Kelley Tops New Online MBA Ranking

Philip Powell now heads up Kelley's online MBA program

Philip Powell now heads up Kelley’s online MBA program

Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business topped a new ranking of online MBA programs published today (Jan. 8) by U.S. News & World Report. The school’s Kelley Direct program, launched in 1999 and which now has an enrollment of nearly 750 MBA students, moved up from a third place showing in last year’s inaugural online MBA ranking by the magazine.

Rounding out the top five online programs was No. 2 Arizona State, No. 3 University of Florida, No. 4 University of Texas at Dallas, and No. 5 University of West Georgia. Among the big gainers on the list was James Madison University, which rose from 49th place to a tie for the No. 9 spot with Quinnipiac University and Temple University.

Absent from the 2014 top online MBA programs ranking are such top online MBA programs at highly ranked business schools, specifically Carnegie Mellon and the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Both schools declined to participate in the U.S. News ranking. Also unranked by U.S. News is the Jack Welch Management Institute online MBA program which has been gathering momentum in the online education space. The Welch program is excluded from the ranking because it is not part of a traditional academic college. And the U.S. News ranking does not include some superb international online MBA programs, including IE Business School’s pioneering program.


Still, Kelley’s first-place finish not only will give the school bragging rights for having the highest-ranked online MBA in the U.S. It also is testament to Indiana’s commitment to online graduate education and focus on doing well in rankings. “We transferred residential MBA innovations into our online curriculum,” says Phil Powell, the faculty chair of Indiana University’s Kelley Direct online MBA program. “For example, we introduced small business consulting projects in emerging markets, built career services organically designed for online students, and insured co-ownership of program strategy with student leadership.   This, good teaching, and staying ahead of MBA market shifts helped us earn our #1 ranking.”

Kelley School Dean Idalene Kesner said in a statement that she was not surprised by the No. 1 ranking. “Kelley Direct has long been the model other schools look to when developing their online graduate programs, and it continues to evolve to meet today’s needs in the business world,” said Kesner. “We use the same faculty that teach in our residential program. We also add features that emulate in-residence experiences, such as collaborative and personalized learning projects for real-world organizations, leadership and career training, and global leadership courses that include international trips.”

Since 1999, more than 2,000 students have earned Kelley MBAs through the program, and it currently has an enrollment of 728 students. The average salary of the class of 2012-13 was $107,447, a 28 percent increase over the average salary of the graduates when they began the program. More than 65 percent of graduates received a promotion while completing their MBA degree which costs $59,925.


This year U.S. News revamped its methodology to put slightly more emphasis on student engagement, faculty credentials and training, and student services and technology. As a result, less weight was given to admissions selectivity and peer reputation, both factors were reduced to a weight of 20% each from 25% last year.

It’s not clear how those changes impacted the overall rankings. In any case, student engagement—defined as a program allowing students opportunities to readily interact with their instructors and fellow classmates, along with both accessible and responsive professors—now accounts for a third of the methodology, up from 28%. Faculty credentials and student services and technology are now given a weight of 13.5% each, versus 11% last year.

Based on its surveys, the online programs that scored highest in student engagement—the single most important factor in the ranking—are No. 1 Arkansas State University at Jonesboro (scoring 100 out of 100 points), the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of West Georgia (both scoring 97), SUNY at Oswego and Rutgers University (scoring 96), Clarkson University (95), Portland State University (94), and Arizona State’s Carey School of Business (93). The Kelley program scored 88 on student engagement.


The school reporting the largest enrollment among the top 25 was the University of Texas at Dallas which has 1,117 current students enrolled in its online MBA program, followed by Penn State’s World Campus with 863, Indiana University with 747, and Boston University with 738.

U.S. News ranked a total of 172 online programs, from Indiana University to No. 169 University of North Alabama in Florence (four schools were tied at a rank of 169). In many cases, there are schools with the same ranks, a reflection of the fact that even with numerous variables being used to rank the schools, the underlying index numbers are extremely close together. Six schools, for example, are surprisingly tied at a rank of 17.

Beyond the actual ranking, U.S. News collected a great deal of proprietary data on the programs. The schools reporting the highest average GMATs for their online classes, for instance, were the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, with an average GMAT score of 630, followed by the University of Texas at Dallas, with a 627 GMAT, and Indiana University, with average GMATs of 622. They were the only three schools in the Top 25 with average GMAT scores of above 600.

The most selective school, based on its reported acceptance rate, is Central Michigan University, which claimed to accept only 34& of its applicants. The University of Texas at Dallas was next, with an acceptance rate of 43%.

(See following page for the 2014 Top 25 online MBA programs)


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