A recent study by GMAC says that for the first year in three applications to business schools are dropping. And Business Week surveyed 30 top MBA programs, who reported overall application drops of just over 6% on average... Cornell's volume dropped 12% and Haas 10%...

B-school staff are attributing it to everything from a recovering economy to students going abroad (China, Korea, India...)

I'd be inclined to think that the latter is definitely spurring this trend. I'd imagine that ECUST and Tsinghua would report application increases, due to the overall value of those schools and proximity to developing economies.

But one thing that the BusinessWeek article did not touch on: I think that since they only surveyed the full-time MBA programs, they might be missing out on the big picture. Many students are opting for part-time programs, distance learning programs, or even EMBA programs - and many schools are creating new, alternative programs to meet that demand. If they surveyed the enrollments of all of these new, diverse programs, the figures might change dramatically.

One thing's pretty clear in today's economy. Students want to keep their jobs while they are going to school, and are finding it harder and harder to commit to two-year programs, forsaking income and career growth during that time.