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U.S. B-Schools Tell Foreign Students It’s Time to Come Back

But programs elsewhere are trying to maintain the advantages they gained during the Trump era.

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Illustration: Michael Deforge for Bloomberg Businessweek

In 2016 half of American MBA programs reported an increase in international students. The following year less than a third saw international applications climb as many foreign students, put off by the “America First” rhetoric of the new Trump administration, looked elsewhere. For the last four years there was “a perception that applying to business schools in the U.S. was a riskier proposition,” says Brigitte Madrian, dean of the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University, which saw a 60% increase in international students from 2011 to 2016 but ended the decade with fewer than it had in 2010.

The beneficiaries of this trend, of course, were non-U.S. programs. At Rotman School of Management in Toronto, the number of international students jumped 45% from 2015 to 2020. Essec, a B-school near Paris where 94% of MBA candidates are non-French, saw applications increase by half last year. International interest in European programs has been on the rise since 2017, and last year 74% of schools there reported global applications either climbed or stayed stable. “European and Canadian schools have benefited from people who otherwise would have gone to the U.S.,” says Virginie Fougea, director of admissions at Insead, which has campuses in France and Singapore.