Applications from international students to U.S. business schools declined by 13.7 percent in 2019, even as both Canadian and European programs saw application increases, according to a new report from the Graduate Management Admission Council.
The GMAC report, titled “Early Warning Signals: Winners and Losers in the Global Race for Talent,” analyzes a decline in the percentage of prospective international business school students who identify the U.S. as their preferred study destination — a decline that began in 2009 but which has “sharply intensified over the last few years.”
The report identifies as key to this declining interest the statutory caps imposed on the number of available H-1B skilled worker visas, demand for which consistently outweighs supply. This year, 190,098 H-1B petitions were filed for the available 85,000 visas.
“For Indian students in particular, the ability to work and potentially settle for the long term in the United States is a primary reason for applying to U.S. business schools,” the report said. “Two-thirds agree that not being able to obtain a job in the United States postgraduation would prevent them from pursuing business school there (66 percent). The same was true for 52 percent of candidates from China.”
The report also discusses the effect of anti-immigrant rhetoric and concerns about safety and security. Fifty-four percent of prospective students from India and 50 percent of students from China who were surveyed in 2018 said that the political environment would prevent them from applying to a U.S. business school.
“The cost of a graduate business education is one of the largest investments that a student will make; making that investment in an economy that is perceived to be not only uncertain, but also unwelcoming, is a growing risk for many international students and one that fewer are choosing to make,” the GMAC report states.
Coinciding with the release of the report, 50 business school deans signed an open letter published as an advertisement Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal calling for changes to U.S. policy on skilled immigration. The deans call for removing “per-country” visa caps that limit the number of employment- and family-based immigrants from any one country, reforming the H-1B visa program and creating a “heartland” visa “that encourages immigration to the regions of the United States that could most use the vitality of these talented individuals.”