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American B-schools’ love-hate relationship with international students

International students in USA

International students bring over $35 billion to the US economy each year [read Why international students are good for the US economy]. The reasons why these students are attracted to the US are clear and simple: 60 to 70 percent of the top 25 universities in the world are American, according to QS and THE surveys.

Read Top MBA in USA for international students

Among the major contingents of foreign students arriving in the US are MBA students. Again, not surprising, because seven of the top ten b-schools and 14 schools in the top 25 are located in the US, according to FT’s list.

Foreign students are particularly eager to study in b-schools that can place them in consulting and finance jobs that offer higher salaries and international opportunities perhaps more than any other MBA job. They know that the US is the place to be to realize their dreams.

Schools such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia Business School, Kellogg, Tuck, Booth, Sloan, Johnson, and Haas have MBA programs considered to be strong in finance and accounting. The pay after graduation is around $120,000-$200,000 with some alumni netting as much as $300,000.

Read Average MBA starting salary.

International students’ love of US b-schools is returned in equal measure by the schools. Faced with financial crisis with budgetary cuts for higher education, b-schools started wooing overseas students.

B-schools began to see international students as a source of much-needed funds. And foreign students were ready to pay to achieve their dreams; often in full, as scholarships were not so readily available to them. Their fee was also much higher than that for domestic students.

Read Why international students pay more tuition.

Around the time, the size of the US college-going population was dwindling. The number of domestic students ready to join b-schools without scholarship and aid was also decreasing. The answer for b-schools was again international students.

Another advantage that foreign students bring is high selectivity, because of the number of students applying for admission to b-schools. Schools are able to pick up the best students from a highly competitive pool. The number of slots for international students may be less, but they can all be filled with excellent candidates.

Read International MBA Applicants more likely to be rejected from top b-schools.

Foreign students give their campuses additional diversity and perspective, which help b-schools prepare their students for professional lives in an increasingly globalized world.

Read How the best MBA programs strive to increase diversity in the class.

On their part, schools go to the full extent to make the local culture and environment welcoming for foreign students. They offer bank facilities, visa services, and acculturation programs, among others, to students.

US b-schools and universities also get a good part of their research talent from international students. Now, a large percentage of international students are involved in federal-funded research. Foreign students also serve as trainers for undergraduate students, saving b-schools from having to hire full-time faculty members at higher salaries.

But b-schools have found that international students bring problems, too. They come to b-schools paying high fees in the hope of being able to live and work permanently or at least for a long time in the US.

But because of the US government’s new restrictions on visas, quite a few students will have to return to their own countries. This will eventually rob US b-schools of their attraction for international students, and fewer b-school students from other countries will come to the US.

H1B visa process after lottery makes it tough for international students
More international students returning home after graduation than before.

B-schools going all out after international students has not been welcomed by domestic students, who feel that they are being pushed out to accommodate the highly and readily paying international students.

B-schools now have a hard time convincing domestic students that in a way foreign students, who pay higher fees, are subsidizing domestic students’ education and that the financial burden on domestic students would have been greater without the money paid by international students.

There is also a view among local populations that foreign students looking for jobs affect their own prospects, which triggers unrest. But the visa and language problems make jobs for foreign students more difficult.

Meanwhile, the way international students select US b-schools from their own countries is a cause for concern for schools. Being so far away from their intended locations and unable to visit schools to study their target institutions first hand, foreign students are going by school rankings released by publications and MBA message boards.

The information that they get may not be able to help them choose the most ideal schools for them based on the courses they want and their individual requirements.

The inability of foreign students to correctly translate their grades and GPA in their applications to US b-schools is another problem for schools.

Read GPA calculators for Percentage to GPA conversion

In many cases, foreign students’ use of recommenders who know very little English and fail to convey their messages clearly, results in recommendations that US schools are unable to interpret well.

International students are a mixed bag for b-schools, and the love-hate relationship between them continues.
Also read:
Problems of international students in USA and how to tackle them
International student enrollment slowing down in USA
Which companies are more likely to sponsor H1B for international students
MBA placement opportunities abroad for International students
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

5 thoughts on “American B-schools’ love-hate relationship with international students”

  1. Hi
    I am Akshay Rawat, I am a civil engineer and I am having a job experience of nearly 1.5 years. as I was not happy with my job I decided to leave a prepare for few govt exams. I am now so confused what to do. I am also thinking to go for MS or MBA abroad but my score are bit low.
    10th- 7.4 CGPA
    12th- 60%
    Btech- 7.01 CGPA
    Can I suggest me something, I know you would ask me that what I am interested in, so the answer is that I am confused that is why I want to look for options, and maybe if I will study abroad the options will be more as till now as a civil engineering graduate I only have few options as a site engineer and that is the worst job I want to do. so please suggest something genuinely.
    Thankyou and you are free to contact me on my mail id or my contact number.

    Akshay Rawat

  2. respected sir,
    my name is aditya kashyap i am in a maharatna company. i work in sail, i have 2 years of experience ,my cgpa was 7.5 10th was 79% and in 12th it was 76%, what are my scopes regarding doing mba from abroad please share your thought

  3. I am a postgraduate in computer application , passed out in 2013.i don’t have any experience in any field.i want to restart my career .what will I do?.please help me

  4. Hi Sameer,

    I am having 11+ years of experience as full stack developer and have also worked across international locations like US, UK. I had a break in my career for around 6 years for kids.

    I am 42 years old and looking forward to do my EMBA.

    Can you please suggest which institutes I should target keeping in mind budget part as well

    Presently I am considering SP Jain online EMBA..would it be worth ?

    Best Regards

  5. @Akshay: Going for an MS or MBA will not give you the answer. If you aren’t sure about the direction you want to take, start talking to professinoals from other fields to find out what they do. Then take a call whether a degree or certification is needed to get there.

    @Aditya: It would be good to gain 1 or 2 more years of work experience before you apply to MBA programs. And make sure you have more to share from your professional accomplishments that’ll help you stand out from the crowd.

    @Riji: You haven’t shared why you haven’t worked for the last 5 years after graduating with a degree in such a popular field. And what you’ve done in these years to stay abreast of the developments. That’ll play a big role in convincing your first employer.

    @Hema: We’ve listed the best executive MBA programs here:


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