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Published: April 3, 2011

Business school

Variously, a degree-granting undergraduate or graduate school at a university, or a vocational or trade school offering instruction in basic clerical skills required in most businesses. The latter includes office work, bookkeeping-accounting, secretarial work and office management. Public high schools also offer business skills training as part of their vocational education programs. Public schools also offer students general business education courses, including consumer education and broad studies of the American economic system. At a higher level, more than 1,500 colleges offer bachelor’s degree programs in business administration, while 900 offer master’s degree programs and about 130 have doctoral programs. More than 100 business schools offered degree and nondegree programs in the booming new field of EXECUTIVE EDUCATION. Depending on the program, courses may range from basic accounting to international management. Among the basic topics covered in executive education by most business schools are marketing, finance, risk management, e-commerce and Internet business strategies, personnel management, and internal operations and administration. Most business schools require applicants to take the GRADUATE MANAGEMENT ADMISSIONS TEST (GMAT).
Annual tuition and mandatory fees for a two-year program leading to a master of business administration (MBA) range from about $5,000 (or less) to $10,000 for state residents at state universities and from $30,000 to $40,000 a year at private universities and for out-of-state residents at public universities. With living expenses, medical insurance, books, materials, computers and transportation, total costs of attending business school range between $25,000 and $75,000 a year—and are increasing by about 10% annually. Distance learning programs cost about $10,000 but allow students to remain at home and continue working full or part time. For full-time students, lost job income and ancillary costs during two years at graduate school can raise total costs to about $100,000 a year at Harvard University’s business school, according to estimates by Business Week magazine. Graduates, however, can count on starting salaries in the $60,000-a-year range, or about 63% higher than they would have commanded without MBAs, along with all-butcertain 10% annual salary increases for five years thereafter. MBA graduates with previous business experience often command starting salaries of $100,000 or more.
Although college-level business studies date back to 1881, with the founding of the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, graduate business education did not become popular until after World War II. The number of graduate programs doubled from 1970 to 1990, when a record number of more than 300,000 business school applicants took the GMATs. The following year, however, business schools began experiencing a sharp—and surprising— decline in the number of applicants, with the total falling below 140,000 a year by 1995 and dipping below 75,000 by 2000. There were several reasons for the decline. One was the new requirement at many business schools that applicants have at least two years of business experience. Designed to reduce alarmingly high drop-out rates, the requirement barred the door to students who had only just completed their studies for bachelor’s degrees and were not certain they would pursue careers in business. Another cause of the decline in enrollments, however, was the growth of Internet-related commerce and technology firms, which were snapping up the most talented young men and women before they entered graduate school—some before they even entered or finished college—at salaries (and often stock options) that made the starting pay of business school graduates seem paltry.
To compensate for the drop in enrollments of younger students, dozens of business schools expanded their offerings—and appeal—to include “executive education,” with one-totwo- year MBA and nondegree programs designed for midcareer executives and, in many cases, custom-designed for executives of specific companies that cover all costs. Some schools charge $100,000 or more for such twoyear customized programs. Typical programs require students to meet on alternating Fridays and Saturdays and for two weeks during the summer, but some programs are available over the Internet. Many business schools have also expanded their offerings to corporations to include one- and two-week intensive courses and seminars in specific subject areas (doing business in China, for example). Such courses are usually held on company premises at a fixed cost contracted with the company.