Because of a typographical error, the number of students expected to receive master of business administration degrees this spring was incorrectly reported in yesterday's Business & Finance Section. The new MBA class is expected to total 50,000.

Most of the estimated 500,000 students who will pour out of business schools clutching their brand new master of business administration degrees this spring still have one critical case study to complete before they go to work.

Their problem is to determine what a manager should do about a market that is saturated and a product that's overpriced.

But this is no classroom exercise, for the overpriced product is the MBA degree, which rapidly is losing its share of the highly competitive first-job market.

Several major corporations already have put a cap on the number of new MBAs they plan to hire this year, and Dunn's Review is projecting only a 2 percent growth in hiring of MBAs.

In contrast, businesses are increasing the number of new bachelor's degree holders that will be hired this year by 8 percent, and hiring in the computer science and engineering fields will jump more than that.

The reason is that companies no longer are willing to pay a 60 percent premium over starting salaries for holders of bachelor's degrees to get a BEGINNER WITH AN MBA, Dunn's reports. "The starting salaries of MBAs are reaching a point beyond the worth of these individuals," admits one university placement director.

The latest figures indicate recent MBA graduates are getting starting salaries averaging $21,700 a year compared with $13,300 for the average BA graduate taking a job in business. Starting salaries for computer science graduates are up to $17,700, and the average beginning engineer is earning $20,100 a year.

Many corporate personnel people complain that hiring an MBA is no bargain because the extra two years of schooling doesn't teach the student as much as two years of on-the-job experience. Dunn's said that the other problem with MBAs is that two years of business school make the graduates too upwardly mobile; they change jobs faster than bachelor's degree holders, adding to companies' training and recruiting costs.

Xerox Corp., BankAmerica Corp. and Weyerhaeuser Co. put a lid on MBA hiring last year and are keeping it on, and American Express is reducing its MBA recruiting target.

Not only are MBAs overpriced compared to their qualifications, but they're also being cranked out by colleges in record numbers, Dunn's said. Fifty thousand MBAs are expected to graduate this spring, which is 10 times the number earning degrees only 15 years ago. In that time the number of colleges offering a masters in business administration has nearly doubled -- from 120 to 211 -- and that doesn't count another 250 schools whose MBA programs aren't fully accredited.