There are business schools that gained more ground in U.S. News‘ 2016 ranking of the best full-time U.S. MBA programs than the Yale School of Management. And there are business schools that plunged far more than New York University’s Stern School of Business. But the biggest stories from this year’s U.S. News ranking is Yale’s climb to its higher rank ever at eighth place and Stern’s fall to 20th, its lowest rank ever.
The biggest gainer, up 20 places, was the University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business, rising to a rank of 59th from 79th a year earlier. For Missouri, oddly, it’s something of a comeback because a year ago the school was among the largest double-digit decliners, plunging 21 positions.Coincidentally, the biggest loser, the University of Connecticut’s business school at Storrs, fell 20 spots to a rank of 68th from 48th.
But those larger changes among second-tier schools in the bottom half of the ranking are much more common. It’s more unusual for a first-tier school, such as Yale and NYU, to move up or down the ranking as much as they did. Yet, there are pretty clear reasons for the ups and downs.
A TALE OF TWO SCHOOLS AND THEIR RANKINGS
For Yale, the climb can be attributed to Dean Edward ‘Ted’ Snyder and the leadership team he has put in place at the school. Yale SOM has been making a strong case for being a top ten school, having improved in several rankings since Snyder took over in 2011 as dean of the school—long an also-ran among the elite in business education. A new point of differentiation for the school, emphasizing global business and tighter integration with the overall university, along with a new modern bulding has led to a substantial increase in applications to its MBA program and has boosted both the incoming and outgoing stats used by U.S. News to crank out its annual ranking. Average GMATs have risen to 721 from 719 (higher than Berkeley Haas, Columbia, and Michigan Ross). Average undergraduate GPAs have also climbed from to 3.6 from 3.5 (equal to Northwestern Kellogg and Chicago Booth). Over the past year, applications have jumped more than 25%, to 3,449 from 2,756.
For NYU Stern, the reason behind the drop has to do with U.S. News‘ decision to penalize the school for failing to report critical data–the number of incoming students who had taken the GMAT and GRE exams–that is used in its ranking model. Stern later supplied the missing data, but the magazine said it was essentially too late. “U.S. News will not recalculate NYU’s rankings – or any other school’s rankings – because of non reporting,” said Robert Morse, chief data strategist for U.S. News.
Stern Dean Peter Henry, in an email to students, immediately took issue with the magazine’s decision. He called the resulting rank “anomalous and inconsistent” with the facts. “The failure to submit the data is ours,” he wrote. “That said, it was wholly unintentional, it’s a question we’ve always answered in the past, US News never flagged the missing information, and the missing data was virtually identical to last year’s. Going forward, we will further tighten the procedures for data submissions so such lapses do not recur” (see Why U.S. News Whacked NYU Stern).
HOW A SCHOOL MOVES UP OR DOWN IN THE U.S. NEWS RANKING
But there were plenty of other winners and losers. Among the schools that will be celebrating today are North Carolina State, which gained 18 places to finish 57th; DePaul University which rose 16 places to 79 from 95th a year ago; Louisiana State University which went up 15 spots to rank 62nd, and Pepperdine University and Fordham University, both of which had been unranked last year but had to climb at least a dozen positions to get back in at a rank of 83rd.
And other schools on the short end of the stick? The University of Oregon fell off the list this year from a rank of 79 last year, imputing a decline of at least 15 places. UC-San Diego tumbled 14 spots to 77th. Auburn University and the University of Tulsa also disappeared from the new ranking, indicating falls of a minimum dozen places.
What causes a school to either go up or down in U.S. News’ ranking? The magazine uses seven core metrics in its methodology to rank full-time MBA programs, from surveys of deans and MBA directors and corporate recruiters to school-reported stats that include average GMAT and GPA scores, starting salaries and bonuses of the latest graduating class, as well as placement rates at graduation and three months later. Even slight changes in any of these metrics can cause a school to either fall or climb in the rankings.
Obviously, big drops are more often than not the result of falls in several metric categories, while sizable gains are often caused by improvement across the board. But because so many of the underlying index scores used to give a school its actual numerical rank are close, it’s possible that a significant drop or rise can result from meaningless changes in a key metric.
(See following pages for the big winners and losers in the U.S. News ranking)