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10 Business Schools To Watch In 2017

MIT Sloan School of Management – Ethan Baron photo

MIT (Sloan): How do you measure your brand appeal? In the MBA market, you could say applications are a good gauge. Based on 2015-2016 numbers, it might be time for Sloan Admissions Director Dawna Levenson to ask for a pay raise.

35% — That’s how many more applications Sloan received for a seat in its 2018 Class. From 2011-2015, you could count on Sloan to receive 4,100-4,700 applications. Last year, that number spiked at 5,707. To put it another way, there were 14 applicants for every slot in Sloan’s Class of 2018. Not impressed? Just compare that number to the applications-to-openings ratio at Harvard and Kellogg (9.5-to-1), Wharton (8-to-1), and Booth (7-to-1). It also puts Sloan in the same conversation as Stanford (19.5-to-1) and Haas (16-to-1) as one of the most desirable and selective MBA programs in the world.

Sloan is renowned for its experiential and interdisciplinary curriculum. This forges a collaborative mindset that’s perfect for an increasingly tech-driven world that values communication and innovation. While pay and placement dipped slightly with the 2016 graduating class, the program’s popularity with employers — ranking 2nd in both of the 2016 recruiter surveys conducted by U.S. News and Bloomberg Businessweek — you can expect those numbers to rebound with a vengeance in 2017.

Arizona State University, W.P. Carey School of Business

Arizona State University (Carey): In an era of niche specialization, the conventional wisdom to “cast a wide net” almost seems passé. The result? Applying this maxim today can seem fresh and disruptive. The W.P. Carey School of Business is a case in point.

Let’s harken back to 2015, shall we? Back then, Carey had announced a game-changing proposition: The school would give every student accepted into its program a full ride scholarship. In essence, they made their MBA program free. In the process, they cut class size by 40% and booked an annual loss of $10-$20 million dollars. Bold? Yes. Risky? No question.  Sure, a free education boosts a school’s profile and re-channels demand…in theory, at least. In reality, doesn’t it also de-value the degree?

This approach almost conjures up an image of some Silicon huckster sage, drunk with angel cash, offering free software…hoping to make up the difference later. To be honest, that’s exactly the model being used by Carey, with Dean Amy Hillman optimistically noting,  in a 2015 interview with Poets&Quants, that the payoff would ultimately come when graduates “pay it forward” after they’ve become successful.

That could take some time, obviously, but the model is less batty than it sounds. Paid for through a generous “Forward Focus” endowment, the “Free MBA” represents an ingenious end-around from the so-called “scholarships arm race.” Now,  MBA students paying full sticker price are, in essence, footing the bill for their select few peers. Carey is simply removing the middle man, creating transparency, freeing students from tuition debt, and placing every student on equal footing. Rather than de-valuing the MBA degree, the free tuition should flood the admissions center with more applicants, enabling the school to cherry pick the high ceiling candidates most capable of becoming successful business leaders — and big time donors. Oh, and the model comes with a by-product. Better candidates equal higher rankings over time.

Sounds great in theory? Sure…but how has it worked out so far? Well, the numbers don’t lie. Applications soared from 443 in 2014-2015 to 1,160 in the latest cycle. At the same time, Carey’s acceptance rate plummeted from 31.4% to 14%, making the program as selective as Harvard, MIT, and Haas. Even more, nearly three-quarters of students who were accepted ultimately enrolled, a percentage that bests figures traditionally posted by stalwarts like Wharton and Fuqua. Even some applicants to Harvard now include Carey as a target school. Not surprisingly, GMAT scores rose 10 points. Even more, the program was also able to construct its most diverse cohort yet, with 43% of the class comprised of women. Along the way, the school doubled the number of countries represented in the class from 11 to 24.

That’s just the first year results, mind you. As word gets out, you can expect Carey to see even more applications. However, the “free MBA” may come at a price — to other schools — as applicants potentially use their Carey acceptance to leverage better deals from their target schools. In the meantime, expect Carey to crack the domestic top 25 in 2017. Question is, can they move the needle beyond that?

Here are some additional programs worth watching for 2017:

An artist’s rendering of Rowling Hall at the University of Texas

University of Texas (McCombs): The Longhorns are bullish on their 2017 prospects, particularly with the opening of the 458,000 square foot Robert B. Rowling Hall, the new home of the MBA graduate program. With Rowling set to rival Kellogg’s “Hub” and Yale’s Evans Hall as the most spacious and state-of the-art business school facility, McCombs can expect to build on a solid 2016, which included a 10% increase in applications and a six point rise in GMAT scores (with median GMATs now equaling those produced by Ross and Anderson).

