New York I love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down: Columbia & NYU MBA Applications Drop

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With the average Wall Street bonus dropping 13% this year—an all-time low—the professional future for those seeking a sky-high corner office looks bleak. According to a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek, the decline in applications to finance-oriented MBA programs in New York City correlates largely to Wall Street’s public demise.

The Role of Wall Street in Declining Applications?

Columbia Business School and New York University’s Stern sent a promising 50% and 46% of their respective 2012 graduates into the financial sector. Yet these institutions are no longer seen as the gateways to Wall Street they once were. Both programs have become less reliant on Wall Street jobs causing their applicant pools to dwindle more than other top MBA programs in different regions.

Amir Ziv, vice dean and accounting professor at Columbia tells BW “(CBS) is reporting a staggering 19 percent drop in applications to its full-time MBA program. It’s the biggest one-year drop in applications in recent memory.” BW adds that “(Stern) is reporting 3,907 applications for the incoming class of 2012, down from 4,416 in 2011, a decline of nearly 12 percent.”

This decline is in stark contrast with Harvard Business School whose application pool dropped just under 2%, from 9,134 in 2011 to 8,963 in 2012, as well as Wharton who saw less than a 1% decline, from 6,442 in 2011 to 6,408 in 2012.

BW examines statistics that connect the diminishing desire to work in the financial sector with Wall Street’s collapse. “Except for a brief upward blip in 2010, the popularity of finance as a career destination among MBAs has been on a steadily downward trajectory since 2008, the year of the Lehman Brothers collapse. When GMAC surveyed 6,292 graduate business students at 136 schools worldwide earlier this year, just 18 percent of those surveyed declared finance and accounting their top choice, well below products and services and consulting.”

MBAs Still Valuable

A bigger question is: does the drop in applications at CBS and Stern change the value of the degree? According to a BW feature this June, “Top B-Schools for MBA Pay,” out of 57 schools CBS ranked number 4 with a Career Total: $3,164,298 and Stern  ranked number 13 with Career Total: $2,750,304. BW also affirms that while a higher percentage of applicants are now accepted to CBS and Stern, the applicant pool remains competitive and the standards for admission have not changed.

The value of receiving an MBA from CBS or Stern is indisputable. In order to reap the benefits students must let go of the preconceived notion of the MBA as a magic gateway to a seat at the table. Instead they should view the degree as a box of tools, go out into the city and build their own table.

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