FAYETTEVILLE -- Applications were "moderately down" for students enrolling this year in the part-time Master of Business Administration program at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in a time of decreasing MBA applications nationally, according to a UA report.
The school is also revising its separate, full-time MBA program, having temporarily halted admissions after enrolling a cohort of full-time students in January 2017.
But "we didn't shut down because of any weakness or the lack of applications," said Vikas Anand, executive director of MBA programs and graduate innovation with UA's Sam M. Walton College of Business.
The next incoming class for the full-time program is scheduled to arrive in Fayetteville in fall 2019 to study under a changed curriculum, Anand said.
"The motivation to change was that, in reality, the skills that are needed from students have changed. And if we don't change, even if we are doing well now, four or five years from now we are going to have trouble," Anand said.
Nationally, a survey of schools by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that "most U.S. MBA programs of all types report declines in application volumes this year, including 70 percent of U.S. full-time two-year MBA programs."
Application volume at 405 U.S. MBA programs fell to 140,864 from 150,749, a dip of 6.6 percent.
UA's response to the survey this year showed that applications to its part-time MBA program were "moderately down" in the range of 11 to 20 percent, with a total of 104 applications, according to documents released by the university under the state's public disclosure law. The incoming group was expected to total 65 students, down from 71 students a year earlier.
The university has two distinct MBA programs. The Executive MBA involves students taking online courses and meeting one Saturday a month on the Fayetteville campus, Anand said.
"Usually when the economy is doing well, with unemployment below 5 percent, that's a natural cycle," Anand said when asked why Executive MBA applications were down.
He said UA is trying to "build our footprint" in Kansas City and Dallas to recruit students willing to drive to Fayetteville occasionally.
Several universities in Arkansas offer Master of Business Administration programs, including Arkansas State University, the University of Central Arkansas, Southern Arkansas University and Henderson State University.
The schools offer programs in varying formats and, in responding to questions from the Democrat-Gazette, generally reported strong enrollment totals this fall.
At Henderson State University, "I don't have a number as far as applications, but I can tell you it continues to trend upwards," said Lonnie Jackson, associate professor of management and MBA director.
Michael Hargis, dean of the UCA College of Business, said in an email that enrollment has increased this fall in the university's MBA program compared with a year earlier.
Aaron Street, a spokesman for Southern Arkansas University, said in an email that MBA enrollment increased to 105 students this fall compared with 92 the same time last year.
Arkansas State University spokesman Bill Smith said in an email that the school's MBA enrollment has "seen some decline in face-to-face, but a distinct growth in online."
The UA full-time MBA program previously had a new group of students arrive each January. Anand said the 2017 size was about 40 for the full-time program, describing it as almost the same as the previous year's incoming class.
Nationally, there have been a few closures of full-time MBA programs by schools including Wake Forest University and Virginia Tech University, said John Byrne, chief executive officer and editor-in-chief of Poets & Quants, an online news and information site focusing on graduate business education.
But Anand said there is no chance that UA is shutting down its full-time MBA program.
While Byrne said in an email he had "never heard of a program being suspended while it is undergoing revision," Anand explained that the decision to temporarily halt admissions had to do with shifting student start dates to the fall, as well as the timeline for approval of program changes.
"The scope of the changes were so broad that it took a pretty long time for the approval process," Anand said. The state Department of Higher Education needed to approve the changes and did so this summer, he said.
Recruitment could not happen without the necessary approvals, which would have left only two months or so to recruit an incoming class for this fall, Anand said.
"With a two-month recruitment period for fall, it just didn't make sense to start this fall. That's why we decided to move it to next fall," Anand said.
The length of the program is being adjusted from 16 months to two years.
"There is now a much greater need for students to be trained on analytics," Anand said, adding that the new program will have "more hands-on learning" and "create a much better interaction" between companies and students, with a plan for one-on-one mentoring.
Anand said the dip in applications nationally likely has to do with foreign students going to school elsewhere in part because of changes in U.S. immigration policies.
"The environment for them getting jobs has become really hard. There are MBA programs [at other schools] where 30 percent to 40 percent of their class used to be international," Anand said, adding that UA is "not as dependent" on international student enrollments in its MBA programs.
Metro on 10/31/2018
Print Headline: Applicants for MBAs fall at UA