The heady days are over for business schools. Applications are dropping, fewer companies are recruiting on campus, and potential students are questioning the value of the MBA.
Is the degree losing its luster? Not so fast. As competition for the best corporate jobs increases, an MBA will retain the stature it gained in the 1980s. Even though graduates can no longer expect high-paying jobs to be handed to them on silver platters, "students who go to good schools with good programs are still going to do well in the long run," says David H. Blake, dean of Southern Methodist University's B-school in Dallas.
"SOFT SKILLS." All the soul-searching under way at many business schools is fueling massive change and experimentation for the better. In an effort to make the MBA more relevant, schools are developing closer links with companies, placing greater emphasis on international business, and adding courses in "soft" skills now considered critical to success in the corporate world.
Many of the institutions leading these efforts lack the prominence of Northwestern's Kellogg School. "It's the schools that are lingering on the edge of the top 20 that are changing their curriculums more," says Robert E. Witt, dean of the B-school at the University of Texas at Austin. "They are the ones seeking to become permanently established as national players."
As part of the recently published A Business Week Guide: The Best Business Schools (McGraw-Hill; $14.95), the magazine assembled a list of 20 runners-up to its 1992 Top 20 list (BW--Oct. 26). This next-best bunch, which is not ranked, was selected based on a survey of leading corporate recruiters. The accompanying table provides a snapshot of each. You'll find out the odds of getting through their doors and how much it will cost. You'll also discover how much financial aid each school has to offer (measured on a per capita
basis), and how last year's graduates fared in the job market.
CREATIVE TOUCHES. Most of these schools offer top-notch training, as good as the institutions that garner more acclaim due to their larger endowments and alumni con- nections. Some have been in and out of Top 20 rankings, including the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Rochester, and Yale University. Others are newcomers, such as the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) in Glendale, Ariz., and the B-schools at Georgetown in Washington, D.C. and Tulane in New Orleans.
What sets these schools apart is their ability to develop strengths in niche areas and to offer creative touches to the traditional MBA. At the University of Rochester, a student-led initiative is forging links with PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Xerox so that managers will lead classroom sessions on team building and leadership. Yale offers a degree that covers both public- and private-sector management.
B-schools at Emory in Atlanta and Texas at Austin are pioneering some of the more innovative approaches to management education. They have developed unusual programs with Procter & Gamble to bring fresh ideas to marketing. Emory's "customer business development track" features a summer internship directly tied to the curriculum. The program puts students shoulder-to-shoulder with P&G managers on customer development teams. They are working with P&G customers to write new rules for customer relationships. The program has been so successful that Motorola and Coca-Cola have signed up. Texas, which offers an MBA at a third of Emory's cost, has added Motorola and 3M to its program.
Once the internship is completed, MBA candidates run through a series of seminars with faculty, corporate officials, and students to round out the experience. "In a sense, it's a situation where everyone wins," says Ronald E. Frank, dean of Emory University's School of Business. "Students are presented with complex problems and hands-on experience, we benefit from an improved curriculum and placement, and companies get better-prepared future employees."
To turn out better students, Southern Methodist University--which recently scrapped a one-year MBA program in favor of the more typical two-year experience--and Case Western Reserve in Cleveland are assessing the strengths and weaknesses of incoming students. Then, the two schools customize the education to address each student's needs.
WORLDLY OUTLOOK. Almost everyone is getting more assignments in global business. One B-school after another is scrambling to increase the international content of the MBA. But Thunderbird has been doing this for 47 years. The school has graduated more than 25,000 students, who now work in 150 countries. Thunderbird's program consists of a three-part curriculum focusing on business, culture, and language. All students must graduate fluent in a foreign tongue.
Georgetown, which also emphasizes international business, adopts a different approach. It draws upon the international community of ambassadors, corporate leaders, and government officials to add a global dimension to its program. International aspects of business are debated in virtually every course. In addition, Georgetown offers formal exchange programs with eight schools in other countries.
The bottom line? Although it may take longer to recoup your investment in these tough times, the MBA is becoming more relevant than ever.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE RUNNERS-UP Schools/ Average Appli- Ann- Scholar- With cant ual ship job offers Characteristics GMAT accep- tui- money by start- score ted tion per grad- ing MBA uation pay AGSIM (THUNDERBIRD) 565 46% $14,500 $1,269 55%* $43,000** Culture often compared with U.N. because of its global bent; MBAs leave fluent in foreign language CASE WESTERN (WEATHERHEAD) 587 55 15,900 2,082 66 44,280 Offers customized curriculum tailored to student's strengths and weaknesses; boasts executive mentors EMORY 615 38 17,120 4,509 69 48,560 Grads rate teachers highly in this general management program; launched part-time MBA program last year GEORGETOWN 608 40 17,769 2,373 77 49,900 Washington (D.C.) locale provides window on business-government relationship in globally flavored program MICHIGAN STATE (BROAD) 588 25 10,783 1,211 60* 38,428** Using $20 million gift, largest to a public B-school, to attract top faculty and students PENN STATE (SMEAL) 580* 28 10,176 1,953 53 44,590 Program known for strengths in business logistics and business-to-business marketing PURDUE (KRANNERT) 609 29 8,192 2,063 74 49,490 Heavy workload, with emphasis on technical and analytical training; grads take home a Master of Science SMU (COX) 610 58 15,892 3,808 N/A N/A Recent program overhaul makes this school one of the most creative, featuring student assessments and mentors TULANE (FREEMAN) 604 50 18,185 6,160 61* 42,900** Recruiters single out school as one of best in South; hands out most scholarship funds per student UNIV. OF ILLINOIS AT 590 50 10,520 1,220 72 41,190 URBANA-CHAMPAIGN Open to younger applicants direct from undergrad schools; boasts one of nation's top-rated accounting programs UNIV. OF IOWA 593 39 8,100 420 57 40,900 Plans to move into a new $36 million building this fall; kicks off program with riverboat cruise on Mississippi UNIV. OF MINNESOTA (CARLSON) 602 48 13,760 1,211 68 41,910 Strong school with new aggressive dean, seeking greater corporate support and students outside the Midwest UNIV. OF NOTRE DAME 580 54 15,240 1,133 42* 41,500** Small size provides family-like atmosphere; ethics and community service are critical elements in culture UNIV. OF PITTSBURGH (KATZ) 603 45 20,916 2,227 69 43,790 Only first-rate MBA in U.S. packed into 11 months; average student boasts 4.5 years of work experience UNIV. OF ROCHESTER (SIMON) 620 36 17,860 3,566 76 53,400 Extremely strong finance staff; intimate environment; largest international student group UNIV. OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 622 35 15,730 4,706 72 52,890 Has first-rate entrepreneurship program; 8% of grads start their own companies; strong in organizational behavior UNIV. OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN 643 25 5,432 719 75 48,900 Savvy dean is reinventing MBA, developing program links with such companies as P&G, Motorola, 3M UNIV. OF WASHINGTON 623 31 8,850 690 59 43,730 Offers environmental management and global business programs; students do consulting with local companies UNIV. OF WISCONSIN AT MADISON 602 42 10,625 1,066 61 44,070 To improve quality, school reduced MBA students by 25% since 1988; average GMATs now surpass the 600 mark YALE 657 34 19,840 3,571 87 66,690 Ivy league MBA draws exceptional students with highest GMATs of any B-school; blends public and private sectors For out-of-state residents *BUSINESS WEEK estimate **Data provided by school DATA: BUSINESS WEEK, BUSINESS SCHOOLS