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RISMEDIA, March 21, 2009-(MCT)-Add this number to the many facts and figures being bandied about during this recession: 246,957. This number corresponds to the record-high number of GMAT exams that were administered to aspiring MBA candidates last year.

So far this year, the number of test-takers shows that the volume looks to be even greater.

“Typically, people sit out economic downturns in school- business school is no different,” said Bob Ludwig, communications director for the Graduate Management Admissions Council, the organization that administers the GMAT, the standard prerequisite before being accepted to business school.

In response to the high number of individuals taking the GMAT, Ludwig states that: “They may have had a severance package from a previous job, or are out of a job and looking to park themselves in a program, so when the economy does turn around they’ll be better equipped.”

About 77% of full-time MBA programs across the country say applicants were up last year. South Florida schools that offer fully accredited MBA program- Barry University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University and the University of Miami- say they are seeing more applicants than in years past.

“Honestly, I expect over the next couple of months, as we start to have more layoffs and more dire predictions, we’ll see things pick up even more,” said Jeff Mello, Barry University’s interim dean of its business school.

The deans of FIU and UM’s business schools say they are being more selective about who gets into their MBA programs. They’re using this time both to raise the bar on the student population and hone their programs with the goal of improving their rankings among the country’s other business schools.

Still, the schools do this against a backdrop of budget cuts and with a growing need to develop more extensive programs to help current and former graduates find work.

Other business schools such as Nova Southeastern University, which is in the middle of its four- to five-year accreditation process, said they’re also seeing more people looking to try to get into these programs. “You have to look better every day,” said associate dean Preston Jones, who said the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business focuses on teaching value creation.

© 2009, The Miami Herald.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.