The natural trend among undergraduate business students appears to be in the direction of greater demand for strictly business subjects and, within the latter, for major specialties of a quite practical, first-job value. This poses the following question: If specific job training is what most of the students want and perhaps are best suited for, what would be gained, other than a certain amount of frustration and lowered morale, from tightening admissions policies, increasing the analytical content of the work, and generally raising standards?
The answer to this query, which is obviously crucial to any assessment of business school programs, turns on five principal considerations. First, it begs the question posed at the outset of this chapter whether there are certain areas of study which constitute the distinctive subject matter of this field. If not, then one program of work is quite as good as any other, and perhaps student appeal is as proper a criterion to apply as any; but from the viewpoint of an educational enterprise, this is certainly an argument of last resort. Student preferences and interests will naturally be reflected in the emphasis given certain parts of a school's program, but responsibility for its general direction and character must rest with the faculty and administrative leaders. After the basic elements have been worked out and the essential subjects agreed upon, rather than before, is the time to consider student motivation, morale, preferences, and the like. This in turn underscores the importance of looking at the programs of business schools in terms of the total career needs of the students, an aspect of the problem which is considered at some length in the next two chapters. Presumably, student demands for certain types of courses reflect their ideas as to what employers want and what successful careers in business require; a careful review of the problem from the latter point of view is accordingly very much in order.
Second, the prevailing pattern of student interests and motives is a product of the quality, previous training, and thinking habits of existing student groups at business schools. It would be hazardous to assume that this pattern is fixed and immutable for all time--it is not unheard of for people, even students, to change habitual ways of thinking. If the business schools, either singly or together, concluded that a certain level and type of work had to be mastered, the chances seem reasonably good that many students would respond. Furthermore, at any one institution there is the distinct possibility that higher standards would gradually attract a student body capable of handling the work at a more demanding level, while students who could not hold the pace would look elsewhere. Even before enrollment pressures have become great enough to exert much effect along these lines, a few business schools have already taken a number of steps to tighten admission policies and raise standards generally, a pattern which is increasingly characteristic of such areas as engineering, law, and medicine as well as of a number of other branches of higher education.
Third, it is easy to exaggerate the attitudinal-motivational differences between business students and other undergraduates. Mention has already been made of the strong career emphasis which apparently permeates the thinking of all campus groups, especially those in undergraduate professional schools.