Paul Danos is dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
When I view the economic prospects through my business school lens, I am encouraged, as opposed to the pessimism engendered by the reading of most professional economists' forecasts. If one believes in rational employment markets, last summer's strong demand for top MBA graduates should be an occasion for optimism. Last summer 97 percent of Tuck's 2011 graduates had firm employment offers within three months of graduation and total compensation increased 7 percent over 2010. As an indication of next summer's demand 85 percent of the class of 2012 had job offers coming from their 2011 summer internships.
Of course, I know that such placement track records are representative of only a relatively small number of the top MBA programs, but it is indicative of a healthy and growing world-wide demand for young business leaders. There are an increasing number of companies all over the world that need and can afford young leaders with excellent leadership training and with significant prior experience, which is the hallmark of the top MBA programs.
So, in the face of so many negative economic indicators—the weakness of the European financial systems, the deficit crises in most developed countries, the stubborn unemployment and underemployment statistics, and all the rest—certain groupings of companies seem to be planning for a time of growth and challenge and they are demonstrating their confidence by bringing in the next generation of global business leaders.
There is one major lesson for business schools and perhaps policy makers in the pattern that is emerging—companies in different market segments will have very different patterns of demand for MBAs based on very different attitudes about the future. I predict that the large, sophisticated, world players will demand more and more high-potential leaders represented by the graduates of top MBA programs; and on the other end of the size spectrum, dynamic start-ups and with those who finance them will absorb an increasing percentage of the top business school output. However, it seems to me that in the United States a large number of regional and mid-sized businesses will be under increasing pressure from what they see as oppressive local and national regulations, taxes and global competitive pressures, and without some change in the perceived business-friendliness of their environments, they will probably not be the source of growing demand for MBAs.