The Trump Effect? Falling Interest in US Among International Students

Should US business schools wave goodbye to their prospects of attracting the world’s most talented international students?

International MBA applicants are shunning programs in the US as a result of Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric, signalling that the world’s most revered business education market could be losing some of its lustre.

Among US business schools, 64% said they have seen a fall in applications from international students, according to a survey of 324 MBA programs by GMAC, which administers the GMAT entrance test. The survey compares applications received in the six months to March 2017 with the same period ending March 2016.

GMAC links the fall in international MBA applicant interest in US schools with Trump’s ascent to the White House. Between the time of the US presidential election in November 2016 and the end of the year, 37% of non-US business school candidates told GMAC in a survey that they were less likely to apply to study in the US as a result of the election’s outcome. By February, after Trump’s inauguration, that figure surged to 43%.

The biggest concern among US business schools appears to be that Trump will clamp down on immigration, making it more difficult for non-US MBA students to secure the right to work in the country. This already appears to have begun to effect Indian MBA applicants, more than 80% of whom told GMAC that the need to get a job in the host country was a ‘very important’ issue when choosing where to study.

Majority of schools report a fall for first time in a decade, in GMAC survey

The damning findings from GMAC mark the first time in more than a decade that a majority of US schools have reported a fall in demand from international students. US schools rely heavily on overseas students to fill their MBA courses with suitably qualified talent. Schools also cite the benefits of diverse classrooms as a key advantage of studying in an MBA program.

Trump’s stance on immigration seems to be pushing some MBA applicants to countries which are perceived as being more welcoming of international students, such as Canada and in some parts of Europe.

However, it seems that the most revered and established US business schools are faring better than those considered as belonging to the mid-tier, suggesting that strong brands in the US remain attractive to international MBA applicants.

GMAC found that the biggest declines in overseas students applying to schools in the US were reported in the Midwest, with 77% of schools there reporting a fall, year-on-year. In the Northeast and the West Coast of the US, where many of the top-ranked MBA programs are based, applications from non-US students fell in 64% and 48% of cases, respectively. 

Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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