Immigration and business schools: The Trump effect

UNLIKE many of America’s prominent business executives, Donald Trump gained his acumen on the streets of New York rather than in an MBA classroom (though he did attend an undergraduate programme at Wharton). But two recent surveys suggest that Mr Trump is having an effect on America’s business schools nonetheless.

Applicants from abroad, it seems, are being dissuaded from applying to the United States because of uncertainty around their immigration status. The MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance (MBACSEA), an association of international business schools, says that half of American schools are recruiting fewer international students than in previous years. That is having a knock-on effect, with a smaller number of employers reporting buoyant recruiting to their firms from MBA programmes.

Although reticence to employ newly-minted international MBAs has been a long-running trend, says Megan Hendricks, executive director of MBACSEA, it has increased in the past year. Having spoken to employers, she says, the association attributes the increasing decline to “current immigration reform and uncertainty in general about the state of immigration in the United States”.

The Trump administration plans to tighten the rules around H-1B visas—which are awarded to foreigners looking to work in the United States—following up on a campaign pledge to support “America first”. This financial year 65,000 such visas will handed out (plus 20,000 specifically for people who hold a Master's degree). But last year more than 230,000 people applied, and quotas were filled within days.

The MBACSEA’s findings support those of an earlier survey, carried out by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), the body which administers the GMAT test. GMAC asked applicants to business schools whether the outcome of the presidential election had swayed their decision to pursue a graduate business degree at an American business school. Overall, 37% said Mr Trump's election made them less likely to apply; more than half of applicants with a GMAT score higher than 700 said they had been dissuaded.

The findings are bad news for American employers and business school alike. The MBA is a global phenomenon; students can now choose between high-quality schools on nearly every continent. And anything that dissuades foreigners will affect the quality of the education. The benefits of diverse classrooms are well established: students learn business practices from different perspectives, and become more rounded candidates simply by spending time with a varied cohort. Many schools will be hoping that the Trump effect is short-lived.  

Readers' comments

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I have been in international education recruitment for over 25 years. Yes, enrollments are down in part to the high dollar, but Trump is equally a factor in an international student's decision to study in the USA.
For so many reasons, Trump really needs to go.


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