Why U.S. News Kicked GW Off Its MBA Ranking

George Washington University’s Business School disappeared from U.S. News’ 2017 MBA ranking

When it comes to U.S. News’ annual MBA ranking, it’s hard to tell what is worse: Doing a freefall with a steep double-digit decline or just falling off the list entirely. At least if you disappear for a year or two, fewer people are likely to notice–with the exception of your own students and alumni.

The latter fate befell a half dozen business schools on U.S. News’ 2017 MBA ranking and the biggest disappearing tumble hit a fairly prominent player: George Washington University’s Business School. Last year, GW was ranked 51st by U.S. News. This year? Presto, it didn’t even make it onto the list of 95-ranked full-time MBA programs. To fall off the list, George Washington would have had to plummet at least 45 places.

Dean Linda Livingstone of George Washington University’s Business School

It’s got to be disheartening news for Dean Linda Livingstone, who only joined GW’s business school in 2014 after serving as dean of the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University for the previous 12 years. She’s in the middle of a fundraising campaign, not exactly the best time to drop out of the most influential ranking in the U.S. To add insult to injury, Livingstone’s former school was among the most improved in the ranking, rising 18 places this year to finish in 65th place–without her at the helm.

‘WE BELIEVE WE DID THE RIGHT THING’

What happened? On March 7, the school received pre-publication rankings data from U.S. News and found what a business school spokesperson says was “a discrepancy in our average GMAT score. After further review, we determined that the GMAT average we had provided to U.S. News for both the full-time and part-time MBA programs had been inadvertently miscalculated. We alerted U.S. News on March 9, provided them with the correct GMAT data, and confirmed on March 10 that all other business school data we provided was accurate.”

U.S. News, having already calculated its rankings, apparently decided to penalize the school for the mistake. “We regret this error and take seriously our responsibility to ensure the integrity of the information we report to U.S. News and all agencies,” says Dustin Carnevale, executive director of marketing and communications. “We believe we did the right thing by immediately and proactively reporting the error and providing the correct data to U.S. News as soon as the error was discovered. The action taken by U.S. News in no way diminishes the excellence of our programs, the quality of our faculty or the success of our students.”

The correct average GMAT score for last fall’s entering class is 643, a point higher than a year earlier. It is unknown what score GW originally submitted to U.S. News. But just as NYU Stern was penalized last year for unintentionally failing to report a single data point, a mishap that resulted in a nine-place fall to 20th place, the magazine also punished GW for the reporting error, even though the school was proactive in bringing it to U.S. News‘ attention. This time, instead of dinging the school by reducing its ranking, U.S. News kicked GW out of the list altogether.

BIGGEST GAINS ACHIEVED BY CUNY’S ZICKLIN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

Ouch. Welcome to the often punishing world of business school rankings. This year 21 schools experienced double-digit increases or declines in the U.S. News ranking, including MBA programs that had been unranked last year as well as those like GW that disappeared.

The three biggest winners oddly all tied for 57th place in the new ranking. City University of New York’s Baruch College whose Zicklin School of Business zoomed ahead 28 places to rank 57th, a massive improvement on its rank of 85 last year. The University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business jumped ahead 22 spots to claim a tie with Zicklin at 57, up from 79 a year ago. And the University of Massachusetts’ Isenberg School of Management rose 18 places from 75th in 2016. Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business also improved its position by 18 positions to land at 65th place, up from 83rd.

And the schools losing the most ground, yet still managed to hang on to a U.S. News ranking? The University of Oklahoma’s Price School of Business plunged 20 places to a tie with two other schools at 83rd, down from 63. The University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Business dropped 19 spots to 64th, after finishing an impressive 45th last year. And Louisiana State University’s Ourso School of Business fell 17 positions to place 79th, from 62nd in 2016.

SCHOOLS GAINING THE MOST GROUND ON U.S. NEWS’ 2017 MBA RANKING

SchoolY-O-Y Gain2017 Rank2016 Rank
CUNY Baruch (Zicklin)+285785
Utah (Eccles)+225779
Pepperdine (Graziadio)+186583
Massachusetts (Isenberg)+185775
William & Mary (Mason)+145771
Auburn (Harbert)+13*83NR
Stevens Institute of Tech+13*83NR
Arizona (Eller)+114950
Binghamton-SUNY+117788
Univ. of Miami+115768
Arizona State (Carey)+102535
Fordham (Gabelli)+107383

Source: P&Q analysis of 2017 U.S. News’ MBA Ranking. An asterisk indicates the minimum gain a school had to achieve to make it on the list from being unranked a year earlier