Between 2006 and 2007, the Craig School of Business at Fresno State saw a 25 percent increase in the number of graduate students enrolled, more than any other department. Kaplan Test Prep and Admissionsâ€™ spring survey, of which Fresno State was a part, showed that this trend is not exclusive to Fresno. Many of the nationâ€™s business schools are gaining more attention.
The annual Kaplan survey determines the needs and preferences of students around the country to ensure that their assistance is timely and relevant. Liza Weale, director of graduate programs for Kaplan, said results of this survey may correlate to the current economic crisis where higher education is often the only ticket out of financial hardship.
â€œThe increase interest certainly reflects a historical trend. During market down-trends, nearly all graduate programs will see a rise in popularity,â€ Weale said. â€œMany students and professionals view graduate school as a safe haven to ride out the challenging job market and come out afterwards even more employable.â€
According to the annual survey of 245 business schools and programs across the country, 75 percent of admissions officers expressed that the admissions process is more competitive now than it was in 2005. About 77 percent reported a significant rise in incoming applications to such institutions.
Weale said the number of applications to business schools is the highest itâ€™s been in five years and â€œreflects the second largest year-over-year surge in applications since the survey was first conducted in 2000.â€
Many of the business schools indicated a surge in enrollment in MBA programs, with 55 percent placing greater emphasis on the GMAT entrance exam than other factors.
To deal with the vigorous competition, 92 percent of schools acknowledged that they had used applicantsâ€™ social networking Web sites as further criteria for evaluating prospective students.
Admissions officers were asked to share how they evaluate applicants and how much they plan on expanding seats to serve a growth in activity. The survey discovered that 52 percent of those schools polled were considering expanding by more than 25 percent. Many were urgent on the matter, as 75 percent hoped to have those extra seats available by Fall 2009.
Weale explained there are many reasons why young people are flocking to business or law schools seeking six-year MBAs or law degrees. She said pay was certainly one of the factors, citing a statistic by the U.S. Census Bureau that found that people with masterâ€™s degrees earn around $400,000 more over their lifetimes than those with a bachelorâ€™s.
She also mentioned business certification can be a hedge against unemployment in a time when many are struggling to find consistent work.
â€œData shows thereâ€™s a direct correlation between someoneâ€™s education level and their ability to weather economic downturn,â€ Weale said.
Referencing the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Weale stated that in October 2008, the national unemployment rate was at 6.5 percent. High school graduates were 6.3 percent unemployed while those with graduate degrees were only 2.3 percent.
Boston College, Cornell University, Drexel University and San Diego State were among the colleges that took part in the August survey.