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Applicant Volume for Full-Time MBA Programs on the Rise

A majority of U.S. business schools reported year-over-year growth in full-time MBA applicant volume for the first time since 2009, according to new data from the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC). For the class that started this year, the median number of applications for full-time, two-year MBA programs rose by nearly 12 percent worldwide, GMAC reports.

GMAC, which administers the GMAT entrance exam, surveyed 683 graduate programs at 328 schools worldwide for its latest Application Trends Survey, the results of which were released yesterday. Application volume increased at 50 percent of two-year programs responding to the survey, up from 43 percent a year ago. Interest in one-year MBA programs also climbed, with 49 percent of programs surveyed reporting a rise in applicant volume this year over last, as compared to 47 percent last year.

“In 2008 and 2009, early in the Great Recession, there was impressive growth in the proportion of full-time MBA programs showing application increases,” Lawrence Rudner, GMAC vice president for research and development, said in a statement. “In 2010 and 2011, there was a subsequent decline, but full-time programs began to rebound in 2012 and look even sturdier today.”

U.S. schools, for their part, reported a median 5 percent gain in applications to full-time, two-year programs. Growth in international applicants accounted for much of the application gains at U.S. schools, GMAC reports, noting that 56 percent of the programs had more international applicants this year than last, helping to compensate for the fact that 59 percent reported fewer domestic applicants year over year.

Several top U.S. business schools were among those reporting jumps in application volume this year, including Columbia Business School (CBS), where applications rose by 6.6 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. Last year, in contrast, applications to CBS’s full-time MBA program dropped a staggering 19 percent. “We are optimistic about where our application trends are going,” CBS spokesman Evan Nowell told the Journal.

One-year MBA programs in the United States also saw significant gains, according to the GMAC survey. Among one-year programs responding to the survey, 55 percent reported application volume increases this year over last. Applications to the one-year program at Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management, for example, jumped by a third, to 235, the Journal reports.

Part-time MBA programs – at least those in the United States – didn’t fare as well in the past year. Among U.S. part-time programs, only 42 percent reported increased or steady application volume in 2013. Last year, 60 percent of U.S. part-time programs reported increases. European part-time programs had a stronger year, with 61 percent reporting increasing or stable application volumes compared to 2012.

Read the complete GMAC Application Trends Survey.