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U.S. trend misses UI business school

BY EMILY BUSSE | FEBRUARY 01, 2010 7:30 AM

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Despite a nationwide decrease in the number of freshmen planning to major in business, the UI hasn’t seen declining interest in the field.

Some university officials say recent Wall Street scandals and the economic climate have contributed to the national decrease, but they believe the Tippie College of Businesshas avoided the trend with new recruitment styles and student opportunities.

“If you watch TV or read the newspaper at all, most of the stories about business have been very negative for the past year or so,” said Lon Moeller, an associate dean of the school. “I think people start to associate that with business as a whole and that all people in business are unethical.”

The percentage of freshmen interested in a business major is at its lowest since the 1970s, according to Inside Higher Ed.

Locally, the UI business school has remained the top choice for incoming majors and the most popular undergraduate major overall in the last five years, according to the UI Fall 2009 Student Profile.

In the fall of 2009, 2,274 undergraduate students were majoring in business, a number that has increased every year since 2005. Business has also remained the top choice students plan to major in, with 1,665 students in pre-business last semester, according to the UI Fall 2009 Student Profile.

Since 1998, the business school has directly admitted a portion of incoming freshmen into the major if they have qualifying ACT scores and grades. Moeller said the school plans to expand the direct-admittance program to make it comparable with other Big Ten schools and focus on getting degree requirements completed early.

“From a success standpoint, it gets students into business earlier, gets them into the right track,” Moeller said. “By the time they’re a senior, they have to focus on grad school and jobs.”

Caitlin Streit, a first-year business student who was directly admitted when she applied, said she came to the UI for its expansive program. The Hawkinson Institute of Business Finance is just one example of effective career training, she said.

Streit, who is planning to have double major in management and finance along with a minor and a certificate, noted the flexibility of the program allows students to study several areas because many pre-requisite and core classes overlap.

“More students are double- or triple-majoring or minoring just to make themselves more marketable because it’s hard to get into the current marketplace,” she said.

Though overall business numbers have not changed significantly, finance specifically has seen a slight decrease this year in relation to the growth it experienced over the last three years, said finance Professor Paul Weller.

Finance-department officials are planning an information session for pre-business students considering finance within the next month to discuss the future of the job market, he said.

“My own view is that if you look ahead a year or two, this will probably be seen as a relatively temporary dip, that jobs in finance are likely to rebound relatively swiftly,” Weller said.


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