Posted on April 8, 2013

Chinese Deluge U.S. Master’s Programs

Melissa Korn, Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2013

When the business school at the University of California, Davis, started its master’s program in accounting last year, administrators expected to attract aspiring accountants from nearby colleges.

What they got instead was a wave of interest from overseas: Roughly two-thirds of the 189 applications received for last fall’s entering class came from Chinese citizens.


Davis has plenty of company. Specialized master’s degrees in accounting, finance and other disciplines — generally aimed at students just out of college and lasting one year — have found tremendous popularity in recent years among Chinese nationals seeking a competitive edge and U.S. experience.

Such demand has provided steady revenues for business schools at a time when traditional M.B.A. programs are losing their appeal among U.S. students. But the uneven applicant pool has left many schools weighing financial goals against uninspiring classroom experiences for both Chinese and local students and worrying about weak job-placement rates.

Like companies, business schools “have to change with the times and go where the market is,” says Anurag Gupta, chair of the banking and finance department at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management.

More than 85% of applicants to Weatherhead’s current Finance master’s program came from China, and more than 80% of the 58-student class is Chinese. {snip}


Nearly 60,000 Chinese citizens took the Graduate Management Admission Test in the 2011-2012 testing year, about triple the number in 2007-2008. In the latest year, 78% of those score reports were sent to U.S. programs, while 64% went to specialized master’s degrees world-wide.


Eleven of the 12 current finance master’s students at Loyola University Chicago’s Quinlan School of Business are international, with eight from China. That has challenged instructors, students and administrators.

“It changes the dynamic when there’s a group of students who have something in common that other students don’t share,” says Dean Kathleen A. Getz. “It can create some sense that there are two different groups being taught.”


Karla Savina, one of three Americans in her 57-person class in the Applied Finance program at Pepperdine University’s business school, says she has learned about Chinese culture, and adds that her hardworking classmates have pushed her academically. But their unfamiliarity with American-style classroom discussion means Ms. Savina, 36, doesn’t “get the communication that I would like within the classroom.”

Application volume for the master’s in Applied Finance program has soared in recent years, fueled almost entirely by increases from China. The Graziadio School of Business and Management received 158 applications for the class that started in fall 2009 — 126 of which were from China — and received 497 for the class that started last fall, with 471 from China.


But some schools fear that becoming a darling of Chinese students — or students from any single country — may irk local and foreign students.

The business schools at University of Notre Dame, Indiana University and MIT are looking to their parent universities’ undergraduates to help diversify their master’s of science classes. {snip}

Applicants from abroad are “asking a lot about class makeup,” says Marci Armstrong, associate dean of graduate programs at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business. “They’re seeking to be around American students. They really don’t want to be in a class where everyone around them is from their home country.”