In some ways, this is already happening. A variety of schools are increasing the focus of their programs to include more nontraditional subjects. The Aspen Institute, in a previous study, identified a dozen or more graduate schools worldwide whose curricula move beyond the usual into social and ethical issues. Kellogg added a major this year for students interested in business in the social environment.

Employers and recruiters are focusing more on ethics, says Jeremy Farmer, a longtime recruiter at Bank One in Chicago. "We're asking the ethics-type questions, and we're doing behavioral interviewing," he says.

Perhaps most importantly, students want to learn what's at stake. The evidence is mostly anecdotal, but deans, professors, and recruiters are picking up on a new mood among MBA students. There's more to life after an MBA than a six-figure starting salary, these students are saying. Many schools report waiting lists for available ethics classes.

"During the stock market bubble, when the economy was booming, there was not that much interest in ethics," Feldman says. "Now that we have a different economy, ethics is being taken much more seriously - at least on a superficial level."

And perhaps more deeply than that. "We've had some quite lively discussions about it, actually, both in class and outside of class," says Bob Carruthers, a second-year MBA student at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "It's driving the news, it's driving the markets. How can we not talk about it? You're looking at a situation where it doesn't matter how sound a company is financially, if no one has any confidence in it."

execs in ethics class, too
mba students aren't the only ones who are getting extra opportunities to brush up on their ethics. their counterparts in the real world are as well.