New Norms for MBA Schools

The return of the Los Angeles MBA program to the way it was operating before the pandemic, back to normal, has had a different impact on programs, applicants and students.

A recent trend reported by local MBA programmes is a decline in applications from prospective domestic students.
“Our total applications (this year) are actually up overall, but mostly from international applicants,” said Evan Bouffides, assistant dean and director of MBA admissions at USC’s Marshall School of Business. “Many schools not only have fewer domestic applications, but also fewer enrollments.”

USC’s MBA program has been boosted by the ability to enroll international students remotely, which Bouffides sees as a silver lining in the virtual push necessary for the pandemic.

“In any given class, we may have about 20 countries represented. This year, we set a record, representing 30 countries of origin,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of reps from all over the world that we haven’t seen before, which is fantastic.”
This year, USC’s MBA program enrolled 190 students, 30 fewer than the usual 220.

“I think (the decline in domestic applicants) is a temporary issue,” Bouffides said. “But there’s no question that as a business school, we’re going to have to make sure we’re marketed right and make sure we’re still on the map for those who are thinking about graduate management education.”

Bouffides’ assessment is supported by an equally reduced number of domestic applications for Pepperdine’s MBA program.
“During the second half of the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for purely domestic MBA programs in our full-time or part-time MBA programs has really dropped.” Aman, Assistant Dean for Enrollment Management at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School Arman Davtyan.

Covid dynamics

At the height of the pandemic, Davtyan said, there were even more reasons to pursue an MBA.
“Students are really looking for a way to get through the crisis,” he said. “They are less certain about their career prospects, and general anxiety is driving many to enroll in business courses.”

At a time when the pandemic freezes or disrupts the efficiency of the business sector and recreational activities, free time is an important factor for students pursuing an MBA in their first few semesters. What’s more, colleges are giving prospective students more reasons to apply for an MBA by extending admissions rounds and reducing or eliminating standardized testing requirements.

At the start of the pandemic, applications to most top schools were up nearly 23% on average, according to business education news outlet Poets & Quants.

Mark Brostoff, Assistant Dean and Director of MBA Career Services
Mark Brostoff, Assistant Director and Director of USC MBA Career Services.

About two years later, Mark Brostoff, associate dean and director of MBA Career Services at USC Marshall, said students are now largely returning to in-person instruction and taking advantage of it.

The University of Southern California is ranked first. 2 In the business magazine’s list of MBA programs (see page 22).
The USC full-time MBA program is a two-year program with a total tuition fee of approximately $138,000. Students are automatically considered for merit-based scholarship opportunities based on factors such as work experience, academic history, test scores, and interviews.

Pepperdine’s MBA

According to Davtyan, the key elements of Pepperdine’s MBA program are practical instruction, experienced faculty and ethics.
The average class size is 26, a result of the program’s emphasis on close collaboration between students and teachers.

“We want students to be able to go to class at night, learn something, turn around the next morning, and be able to apply it in their workplace,” Davtyan said.
Some of Pepperdine’s faculty are seasoned professionals who, in addition to their university assignments, work as consultants or run companies. According to Davtyan, these teachers infuse the classroom curriculum with principles formed through their respective businesses.

The university also links its teaching to a value system and ethics that emphasize students going beyond financial success. Davtyan said students conduct business according to ethical principles that are part of the Pepperdine tradition of faith. A full-time MBA can be completed in 12, 15 or 20 months and costs approximately $100,000.

Just like USC, Pepperdine offers different types of MBAs and offers merit-based scholarships, which are becoming increasingly important in marketing the program.
Davtyan points out that the current promising job market has difficulty attracting new students. The Pepperdine MBA’s price tag is also a factor, he said.

“I think skilled and educated professionals have little difficulty in getting strong positions and earning high salaries, so recruiting MBA students becomes more competitive in this context,” Davtyan said.

To keep up with student aspirations and course preferences, Pepperdine’s MBA program is analyzing which industries and degree types are moving in and out of demand, he added. This analysis led the program to consider new degree specialties and short-term certificate programs.

“I think short-term, six-, eight- or 12-week programs, these skills-oriented educational opportunities are becoming more attractive and promising for us,” Daftian said.
Pepperdine’s MBA program is ranked #1. 3 on the list of business magazines. The UCLA program topped the list.

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