Mendoza Caps Biz Major Enrollment

The University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business

The University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business

Majoring in business has become so popular in reccent years that some universities are placing caps on the number of students who can enroll at their business schools. At Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business, which has capped enrollment to 27% of the total undergraduate population, the policy is already making waves.

The Observer–the daily, student-run newspaper for the University of Notre Dame–was trying to push back against a new university policy that it argues will place additional pressure on high school seniors by forcing them to select an intended college major before their first college year has been completed.  The student newspaper says that prior to the new policy, Notre Dame sophomores, juniors and seniors could switch or transfer among most university majors including the popular business program in Mendoza.  These transfers were only limited in a few cases such as entry into the architecture or engineering programs.

But the popularity of business at Notre Dame—and many other colleges— is making unlimited transfers no longer possible. The university’s enrollment statistics tell the story. In the past ten years, students enrolled in arts and letters have plunged. Political science, once the most popular undergraduate major, has lost 38% of its students since the spring of 2004. History majors hasve fallen to 196 from 324, while students majoring English has declined to 239 from 424. Over the same timeframe, the number of finance majors has climbed 25% from 368 to 482 to become the most popular major at Notre Dame.


The new policy was not made by the business school but at the university level.  Don Bishop, associate vice president of undergraduate enrollment, responded to the student-run paper’s critique of the policy, stating that Notre Dame ranks first among top business programs when looking at the number of degrees conferred.  Twenty seven percent of the Fighting Irish business students successfully complete the program, according to Bishop.  By contrast, New York University conferred degrees upon only 11% of its business students, according to data provided by Notre Dame.

Mendoza Dean Roger Huang said that Bishop reviewed nine years of data compiled by the Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System (or IPED) to reach his findings which were based upon the years 2004 to 2012, the last year of data available at the time.  Bishop had compared Notre Dame business student graduation rates with students in top 50 undergraduate schools that also have colleges of business.

To preserve the quality of the business program and to continue to allow all Notre Dame undergraduate students of any majors to take classes at Mendoza, Bishop wrote that Notre Dame has also changed its “internal transfer policy” with the intent of capping enrollment in the Mendoza College of Business to 27% of the total undergraduate population, or about 550 students per graduating class.


As a result of the policy Dean Huang said, students not “pre-approved” as a business major, “now need to apply for internal transfer into Mendoza and can no longer just declare a change of major during their freshman year as in the past.”

The new policy is related to increased interest in the business program. Dean Huang pointed out that about 23% (or 4,200) of the University’s 18,157 applicants had indicated business as their intended field of study.  Of these, 3,595 were admitted, with 2,007 enrolled into their first year of study. “From that number of admissible students, we chose to ask 33 of them to select another field of study,” Huang said.

Dean Huang added that student input was “widely sought” before the policy was implemented and that “The students’ feedback occurred over many years.”

“My sense is that the students understand the need for a cap but they may disagree on the implementation,” Huang said.  “It is worth noting that in the Notre Dame setup, accepted students who were not pre-approved for business can still attend Notre Dame. Of course, these students can also apply as an internal transfer into Mendoza during the spring semester of their freshmen year/“

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