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Higher Ed Bubble Update: Grads Ditching MBAs

For years, MBAs have ruled the roost as the most popular graduate degree in America. In 2010, CBS estimated that MBAs accounted for 22 percent of all master’s degrees for men, and 11 percent for women. But now, as with law degrees, the massive commitment of time and resources these degrees entail is scaring away prospective students.

Business school applications have dropped for the fourth straight year, according to the Wall Street Journal:

The median number of applications world-wide fell 22% in 2012 for the two-year degrees, after a nearly 10% decline last year. For many programs, the losses are off of multiyear highs that occurred as young professionals sought refuge and new skills in academia amid the financial crisis. But prolonged economic uncertainty is leaving many prospective students wary of the significant investment of both time and money required for a two-year, full-time program.

Some of the statistics are a mixed bag. Although applications to traditional full-time, two-year programs have dropped, many part-time programs have actually seen applications rise over the past few years.

Although the decline may represent a short-term counter to a long-term trend, it shouldn’t be terribly surprising. As more and more students graduate into a tough work environment saddled with crushing debt and little work experience, prospective students are looking at programs with a more skeptical eye. Increasingly, young people are deciding that the degree isn’t worth the expense, and even quality MBA programs are beginning to feel the pinch.

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