MBA programs grow as economy shrinks

Add this number to the many fact and figures being bandied about during this recession: 246,957, the record-high number of GMAT exams administered to aspiring MBA candidates last year.

So far this year, numbers of test-takers show the volume looks to be even greater.

"Typically, people sit out economic downturns in school – business school is no different," said Bob Ludwig, communications director for the Graduate Management Admissions Council, the organization that administers the GMAT, the standard prerequisite before business school.

"They may have had a severance package from a previous job, or are out of a job and looking to park themselves in a program, so when the economy does turn around they'll be better equipped," he said.

About 77 percent of full-time MBA programs across the country say applicants were up last year. South Florida schools that offer fully-accredited MBA programs – Barry University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University and the University of Miami – say they are seeing more applicants than in years past.

"Honestly, I expect over the next couple of months, as we start to have more layoffs and more dire predictions, we'll see things pick up even more," said Jeff Mello, Barry University's interim dean of its business school.

The deans of FIU and UM's business schools say they are being more selective about who gets into their MBA programs. They're using this time both to raise the bar on the student population and hone their programs with the goal of improving their rankings among the country's other business schools.

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