Winners & Losers In 2013 Forbes MBA Ranking

UC-Davis Graduate School of Management

UC-Davis Graduate School of Management

The typical MBA student at UC-Davis Graduate School of Management is 28 years old, with five years of work experience on average, a median GMAT of 680 and an undergraduate grade point average of 3.19. Those stats wouldn’t boost UC-Davis in many rankings, but the school showed the single biggest improvement in Forbes’ new biennial 2013 ranking of the best MBA programs.

UC-Davis climbed 22 spots to place 50th out of 70 ranked schools, up from a rank of 72 in 2011. The jump made the school the biggest winner in the Forbes’ survey published today (Oct. 9). Other big gainers include Boston University School of Management, up 17 places to finish 44th, the University of South Carolina’s Moore School, also up 17 spots to place 53rd, and Temple University’s Fox School, which gained 14 places to reach a rank of 59th, from 73rd in 2011, the last time Forbes ranked MBA programs.

All told, only seven out of the 70 U.S. MBA programs ranked by Forbes moved up ten or more places, giving those schools a significant boost in buzz and prestige. “The movement is terrific,” said Hugh Courtney, dean of Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, which jumped ten places to a rank of 55. “I always like to be higher but it is headed up in the right direction. It’s certainly indicative of significant improvements we’ve made in recent years.”


Schools that either gain or lose the most ground in Forbes’ biennial ranking of the best business schools are more often than not non-Top 25 MBA programs. That’s because the underlying return-on-investment numbers Forbes uses to rank schools tend to be closer to each other further down the list. So small changes in those numbers can cause fairly big swings. Of the 70 U.S. MBA programs ranked by Forbes this year (four fewer than 2011), ten schools moved up or down in double digits–none of them ranked in the Top 25 by Forbes. Forbes ranks one-year and two-year MBA programs at 24 non-U.S. schools separately.

For UC-Davis to climb 22 places since the last Forbes survey required some rather big changes in the five-year total gain number that Forbes uses for its ranking. The five-year gain is the cumulative additional earnings an MBA received after subtracting out forgone earnings, tuition and fees, and the presumed salary one would have had without the degree. At UC-Davis that number zoomed to $38,200, from only $7,000 in 2011. The payback period for an MBA at UC-Davis shrank to 4.0 years from 4.8 years, while the median annual salary of a Class of 2008 grad last year was $125,000, up from $114,00 in 2011.

The Top 25 U.S. schools showing the biggest gains were Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, which leapt eight places to finish 19th, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School and UCLA’s Anderson School, which both moved up seven spots to place 16th and 13th, respectively, and North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, which rose five places to finish 11th.

The Top 25 schools to suffer the biggest falls? Yale’s School of Management plunged seven spots to 18th this year from 11th in 2011. The University of Virginia’s Darden School dropped six places to finish 15th, while New York University’s Stern School of Business fell five spots to end up in 23rd place. In comparison, the school showing the biggest drop in the Forbes ranking this year plunged 16 places from 50 to 66th place.

Biggest Gainers on Forbes 2013 MBA Ranking


School                                        Change   2013 Rank   2011 Rank
UC-Davis` +22 50 72
South Carolina (Moore) +17 53 70
Boston University +17 44 61
Temple (Fox) +14 59 73
Washington Univ. (Olin) +13 34 47
Purdue (Krannert) +12 28 40
Northeastern (D’Amore-McKim) +10 55 65
San Diego State New 64 NR
Utah (Eccles) New 65 NR
Colorado (Leeds) New 70 NR

Source: Forbes 2013 & 2011 rankings

Of the five most influential MBA rankings, Forbes is the only one to base its entire methodology on one simple measure: return on investment. The magazine surveys alumni five years out of school and asks them what they are currently making. Forbes then compares the alumni income at each school to MBAs’ opportunity costs–two years of foregone compensation, tuition and required fees. It calculates a payback period for how long it takes the degree to earn out.

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