This happened a really long time ago. It's still perhaps interest, and it's always useful to study history in order to better understand the present -- but just keep in mind as you're reading that this is a discussion of issues from 2011 and 2012.
It’s really strange.
At this time last year, we already had helped almost a dozen BSers with apps to CBS — who’d already gotten in. Based on their rolling admissions, and the early opening of their application, it’s possible to be admitted to Columbia Business School before most BSers have even submitted their first-round applications.
This year, oddly enough, we’ve hardly even looked at any Columbia essays. A small handful, but not many.
What’s up with this? Has all interest in Columbia dried up?
Apparently it dried up last year – maybe we should’ve been surprised that we had so many BSers interested in Columbia last year. By now you’ve heard about the 19% drop in applications at Columbia Business School from the 2010-11 admissions season to last year. We have our own theories about why Columbia tanked so much with their apps – lots have tied it to the finance industry troubles but that hardly seems like the full story. Wharton didn’t have a double-digit drop and they’re still considered a major finance school. Here’s where we think Columbia stumbled – none of this is especially new news, it’s just us throwing out our opinions, which, of course, is one of our favorite things to do:
- Columbia got complacent. Other bschools are out there mixing things up and trying new models – HBS with its FIELD program (which, again, we assert is not new to bschools, it’s just new to HBS); Wharton with a new curriculum; etc etc etc. Haven’t seen much innovation coming out of Columbia over the past few years – didn’t even see a new website yet. Sure they slapped a new cover page on it recently, but man theirs has to be the worst of any bschool site in existence.
- Columbia got greedy. The only big announcements we’ve seen coming out of Columbia in the past, say, three years is a seemingly ever-increasing expansion to their EMBA programs – and those are completely about raking in more students, students who are typically lesser-qualified, who will NOT boost the reputation of the school. All that we can see that these EMBA programs are adding for Columbia is more tuition dollars. From our perspective, accepting more BSers into the EMBA may be very nice in giving access to those less qualified – but isn’t it diluting the overall quality of the student body, school community, and alumni network to do so? Seems like selling out.
- Columbia got expensive. All this expansion is ON TOP of the fact that Columbia was already one of the most expensive F/T MBA programs around. And one of the biggest. Why do they need to increase their revenues with these growing pools of EMBA peeps? Aren’t they making enough money up there in Morningside Heights?
- Columbia got cocky – or at least, they sure didn’t exhibit any remorse after the embarassment of Inside Job. Yes they instituted some new ethics policy for faculty but they still have the same faculty – Mishkin is still there.
Maybe all these things are pointing to the same thing.
We don’t think that most BSers choose a bschool or eliminate it from consideration based on factors like this – most BSers are likely not even aware of the macro environment of a bschool and how innovative it may be in comparison to its peers or even whether there’s some ethics scandal going on. Most of you probably don’t even know that there was a major GMAT cheating scandal at Duke Fuqua several years back – these things have a way of fading quickly from our collective memories. Inside Job came out in 2010; that’s a long time ago. We’ve had OWS come and go completely in that time; now we have more important things like Gangnam Style and the end of the Mayan calendar to focus on. Maybe the Inside Job controversy is just old news.
But maybe these things are the underlying rot to what’s going on at Columbia. Maybe these are some of the factors contributing to a 19% decline. ‘Cuz that’s significant, any way you look at it. 19%?? Wow.
We have a lot more to say on this. We’re going to continue this topic tomorrow.