We all know that enrollments are big news in higher education, but how can you be sure that the numbers you see are actually comparable? For this post, we limited our data to only AACSB- accredited schools that participated in the Business School Questionnaire in every year from 2007-2008 to 2011-2012. These 482 schools provided data in all years, so comparing across the set can give us a better view of how the larger enrollment trends actually play out in our accredited schools.
Overall, the total enrollment reported across these schools has not shown large changes, but has continued a slow growth. However, upon closer inspection, the education level distribution of those enrolled students has been changing. In 2007-2008, 78.2% of students in this data set were enrolled in undergraduate programs, but by 2011, that number had decreased to 76.2%. Over the same time span, the undergraduate enrollment count decreased by 1.2% from 877,698 to 865,339. Doctoral enrollment has maintained at approximately 1.0% of total enrollments across this time period.
Taking a closer look at the master’s level, enrollments at this set of schools have increased 10.3% over the past five years (All Masters - 233,505 to 257,595 enrolled). As a percentage of total enrollment, all master’s enrollments account for between 20.8 to 23.1%. The positive direction of growth as a proportion of the total enrollments may be attributed to economic reasons, increased marketing, or even students choosing to stay in an academic setting for more time.
Increasing master’s level enrollment is a good thing, but the next logical question is whether the increases appear for both master’s generalist (MBA equivalent) and master’s specialist program types. In both cases, the answer is yes. At the master’s generalist level, there was a 3.1% increase in the number of students enrolled since 2007-2008. For the specialized master’s programs, the increase was more dramatic, with the number of students enrolled increased 26.7% from 71,159 to 90,189. While the proportional increases are less dramatic, at the generalist level, enrollments were 14.5% of the overall in 2007-2008, and by 2011-2012 had increased slightly to 14.7%. At the specialized level, the change was from 6.3% to 7.9%.
Even with a small drop in Master’s Generalist enrollments in 2011-2012, this controlled data set shows increasing enrollments at the master’s level both in numbers and as an overall percentage of total business school enrollments over this five-year time span. If this trend continues, it could have longer term effects on business school choices for faculty hiring, program offerings, and course scheduling as administrators work to bring the most opportunities to their students.