LOWER-RANKED SCHOOLS ARE OFTEN THE MOST LIKELY TO MAKE SELECTIVE DISCLOSURES
In general, the lower a school is ranked, the more likely it is to have less-than-complete disclosure of how its MBAs fare in the job market. But even the big brand, world class schools fall short of full transparency. Harvard Business School won’t report high and low salaries received by its graduates, preferring instead to release salary numbers in the the 25th and 75th percentile. Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton won’t release their top employers by the number of MBAs they hire. Cornell publishes only average salary and sign-on bonus—not medians which tend to more accurately reflect expected compensation—and the school doesn’t disclose what percentage of its graduates get bonuses.
Why the inconsistencies, especially in years when the career stats have been exceptional? “The cynic in me says it’s self interest,” believes McNamara. “I don’t mean that schools are manipulating the numbers. But we can make an apple look like an orange if we want to by the way we present the data. You can present the numbers so a weakness doesn’t show up. In a certain number of cases, that’s the reason behind non-optimal transparency.”
In truth, some schools closely guard these stats because the numbers influence at least some of the rankings, particularly U.S. News & World Report, which counts salary and bonus and job offer data in its annual ranking of the top MBA programs in the U.S. Some program deans suspect that there is at least some cheating going on, mainly by schools that selectively include in their employment reports only graduates with high-paying jobs.
WHO TO CHASE DOWN FOR NUMBERS: A NON-PROFIT MBA OR ONE IN PRIVATE EQUITY?
The standards put in place by the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance requires a school to report responses from at least 85% of each class for a report. This year’s Owen report is based on an 89% response rate. Some have argued that the minimum should be raised to 95% to give schools less latitude in deciding which non-respondents to chase down for numbers. Would you go after a missing MBA who went into the non-profit field or failed to find a job yet or be more aggressive in getting the high-powered graduate who took the private equity or hedge fund job?
Oftentimes, disclosure is skimpy not because a school is trying to hide something. More often than not, you can chalk some of this up to not wanting to change to a more transparent model. “In some cases, it can be as simple as, ‘We’ve always done it this way so we are not going to change,” adds McNamara. “The third reason is, ‘Nobody has asked us to change it.’”
At Owen, nobody had to ask.