NYU Falls Off U.S. News’ Top Ten

New York University’s Stern School, locked in a tenth-place tie with Yale’s School of Management last year in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the best business schools, will fall out of the top ten when U.S. News publishes its new ranking on March 13th.

A sneak preview of the top ten, released today (March 6) by the magazine, fails to show NYU among the new top ten. The preview lists the schools alphabetically, without numerical ranks, and is a sort of teaser for the debut of the new ranking next week. Stern is the only school that disappeared off the top ten list. No new schools were added which suggests that Yale either won sole possession of tenth place or moved higher up on the list.

The top ten schools listed by U.S. News in its sneak peek are Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, Northwestern, Stanford, UC-Berkeley, Chicago, Pennsylvania, and Yale. U.S. News said it surveyed 441 accredited master’s program in business to come up with this year’s list.

For many, of course, the forthcoming release of U.S. News’ updated list will matter little and largely be an issue of simple curiosity. For others, the ranking may have an important impact on a school’s image, reputation, application volume, and even the careers of some business school deans.

The publication of the new ranking by U.S. News follows the release in January of The Financial Times’ best list. Then, business school administrators will get something of a break. The next major ranking, by The Economist, won’t be published until seven months later in October. Arguably the most influential of all the B-school rankings–from BusinessWeek which originated regularly published rankings for business schools in 1988–is scheduled for release in November. The BW list, slated for publication in the magazine dated Nov. 19th, is published every other year. Forbes, which like BusinessWeek does a biennial ranking, will not publish a list this year.

Whatever the case, some of the more interesting things to look for in the upcoming U.S. News survey:

  • Will Stanford GSB repeat as the number one school, or will Harvard Business School replace it as the top full-time MBA program? Stanford edged out Harvard last year after the two schools had been in a dead tie for first in 2010.
  • Will Wharton be able to take sole possession of third place? Last year, MIT and Wharton were tied for third. The tie occurred because Wharton gained two places from fifth in 2010.
  • Also locked in a tie for fifth place are two of the B-school world’s biggest rivals: Chicago Booth and Northwestern Kellogg. Will one break free and move ahead?
  • Will Yale University’s School of Management, which eked its way to a tenth place finish last year, tying New York University’s Stern School, be able to gain any more ground on the top ten list?
  • Who will be the biggest winners and losers this year? Last time around,

Last year, U.S. News ranked 111 schools in total. The magazine only ranks U.S.-based schools, unlike BusinessWeek, The Financial Times, or The Economist, which publish global rankings, either combined or separate.

The magazine ranks U.S. schools annually, using a vast amount of information and data. The methodology takes into account its own survey of B-school deans and MBA directors (25% of the score), corporate recruiters (15%), 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%) (see table on next page to see how the top schools did in several of these categories last year).

How does U.S. News decide how much to weight each of these factors? Robert Morse, director of data research for U.S. News, once told a reporter that the weights are based on “our accumulated judgment.” Explains Morse: ” Our rankings aren’t social science in the sense that we’re not doing peer-reviewed rankings; we’re not submitting our conclusions and our weighting system to a group of academics and letting them decide if they are right or wrong. We do meet regularly with academic experts about the relative importance of the factors that we use.”

It’s instructive, however, to peer inside the methodology and ask how did Stanford edge ahead of Harvard last year. According to U.S. News, Stanford bested its East Coast rival on the “recruiter assessment” survey (gaining a 4.6 out of 5.0 score vs. Harvard’s 4.5), on its acceptance rate of applicants (6.8% vs. Harvard’s 11.2%, on average starting salary and bonus ($131,949 vs. $131,759), on average undergraduate GPAs (3.69 vs. 3.67) and average GMAT scores of incoming students (728 vs. 724), and on 2010 graduates employed three months after graduation (92.4% vs. 90.1%. There is only a significant difference in one of these measures–the percentage of applicants accepted–which can easily be attributed to Stanford’s much smaller intake of students and the allure of California, factors that have nothing to do with the quality of one institution over another.

Harvard, meantime, bested Stanford in only one of the metrics used by U.S. News to rank business schools: percentage of MBAs employed at graduation (78.6% vs. Stanford’s 75.8%). The two schools had identical “peer assessment” scores of 4.8 out of 5.0. All told, the differences between the two titans of graduate business education was two index points–Stanford was awarded 100 points and Harvard was awarded 98 points. By the time you reach the last school in U.S. News’ top ten, which is Yale University’s School of Management, the index score falls to 81, the peer assessment score drops to 4.1, and the recruiter assessment score hits 4.0

On March 13th, U.S. News also will publish rankings in 12 business specialties, naming the top schools in several key disciplines such as finance and marketing as well as the best schools for Executive MBAs and part-time MBA programs. Those specialist rankings are based solely on the magazine’s survey of business school deans and MBA directors.

In a blog post, announcing the release date of the new rankings, Morse noted that “It’s important that you use the rankings to supplement—not substitute—careful thought and your own inquiries. The rankings should only be used as one tool to help you choose the right graduate school or program, not as the only factor driving your choice.”

The new business school ranking will be published along with U.S. News’ new lists of the best graduate schools in law, education, engineering and medicine.

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