2012 U.S. News Ranking of the Best B-Schools

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

After winning sole possession of first place in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the best business schools last year, Stanford managed a tie for first with arch rival Harvard Business School today (April 13).

By tying Stanford, Harvard regained the No. 1 ranking after dropping to second last year. Before that, Harvard had led or tied for first for eight straight years. It was Stanford’s third consecutive win or tie for first.

The University of Pennsylvania broke through its tie last year with MIT Sloan to take third in the annual ranking of the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S. Three schools—MIT, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and Chicago Booth—were in a dead tie for fourth place.

As reported by Poets&Quants last week, New York University’s Stern School fell out of the U.S. News top ten, winning an 11th place finish. The top ten were rounded out by No. 7 UC-Berkeley’s Haas School, No. 8 Columbia Business School, No. 9 Dartmouth College’s Tuck School, and No. 10 Yale’s School of Management.


Like all rankings of business schools, the U.S. News list often engenders much controversy and debate. But it is among the most influential and most followed of several prominent rankings. This year, U.S. News said it surveyed all 441 master’s programs in business accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Some 393 responded, with 136 respondents providing enough data needed by the magazine to calculate full-time M.B.A. rankings. U.S. News ultimately ranked 102 business schools this year, down from the 111 it gave numerical rankings to last year. At the bottom in a tie for a ranking of 101 were the business schools at Rollins College in Florida and Santa Clara University in California.

The magazine only ranks U.S.-based schools, unlike BusinessWeek, The Financial Times, or The Economist which publish global rankings, either combined or separate.  (One other note: As a marketing ploy, U.S. News claims this is a 2013 ranking to give it greater shelf life. It is based on 2011 data and released in 2012 which is why we label it a 2012 ranking.)

U.S. News’ methodology takes into account a wealth of proprietary and school-supplied data to crank out its annual ranking of the best business schools. The magazine does its own survey of B-school deans and MBA directors (25% of the score). This year, U.S. News said about 44% of those surveyed responded.  It also does its own survey of corporate recruiters (accounting for 15% of the overall ranking and for which 18% of those surveyed responded), starting salaries and bonuses (14%), employment rates at and three months after graduation (7% to 14%, respectively), student GMATs (about 16%), undergrad GPAs (about 8%), and the percentage of applicants who are accepted to a school (a little over 1%).


The most impressive gain in this year’s U.S. News’ Top 25 was achieved by Emory’s Goizueta School which rose four spots to finish 19th from a rank of 23rd last year. Emory’s advance was largely due to vastly improved placement stats: the average salary reported by a graduating MBA last year jumped to $121,050, from $100,300 in 2010, while 78.9% of the school’s graduates had jobs at commencement, up from 57.2% a year earlier. Emory told U.S. News that 94% of its Class of 2011 had jobs three months after graduation, up from 87.3%.

The University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, on the other hand, suffered the largest fall of any Top 25 school, dropping nine places to a rank of 30th this year from a 21st place finish in 2011. Carlson lost ground in U.S. News’ survey of recruiters, scoring a 3.1 on a five-point scale, down from 3.5 a year earlier. Its latest acceptance rate ballooned to 40.9%, up from 30.3% in 2011. Both the grade point average and GMAT scores fell for the latest entering MBA class: average GPA fell to 3.2 from 3.5, while its average GMAT score dropped eight points to 686 from 694 in a single year.


Typical of most rankings, the further down on the list you go, the more dramatic the year-over-year changes tend to be, largely because there is often little, if any, statistical significance to many of the numerical ranks assigned to schools by ranking organizations. In the next group of 25 schools, for example, Notre Dame’s Mendoza School was the biggest winner, gaining a dozen places to finish 25th this year, up from 37 a year ago. It was the largest jump in the rankings of any top 50 school.

The improvement could be attributed to Mendoza scoring better on U.S. News’ peer assessment survey, a 3.5 this year versus a 3.2 last, higher average GMATs, 692 for the latest entering class compared against 685 in the previous year, and much better placement numbers. The average salary for a member of Mendoza’s Class of 2011 was $104,763, up from $96,490. Some 68.6% of the class had jobs by graduation, up from 48.2% a year earlier, while 86.9% of the class was employed three months after commencement, up from 75.9%.

Similarly, big drops were suffered by both the University of Iowa’s Tippie School and UC-Irvine’s Merage School of Business, which both tumbled nine places to finish in a tie for 49th. For a few schools, however, those drops would have offered comfort to deans who experienced the biggest declines of the year: The business school at the Rochester Institute of Technology plunged 31 places this year to a rank of 94 from 63 a year earlier. The Leavey Business School at Santa Clara University plummeted 26 spots to a rank of 101st from 75 last year, while the business school at Auburn University dropped 25 places to 88th from 63rd only a year ago.

(Table of the Top 25 and how they stack up against each other on the following page)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Next
  • ChrisR


    What are your thoughts on the Neeley School of Business at TCU?  It has been rising fast in the US News rankings.  The MBA program has become more competitive and is quite generous with scholarship money.  The program is also smaller allowing greater focus on each student’s career path.  The full-time class by GMAT is competitive with other other schools in the area (643 mean with a bulk of the students scoring 650 to 690).  I think the Neeley School has benefited from its location in DFW and will continue to move up in the rankings.


  • Andy

    Washington University’s Olin Business School (ranked 22) has a very strong MBA program and I expect it to move further in the rankings.

  • Andy

    Washington University’s Olin Business School (ranked 22) has a very strong MBA program and I expect it to move further up, in the rankings.

Our Partner Sites: C-Change Media | Poets & Quants for Execs | Poets & Quants for Undergrads | Tipping the Scales

Site Design By: Yellowfarmstudios.com