London Business School: The second half of 2016 was kind to LBS. In July, the program enlisted François Ortalo-Magné, an architect behind the Wisconsin Business School’s revolutionary KDBIN teaching model, as its new dean. In December, the program nabbed the top spot in Bloomberg Businessweek’s international MBA ranking, thanks to high pay and placement and high survey grades from recruiters and students. In addition, the program’s incoming class’ average GMATs shot up eight points, while the graduating class’ starting salaries climbed 7.5%. In a further sign of health, the school achieved its $177 million dollar fund-raising goal two years early. Not only that, its endowment has experienced the second-highest growth of any business school in the past six years. Like Kellogg and McCombs, the school is gearing up for a move to its new digs at the Sammy Ofer Centre.

Dartmouth College (Tuck): By the numbers, it was a great year all around at Tuck. The school vaulted nine spots to rank fifth overall in the Bloomberg Businessweek ranking. This was their best performance ever and helped the school climb two spots in the Poets&Quants’ annual ranking. The Class of 2016 also continued to rake in the big bucks, with graduates pulling down a median $125,000 salary, with another 87% landing bonuses of $25,000 on average (with one student maxing out with a $250,000 base and another enjoying a $90,000 bonus). In addition, Tuck recruited a class with 44% women, tied with Wharton for highest among the top MBA programs (and an increase of 11 percentage points over the past three years).  Coupled with its signature culture and fund-raising prowess, Tuck has a lot to build from in 2017.

  • Alexey Postnov

    Spain has 18% unemployment. In fact it was the fastest growing economy in the Eurozone in 2007.

  • Koichi Fuyumi

    Sounds like you are an insider. What you share here is not accessible in public source. Or there is one possible way to get above information is if you have a paid LinkedIn account and you search IMD graduates’ name one by one which is time consuming but would be a nice piece of analysis to share. Of course some can argue not everybody updates LinkedIn so frequently. Can you share more insider information to us?

  • Tesla

    IMD MBA is declining so fast. Many of its graduates struggle to get decent jobs. just check over the web. Many still unemployed.. or got back to same employers with similar jobs. Many top professors left the school, the rank is going down.. it is no longer a target for top elite recruiters.. It is at best comparable to Cranfield or RSM..

  • Yaniv

    IMD is a failing school and declining program, all indicators tell so.

  • ulin

    I am sorry to remind you of the recent struggle of IMD graduates in the marketplace. IMD removed its employment report from its website, and keeps the outdated 2014 report. They intent to return to the three or five year average report to further cover up their failure.. This school is no longer belong to the top, it is by most comparable to RSM, Bocconi, or Cranfield.

  • Tesla

    HEC prominent alumni are graduates of its master of management program NOT the MBA. The alumni of HEC look down to the MBA and don’t recognize it as elite as the grade Master program..same apply to most european schools..

  • C. Taylor

    I like how you think. There are two factors you should also consider. I’ll get to those below.

    I hear banks love IMD guys. Main thing is the two factors listed below. As for your Asia comment, it’s entirely off base. You’ve got two
    recruiters on campus for every student, if you end up in Asia, it’s
    because the offer was even sweeter than the other recruiters’ offers. Same companies, different locations. And with 9000+ execs coming through the campus every year, your Rolodex is huge.

    As I see it, you can’t get more elite than IMD; so I’m not sure where you wanted to go with your third bullet. Whether IMD is the best program for you depends entirely on your background and goals. Google, Amazon, Uber, MBB do on-campus recruiting for those who need flashy companies to jump-start their post-MBA careers.

    1) A one year program is generally not the best choice for someone targeting an uphill career move, post-MBA. (Anything else to banking is an uphill move.) INSEAD’s copious data suggests that almost all INSEAD guys who end up in banking were either already in banking or in a closely related position. And January starts even have a an off-hand chance at a summer internship while at INSEAD.

    IMD’s or INSEAD’s one year program would make a lot of sense for someone being sponsored by his bank or who’s background+network is already sufficient to obtain a banking position, post-MBA.

    2) How PE and IB guys hire. Banks often hire around 50-80% of post-MBA hires from their summer internship pool. Summer banking internships also often require 80-hour (or more) work weeks. Difficult to manage while studying at IMD full time. PE guys often prefer to know you well before hiring–as they don’t always hire as many (this process also requires more time).

    For someone making an uphill career move, you also often get your banking internships/jobs through networking in the school year. A one year program doesn’t provide as much time for this so that is an additional barrier for anyone who isn’t already plugged into the industry. The first half of IMD’s program is intensive.

  • Unlocking Value

    In terms of admissions stats (not employment salary data), which largely guide USN rankings, Yes Yale has solidified itself within or at the Top 10 spot – we agree. My point and those of others here is that it took a few years worth of effort/investment to get Yale to earn that spot. Cornell’s investments are very bold and large – way more than just a new building, and they are very long-term and their payoff should start coming in the next few years, and not this year or next as you rightly point out. However, for those looking for a smart play with future upside, I think that Cornell is probably the most dynamic and bold risk taker of the top 20 at this time. Kudos to Yale for showing that it is possible to move from top 15-20 to the top 10! I think Cornell is next…