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The outgoing dean of the Carlson School wonders where all the American doctors are. the students left


As a child, Sri Zaheer learned more about the world by visiting a library run by the American Consulate in what is now Chennai, India.

This helped lift her out of poverty to study physics at a university in Mumbai. This led to a teaching career in Nigeria, graduate studies in international management at MIT, and then 31 years of teaching at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, the last dozen of which as dean .

This year, she will retire as dean and return to the teaching faculty, leaving Carlson in an exceptionally strong position. He recently raised over $100 million for scholarships. Its teachers regularly score well in national rankings. And with one in five master’s students fresh out of the military, Carlson is widely considered the best business school in the nation for veterans.

Its undergraduate curriculum has also just been revamped with a curriculum that incorporates more hands-on projects and deeper study of climate change, race, power and justice.

And yet, one development troubles Zaheer: the disappearance of Americans from elite education. Of the 88 students currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the Carlson School, 14 are American and 74 are from other countries.

“We want Americans because we want diversity in the classroom,” Zaheer said. “Students from China and India, they don’t want to come to a class that only has Chinese and Indians. They come here to get to know the Americans.”

Overall enrollment at U this academic year is the highest since 2011-12. But graduate enrollment has been declining for a decade. Its graduate programs have offset some of the decline by admitting more international students.

“It’s been a huge problem in all graduate programs, especially anything with any quantitative advantage,” she said.

The Carlson School has had its own version of pandemic and post-pandemic ups and downs. Graduate enrollment fell in 2020, then rebounded in fall 2021. Enrollment last fall leveled off between them. It now has 992 students in its master’s programs, and 75% of them are American.

Normally, graduate business programs are counter-cyclical, meaning enrollment goes up when the economy is bad and goes down when it’s good. When companies lay off employees, some take advantage of this time to get an MBA. Currently, job markets are tight, reducing interest in business schools.

And to be sure, a graduate degree of any kind is definitely an investment. Tuition for the Carlson School full-time MBA program is $42,000 for Minnesota residents and $54,000 for non-residents, including international students.

More than 90% of Carlson master’s students are scholarship recipients. Many are paid by their employers to be there. A Ph.D. the student, of course, is paid to be at Carlson and helps with teaching and research.

But something deeper is influencing enrollment, and Zaheer said that’s bothering American higher education leaders.

As we talked about enrollment diversity, we touched on the tricky terrain of cultural differences.

“Growing up in India, I was encouraged to do science. I was encouraged to do math. I don’t think parents here encourage their daughters enough to go in that direction,” she said. declared. “There are some really bright Americans in math and science, but not enough.”

Over the past five decades, the ability of employers to squeeze wages and hire a steady stream of immigrants has created labor competition that has led to many Americans losing their jobs. Some became reflexively angry with immigrants.

What is happening now in graduate schools is different. Fewer Americans are pursuing the greatest heights of educational opportunity, and it’s not because of competition from people from other countries. Either they don’t see the value in it or they don’t want to do the work. These two reasons harm our competitiveness and our economic potential.

The Carlson School is “making a huge push to increase domestic student enrollment,” Zaheer said. His most recent degree is a master’s degree in marketing which is aimed at students who have completed an undergraduate liberal arts degree.

I welcome international students to the University and any school in the United States, and would like us to try to retain more. Some would turn out like Zaheer, whose impact on Minnesota businesses has been immense.

On the other hand, I also know how much they mean to their own country and that one of America’s most powerful “soft powers” is the friendship and connection they feel with Americans.

I lived and worked for a decade in Asia, and I met hundreds of people who came to the United States for part of their education. In Seoul, one of South Korea’s former finance ministers asked me where I was from in the United States. I told him about a small town in Iowa he had never heard of. He pressed me. When I told him the name of my hometown, he said, “Have you heard of it? I went there in college.

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