Chinese Graduate Business Applicants Slow to a Trickle

Courtesy University of Chicago

International applications to U.S. graduate business programs have sputtered this year amid an unexpected plunge in Chinese applicants to graduate programs overall.

Seven consecutive years of double-digit increases in Chinese applicants to all U.S. graduate programs were reversed this year, when the number fell 5 percent, according to new research released April 8 by the Council of Graduate Schools.

At business programs, the growth in international applications this year was just 2 percent, down from 7 percent in 2011-12 and 11 percent the year before. The biggest increase was in the arts and humanities, where applications grew 4 percent; the biggest decrease was in the life sciences, where applications fell 7 percent.

China is the largest country of origin for international graduate students in the U.S., accounting for about 29 percent of all international students, and Chinese students represent a significant portion of graduate business students as well.

In addition to China, applications from South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, and Europe also fell. Applications from India, which accounts for about 20 percent of all international students, increased 20 percent, the biggest for any country other than Brazil, which had a 24 percent increase.

Some possible reasons for the decline in international applicants include changes in the average number of applications per applicant, competition from other countries for international students, and the size of financial aid packages for international students.

Debra Stewart, president of the council, says visa issues have made it difficult for international students to enter and stay in the U.S., while the federal sequester legislation has made future financial aid awards uncertain. The across-the-board decline in application is likely a result of that, she says.

“The thing that is probably important this year is the current instability in funding within U.S. institutions,” she says. “We still don’t know what the impact of the sequester will be, but many institutions could not make longer term financial-aid package commitments. ”

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