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New standard for MBA schools

Masters of Business Administration programs in Los Angeles are back to a pre-pandemic style, a return to normalcy that has had varying consequences for the programs, their applicants, and their students.

A recent trend reported by local MBA programs is a decrease in applications from potential domestic students.
“We were actually up overall in total application volume (this year), but it was mostly from international applicants,” said Evan Bouffides, assistant dean and director of MBA admissions at USC Marshall School of Business. “Many schools experienced not only a decrease in the volume of national applications, but also a subsequent decrease in their enrollment.”

USC’s MBA program has been bolstered by the increased ability to recruit international students remotely, which Bouffides saw as a silver lining to the virtual push necessitated by the pandemic.

“In any given class, we might have around 20 countries represented. This year we reached our record and represented 30 home countries,” he said. “We had a lot of performances from parts of the world that we just hadn’t seen before, which is great.”
This year, USC’s MBA program welcomed a class of 190 students, 30 students less than its usual number of 220.

“I think (having fewer national candidates) is a temporary problem,” Bouffides said. “But there is no doubt that as business schools we will need to ensure that we market appropriately and are always on the map for those considering higher management education.”

Bouffides’ assessment is supported by the similar decline in the number of domestic applications experienced by Pepperdine University’s MBA program.
“In the second half of Covid, the demand has really gone down for MBA programs only for domestic students in our full-time or part-time MBA,” said Dr. Arman Davtyan, Assistant Dean of Enrollment Management at Pepperdine’s Graziadio Business School.

Covid dynamics

At the height of the pandemic, Davtyan said, there were more reasons to pursue an MBA.
“The students were really looking for a way out of the crisis,” he said. “They were less sure of their career prospects and the general anxiety caused many people to enroll in a commercial program.”

Free time was an important factor for students pursuing an MBA in previous semesters, when the pandemic froze or disrupted the efficiency of business sectors and recreational activities. Additionally, universities have given prospective students more reason to apply for MBAs with the extension of admissions cycles and the reduction or removal of standardized test requirements.

According to business education news journal Poets & Quants, there was an average increase of nearly 23% in application volume at most top schools around the start of the pandemic.

Mark Brostoff, assistant dean and director of MBA Career Services at USC.

About two years later, students have now mostly returned to in-person instruction and are enjoying it, according to Mark Brostoff, assistant dean of USC Marshall and director of MBA Career Services.

USC ranks second on the Business Journal’s list of MBA programs (see page 22).
Tuition for USC’s full-time MBA, a two-year program, is approximately $138,000 in total. Students are automatically considered for merit-based scholarship opportunities based on factors such as work experience, educational history, test scores, and interviews.

MBA from Pepperdine

According to Davtyan, the key factors of Pepperdine’s MBA program are hands-on education, seasoned faculty, and ethics.
The average class size is 26, a result of the program’s emphasis on close collaboration between students and instructors.

“We want students to be able to go to class in the evening, learn something and turn around the next morning and be able to apply it in their workplace,” Davtyan said.
Some Pepperdine faculty members are seasoned professionals who do consulting work or run businesses in addition to their university positions. According to Davtyan, these faculty members inject the principles trained in their respective companies into the school curriculum.

The university also links its teaching to value systems and ethics that emphasize that students look beyond financial success alone. Davtyan said students engage in business according to ethical principles that are part of Pepperdine’s religious heritage. The full-time MBA can be completed in 12, 15, or 20 months and costs around $100,000.

Much like USC, Pepperdine offers different types of MBAs and offers merit-based scholarships, which have become increasingly important in marketing the program.
Davtyan noted that the current promising job market makes it difficult to attract new students. Pepperdine’s MBA award is also a factor, he said.

“I think qualified and educated professionals have very little difficulty in securing solid positions and being well paid, so in this context, enrolling MBA students has become even more competitive,” Davtyan said.

He added that in order to keep pace with students’ curriculum desires and preferences, Pepperdine’s MBA program analyzes industries and degree types that are shifting in and out of demand. This analysis led the program to consider new degree specializations and short certificate programs.

“I think short-term, six-week or eight-week or 12-week programs, these types of skills-based education opportunities are becoming more and more intriguing for us and hopefully will be at the height,” Davtyan said.
Pepperdine’s MBA program is ranked #3 on the Business Journal’s list. The UCLA program took first place.

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