MBAs less appealing to U.S. students San Francisco Chronicle Copyright 2012 San Francisco Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Published 11:44 a.m., Saturday, November 17, 2012 In its 2012 Application Trends Survey, the Graduate Management Admission Council reported that 62 percent of responding U.S. business schools said application numbers were declining for their full-time, two-year MBA programs, even as applications surged at 4 out of every 5 programs in Asia. To entice applicants, many U.S. schools now offer several flavors of business degrees in addition to the MBA. While few have been as aggressive in diversifying as the University of Rochester, which recently added specialized degrees in business analytics and pricing as well as a one-year MBA, schools are experimenting with new class formats and providing more course content online. Students' shift toward specialized business degrees in the United States is visible in the proportion of applicants taking the GMAT, the B-schools entrance exam, who send their scores to regular MBA programs. For years, B-school administrators hesitated to enter the online market for fear that a Web-based product couldn't replicate the valuable back-and-forth found in an MBA classroom and would diminish their brands. Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business rolled out a similar hybrid late last year, with online video lectures, quizzes and discussion boards added to 11 core MBA courses. At Cal's Haas School of Business, one section of the popular Power and Politics in Organizations elective is now offered entirely online, and when Columbia Business School launches its new core curriculum in fall 2013, online lectures will be used in statistics and accounting courses. The method for calculating free cash flow can be learned online," Hubbard says, "but the problem-solving skills required to develop and execute a strategy based on that cash flow will come from the ideas, network and collaboration that are the essence of the classroom experience. While a specialized degree may not be ideal for a student with extended work experience who wants the broad general management coverage that an MBA offers, it's a good option for someone in the early stages of a career. "More students are going to companies where they feel that they're really making an impact early on in their careers in a way that might not be possible at big companies," says Julie Morton, associate dean of career services at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. At Michigan State University's Broad College of Business, where applications dipped 18 percent in 2012, Admissions Director Paul North is confident that the value offered in the full-time MBA ultimately will keep students enrolling.