Harvard, Stanford, other top MBA schools see applications drop

Looking to get your MBA at an elite U.S. business school like Harvard, Stanford and Wharton? Now might be a good time to apply as applications for these prestigious programs have fallen for the first time in nearly a decade amid a strong job market and greater competition from programs aboard.

The findings were released by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) on Monday, which is a nonprofit that administers the GMAT admissions exam throughout the country.

According to GMAC’s data, not only are MBA applications for this past Spring down 7 percent overall from the previous year, but for the first time in nearly a decade waning interest has hit the country’s most admired universities.

Harvard Business School saw its biggest drop in applications since 2005. According to The Wall Street Journal, it received 9,886 applications for this fall’s entering class, down 4.5 percent from last year. While applications at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business slid 4.6 percent to 7,797 and Wharton fell a whopping 6.7 percent to 6,245.

While those schools are still receiving more applications than they can accept, the declines do mark a reversal after years of growth, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Sangeet Chowfla, president and CEO at GMAC, notes that historically business school application volume have often run counter cyclical to current economic trends and indicators. And the current low unemployment rate means “young professionals have an increased opportunity cost of leaving their jobs in pursuit of an advanced degree,” Chowfla said.

Another big factor, Chowfla said, is the increased quality of other educational and professional programs in other parts of the world.

Also, changes in U.S. policies are making it more difficult for international students to secure visas for both school and work.

“[That] has certainly contributed to the decline in U.S. volume this cycle. The issue of student mobility is the biggest challenge facing graduation management education and it poses risks for businesses as well who require access to diverse talent,” Chowfla said.

Representatives of Harvard and Wharton did not immediately respond to FOX Business for comment. A Stanford spokeswoman, however, told FOX Business that "although the number of applicants and students will vary from year to year, what remains constant is our students' commitment to becoming leaders who will transform their industries and communities."