Hardly any undergraduate business schools, especially those with four-year programs, follow selective admissions policies. Judged on intelligence-test scores, undergraduate business students do not compare favorably with other important student groups. These findings are modified, but only in part, at the graduate level. Both undergraduate and graduate business students regard education primarily in career-value terms, but whether business schools should alter their programs accordingly seems doubtful.
Some of the principal issues confronting business schools are brought into focus when the activities of these institutions are studied from the viewpoint of the students who attend them. The pattern of education for business as distinguished from such highly developed professions as engineering, law, and medicine. One of the distinctive features of business schools is that they have been in the forefront of the movement to carry higher education to a wide cross section of the population. Put in concrete terms this has meant that most business schools have had to adapt their programs to the abilities and interests of extremely large and diversified student groups. A natural inference to draw from this fact is that the majority of these schools cannot expect to establish high academic standards comparable to those found in the advanced professions. This is the issue with which this and subsequent chapters are concerned.
The general thesis developed here is that business schools could raise the content and quality of their programs materially and still meet the needs of the bulk of their students. Two quite different questions of educational policy are involved--first, whether academic standards in the lowest-ranking schools should be raised and second, whether the same should occur among schools which are already above the minimum. Most students now attending business schools would derive great benefit from broad, demanding programs of study, that such programs would tend to attract a type of student who would profit even more from such work, and that from the viewpoint of student abilities and interests there is nothing to prevent business schools from raising standards considerably. This finding holds for the lowest-level schools as well as for those of higher ranking, and it applies to many institutions offering graduate as well as undergraduate work.
Few presumably would quarrel with the proposition that students should be pushed as closely as possible to the limits of their intellectual abilities. This highly laudable objective, however, immediately raises a host of difficult questions about the kind of students business schools should admit, what standards of academic performance should be established, what are the backgrounds and interests of their students, and how should such considerations affect the work of these schools. These are baffling problems, and the discussion which follows does no more than suggest some tentative answers.
It can be assumed further that as this branch of academic work develops, it will acquire more analytical content and become more difficult. But again, the outcome in terms of individual schools will depend on the specific meaning which comes to be attached to these words. If, for example, this area were to move ahead very rapidly, there is no question that many students would have to drop out or switch to less demanding programs. On the other hand, if the subject were to develop slowly--and this seems more likely--the repercussions among students would be far less. In the first case, it would be as though all the lower-ranking schools suddenly raised their standards (in terms of admission policies, grade average for graduation, course requirements, etc.) to the highest found anywhere in the country; in the second, it would be as though schools only raised their standards piecemeal and gradually. In both instances, some students would have to go elsewhere but the difference in impact would of course be enormous.