What are the best online MBA programs?
A few years ago, hardly anyone bothered to even rank the digital versions of a school’s MBA. But as distance learning has become increasingly popular, several major publications known for their lists of on-campus degree programs have gotten into the act.
U.S. News & World Report, which debuted an online MBA ranking in 2013, now provides numerical ranks for 172 programs, from No. 1 Indiana University to No. 169 University of North Alabama in Florence (four schools were tied at a rank of 169).
Not to be outdone, The Financial Times rushed into the rankings game in 2014 with a global list of 15 programs that had IE Business School in Spain at the top, followed by Warwick Business School in Britain, Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School in Boston, the University of Florida and Indiana.
The Economist also has ranked online programs in the past, though its last special report on distance learning is somewhat dated, having come out in 2010. Instead of providing numerical rankings for each of the 16 programs evaluated, the British magazine instead chose to rate the programs excellent, good, average or poor. Only two schools’ programs were deemed “excellent” at the time: the University of Florida and IE Business School in Spain. Another three schools were rated “good.” They are the programs at Thunderbird Global School of Management, Indiana University’s Kelley School, and Euro MBA, a consortium of European business schools.
The problem with all these rankings–along with their often significantly flawed methodologies–is that they are so new that many schools have declined to participate in them. The result: The relatively new lists fail to show the full array of business schools now offering online MBAs, including some of the very best schools.
Potential students also will find a large number of websites that purport to rank the best online options, but almost all of them are little more than “link farms” that collect a royalty or click payment when someone seeks more information on one of the listed programs. Any website that ranks online programs but fails to provide detailed explanations of the methodology with specific back-up data for each school is pretty much worthless. Be extremely wary of these fake rankings which often attempt to mix for-profit schools with legitimate academic institutions.
Because so many brand name universities are in the online space today, and their acceptance rates are significantly higher than for their full-time MBA programs, there is no reason to settle for a degree from the University of Phoenix, Kaplan, Capella or any other organization that lacks academic and professional credibility. Prestige may not come cheap, though you will be able to find some very affordable programs at the highly ranked business school on our list of the best.