Weak Dollar Makes U.S. MBA a Bargain...For Foreigners

The weak dollar and strong foreign currencies, like the Chinese yuan and the euro, are making American MBA programs more attractive to foreign students.

The MBA Tour, which organizes informational events around the world for top U.S. business schools, has noticed a steep increase in interest in American MBA programs from international students.

“In recent years, there's been an increase in [interest], especially in the Far East and South Asia," said Peter von Loesecke, CEO of The MBA Tour. "There's been substantial increase in China, and a lot of that has been due to the developing countries' economy and also the appreciation of their currency."

In the past two years, the yuan has appreciated 17 percent over the U.S. dollar, and the euro has appreciated 27 percent. With MBA tuition at top business schools ranging from $35,000 to to $45,000, that translates into a significant discount. (See the accompanying video for more.)

Business school admissions offices are seeing the effects.

"Across the board we had a nice increase in applications this year of about 17 percent. Where we found the most marked growth was internationally," said Mae Jennifer Shores, director of admissions and financial aid at UCLA Anderson School of Management. "In Latin America we had an increase of 41 percent, and in Western Europe it was as high as 49 percent."

The Wharton School of Business is seeing the most dramatic jump in applicants from Western Europe, where applications were up 29 percent year over year, and the Middle East, where applications were up 42 percent. Judith Hodara, senior associate director of admissions at Wharton, said the business school is seeing changes in their applicants based on the global economy.

"When you look at the developing countries and who's growing in those regions, we're seeing applicants coming from those areas where there's more money being put into undergraduate education, and there's more opportunity for transnational employment," said Hodara. And, she added, "they may be less hesitant than they were ten years ago, for example, about loan repayment because of what's going on in their home countries with currency."

Rose Martinelli, the associate dean for student recruitment and admissions at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, said the increase in international students applying to the school is out pacing the increase in domestic applicants. She said the weak dollar is not the primary cause, but it is having a secondary effect.

"If your currency goes further because of the weak dollar, then it's a bargain to come to the United States. So we are seeing a lot of students coming to the United States because it's a good value, and" she joked, "MBA students are always value oriented."