Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Heading to HBS Tomorrow

I will be at HBS tomorrow and Friday for the Admitted Students Welcome (ASW) weekend. I have never visited the business school and am very excited to hear the HBS pitch, to meet other admitted applicants, and to catch up with a few Boston and Cambridge-based friends.

I have been amazed by how surprised friends, family, and colleagues are to learn my intention to turn down HBS for Stanford. Both are amazing schools and I guess the Harvard name still rules supreme. However, Stanford's smaller size, its geographic isolation from other top business schools in sunny VC-centric Palo Alto, and its lower acceptance rate created a mystique in my mind that HBS never could top. I love Stanford for so many other reasons (e.g., culture, curriculum, entrepreneurship/VC expertise, emphasis on EQ, etc) but I will admit that this aura of exclusivity and differentness adds to my Stanford love.

Anyway, back to HBS because that is what this post was supposed to be about. I learned earlier this week that HBS is planning to "increase the size of the MBA program slightly this fall" from an average of around 905 the past four years to...TBD I guess. This plan was mentioned in a letter from Dean Jay Light to HBS alumni as a way to increase the school's revenue. I wonder if this move is also a reaction to what I assume are record applications. To me, it seems bizarre that the largest business school (both by enrollment and endowment value) in the world is growing its class size to increase immediate revenue by an absolute maximum of $2.3 million per year (assuming the class size is increased by 50 people and that none of the students have any financial aid).

Yes, annual alumni giving might increase in the future with the larger class size. And the touted far-reaching HBS alumni network would be that much bigger. However, I imagine that this move could make HBS alumni feel less connected to the institution and therefore, less likely to donate and less likely to help student and young alumni in their networking efforts.

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