbia. He said his communication class taught him how to do job interviews, network and do business communication in English.

Stern said the program is also considering offering more graduate certificates, which she said can make a studentís resume stand out.

Stern said another factor in the enrollment drop is that new MBA programs, including part-time, online, specialized masterís degree programs, are competing with established, two-year, full-time MBA programs, like Crosby.

Stern also said the school started two online programs in fall 2018 ó a masterís of accountancy and a masterís of finance. Including those two, new programs, the MU business school saw in increase in enrollment in its masterís programs from 2017 to 2018.

MBA programs, especially on-campus programs, need to be flexible and constantly revise and improve the curriculum to survive, Stern said.

ďAs long as MBA programs continue to adopt the spirit of innovation and change as the new normal. Thatís where our future rests,Ē Stern said.

Supervising editor is Brendan Crowley.

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