The decision to expand massively the bachelor of business administration program at the Wisconsin School of Business came down to institutional duty, recruiter demand, and simple math. WSB, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was turning down hundreds of applicants to its BBA program every year.
“It’s part of our mission as a public university to offer access to programs where students want to learn,” says WSB dean François Ortalo-Magné. “There was this great pool of applicants looking to come to the school.”
Those applicants who were turned away, most of them University of Wisconsin freshmen, had to declare different majors, unable to pursue their first choice.
So WSB officials began discussing the possibility of expanding the BBA program. Key among the considerations was the possibility that opening up to more students would reduce the average high school GPA of the student population – an important metric in B-school rankings.
KEEPING UP THE AVERAGE GPA
“We asked ourselves, ‘By how much would the class GPA drop if we increased the class size?'” Ortalo-Magné says. “Basically it didn’t drop.”
So two years ago, WSB boosted its annual admissions to the three-year BBA program to 800 from 600. Students typically come into the program at their sophomore year.
But now the school is going further: it’s in the midst of a major expansion of its direct admit program for students right out of high school. After taking 20 in 2011, WSB took 40 in 2012, 60 in 2013, 100 in 2014, and will be increasing the number to 120 for the next intake.
Last year, Ortalo-Magné says, more than 5,500 University of Wisconsin applicants said they intended to pursue business education. With that level of demand, Ortalo-Magné says WSB can take the cream of the crop for its direct admissions.
“Imagine, in terms of the quality,” Ortalo-Magné says.
All in all, WSB’s BBA student population reflects a massive, nearly 40% expansion – from about 1,800 three years ago to 2,500 now. Over the past two years, the school has added 17 faculty and staff, to serve the increased student population.
EMPLOYERS WANTED MORE STUDENTS TO INTERVIEW
Employers’ demand for business school graduates played a major role in the school’s growth, Ortalo-Magné says. “They wanted a bigger class size so they could interview more students,” he says.
Funding for the additional faculty and staff, plus reconfiguration of parts of the school building, came from the university and alumni, Ortalo-Magné says.
“We have not lacked any resources,” he says. “We are delighted that we can satisfy more students and satisfy the employers. At the same time I get to grow the faculty.”