The B-School Dilemma

Another indication of an education bubble?

According to a recent New York Times article, business schools are full of students trying to skate through college:

Brand-name programs — the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, and a few dozen others — are full of students pulling 70-hour weeks, if only to impress the elite finance and consulting firms they aspire to join. But get much below BusinessWeek’s top 50, and you’ll hear pervasive anxiety about student apathy, especially in “soft” fields like management and marketing, which account for the majority of business majors.

Scholars in the field point to three sources of trouble. First, as long ago as 1959, a Ford Foundation report warned that too many undergraduate business students chose their majors “by default.” Business programs also attract more than their share of students who approach college in purely instrumental terms, as a plausible path to a job, not out of curiosity about, say, Ronald Coase’s theory of the firm. . .

Anybody who has taught in non-“brand name” B-schools is likely to have some anecdotal evidence that confirms much in this report.  To be clear:  good programs can be found at schools throughout the US, and many students who bring interest and curiosity to business courses, but they often are swimming against a tide of indifferent peers.  The challenge to the school is to reach, energize and engage these “default” majors.

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