U.S. News’ Quirky New Online MBA Ranking

In an inaugural ranking of online MBA programs, U.S. News & World Report yesterday (Jan. 11) named 14 of 164 ranked programs to an alphabetical “honor roll” of what it considers the best business school in Internet education. They include Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, and George Washington University’s School of Business.

The U.S. News online list is the first stab at ranking online MBA programs by a major media brand. As such, it’s a somewhat awkward and confusing first effort. The methodology employed by the magazine to rank programs is less than clear. The entire undertaking, moreover, is based only on surveys to business schools whose self-reported information is unaudited and unverified.

Oddly, the online program by the business school with the highest ranked full-time MBA program—the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School–isn’t on the honor roll list at all. The reason: it was only started last year.

The magazine also offers no overall ranking of the best programs because the unaudited information it received from the schools was deemed too unreliable by U.S. News to create an overall list. Instead, U.S. News decided to rank schools in four separate categories based on the data from the schools. The schools that made the magazine’s “honor roll” had to be ranked in the top third of three of the four categories.

They are:

1) Admissions selectivity.

2) Faculty credentials and training.

3) Student engagement and accreditation.

4) Student services and technology.

The 14 schools that were in the top third of these four categories and therefore made U.S. News’ “honor roll” are an unusual lot. At least five of the 14 are running online MBA programs that are not approved by the primary accreditation group for business schools, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). One of them–the Florida Institute of Technology with the largest enrollment (2,188)–told U.S. News that the graduation rate in 2011 for its students was only 27% after two or three years in the program. This program reported having only one full-time faculty member and 84 part-timers. It also reported to U.S. News that only 27% of its students who attended the program for two to three years graduated in 2011.


School GMAT Score GPA Acceptance Rate Enrollment Ave. Age FT Faculty PT Faculty
Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 572 3.24 62% 548 31 19 2
Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AK 520 3.04 77% 30 32 10 0
Brandman University Irvine, CA NA NA NA 190 37 9 42
Central Michigan Univ. Mount Pleasant, MI 530 3.52 62% 208 38 16 5
Clarkson University Potsdam, NY 500 3.35 85% 60 34 19 1
Florida Institute of Tech Melbourne, FL NA NA NA 2,188 36 1 84
Gardner-Webb University Boiling Springs, NC NA NA NA 558 NA 19 50
George Washington Univ. Washington, D.C. NA NA NA 226 43 8 5
Indiana University Bloomington, IN 622 3.34 76% 833 31 76 10
Marist College Poughkeepsie, NY 511 3.34 39% 169 31 11 5
Quinnipiac University Hamden, CT 521 3.31 68% 225 35 22 4
Temple University Philadelphia, PA 549 3.01 78% 43 35 18 1
Univ. of Houston–Clear Lake Houston, TX NA NA NA NA NA 67 26
University of Mississippi University, MS NA NA NA 56 NA 12 1

Source: U.S. News and World Report 2011 inaugural online MBA ranking

  • I am very proud of my Indiana University Bloomington Kelley Direct MBA, and I earned it while managing a $50MM multi-state sales organization along with maintaining a family life. I am glad we made the “honor roll”, however, I question the “selectivity” rankings here. Clearly, the Kelley MBA attracts some of the smartest candidates as evidenced by the GMAT score and GPA, however, being a large program that has been a pioneer of the online MBA format, the overall acceptance percentage is high. My Kelley Direct online classmates were some of the most intelligent and driven people I have had the privilege of working with.

  • It’s true that some recruiters still see distance MBAs as a bit weird. There is still some prejudice about that. However we are seeing companies now, particularly hi-tech, internet and innovative companies who prefer students from online MBA, rather than the face-to-face programs. They (employers) say, ‘these are the kind of people I need and have the skills I need. They have proven their ability to be with family, to work and study at the same time.’ Attitudes are changing and the number of such companies is increasing.

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    good information!!


  • Hi its Rachel and I am currently earning my degree in accounting, i am interested to know about the ranks of university because it helps to select the best one in coming future.