Wharton Tops New EMBA Ranking

Students in Wharton's Executive MBA program in San Francisco meet in one of the rooms used for study groups in the historic Folger Building. (Photo by Jakob Masur)

That old cliché, “you get what you pay for,” just might ring true in a new ranking by Poets&Quants of the best executive MBA programs in North America. At the top of the heap is the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which offers the two programs with the highest MBA price tags in the world. Wharton’s West Coast program, based in San Francisco, costs a whopping $172,200, while its executive MBA at Penn’s home campus in Philadelphia is priced at $162,300.

Both programs, however, are world-class educational experiences. They have the same tough admissions criteria as Wharton’s full-time MBA program, the same academic content and degree requirements, and the same high grading standards.

“Our students are taught by the same Wharton faculty who hold them to the same standards of performance and intellectual rigor,” says Anjani Jain, Wharton’s vice dean, MBA Program for Executives.

And what about those sky high costs, some $64,200 more than the tuition and fees for Wharton’s regular MBA?

Jain insists the premium is worth it. Once you include room and board for the program’s alternating Friday-Saturday sessions, which is included in the fees, Jain says the cost is “actually comparable to that of peer institutions. Many other EMBA programs have substantially fewer contact hours, or don’t include room and board in the base tuition.”

The other schools at the top aren’t exactly bargains, either. Wharton is closely followed in the new ranking by Chicago’s Booth School of Business ($142,000 in tuition and fees), Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management ($153,900), Columbia Business School ($148,320), and New York University’s Stern School of Business ($144,000).

To find a high-ranked school offering an executive MBA for under six-figures, you have to reach down to no. 9, the University of Texas at Austin, which has an EMBA program for $80,169 — less than half the cost of either Wharton program (See the full list of the top 50 Executive MBA programs).

The new ranking by Poets&Quants measures the overall reputation of these programs by combining the four latest ratings on EMBA programs from BusinessWeekThe Wall Street JournalThe Financial Times, and U.S. News & World Report. By blending these rankings into a composite list, the methodology tends to diminish common anomalies in any one rating system. It also takes into account an array of metrics to measure the quality of the programs, from surveys of student satisfaction to income increases attributed to the degree.

Who gets an executive MBA?

These executive versions of the MBA degree, of course, attract an older, more seasoned group of students. Typically, EMBA candidates bring more than a dozen years of work experience and eight years of management experience to a program. Executives often bring their work challenges into the classroom, seeking help from faculty and fellow classmates.

These days, there’s a wide of range of people studying for the degree, from doctors and lawyers to politicians and entrepreneurs. Ari Harkov spent the better part of his adult life as an aspiring and professional opera singer, touring and singing in London, Italy, France, and the U.S. He’s now at Columbia Business School’s EMBA program.

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.