Schools With The Happiest MBAs


Remember this bit of wisdom? For every complaint you get, there are another 25 unhappy customers bashing your company without you even knowing. They call it the iceberg effect…and it is so pre-social media.

Nowadays, people have the means to vent. Whether it’s 140 characters capped off by a hashtag or a message board replete with obscenities and emotes, people are expressing how they feel more than ever. Such openness makes it easier for organizations to course correct sooner. But it also carries the risk of leaving quick and lasting damage if the issues are spread far and wide enough.

Brands like business schools are particularly susceptible. Their selling points are prestige, which are forged on hard statistics and intangibles like “network quality.” Here, schools must straddle the quality of the experience with the long-term results (i.e. pay and placement). After socking six figures and two years into an MBA education, you can bet that their alumni are among the most vocal about their experience.

So which schools are the best at delivering the goods? This week, Forbes went about revealing just that. As part of its 2015 “Best Business School ranking,” Forbes surveyed 17,400 graduates from the class of 2010 – receiving responses back from over 4,000 alumni. To compile the results, graduates were queried about “their satisfaction with their education, the preparation their business degrees provided them relative to other MBAs and their current jobs.”

Two years ago, Stanford sat atop the standings, with the program receiving the highest marks of any school in MBA education and preparation (and ranking fourth in current job satisfaction). Haas ranked second, with Carnegie Mellon rounding out the top three.  This year, Haas and Tepper fell out of the top 10 – and Stanford plummeted to sixth. The new champion – wait for it – is the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

So what’s Darden’s secret? Well, it’s hard to tell. In this year’s ranking, Forbes didn’t specify how schools ranked in terms of education, preparation, and current job satisfaction. Instead, the publication lazily cited Darden’s 42% participation rate last year in the annual alumni fund-raising campaign (third best among American schools). Financially, the Darden Class of 2010 has been keeping pace, averaging $170,000 annually – higher than programs like Ross, Fuqua, Kenan-Flagler, and Johnson. However, the program ranked just 16th in Forbes’ latest ranking, with students making a $56,600 in earnings over five years.

The Financial Times also sheds little light on the Darden difference in this survey. Using survey data from the Class of 2011, the Financial Times’ 2015 Global MBA Ranking ranks Darden 18th for alumni recommendations (i.e. which schools would alumni recruit graduates from). It also placed 71st for value for money, 56th for career progress, and 82nd for aims achieved globally. What’s more, the school ranked 18th in Bloomberg Businessweek’s most recent alumni ranking, which was integrated into its “Best Business Schools 2015” ranking.

That said, Darden clearly doesn’t suffer from an iceberg effect. Among the alumni comments recently collected by Forbes, Darden is feted for its sense of community, academic rigor, and teaching. “The case method challenged us to solve real business problems every day, so were continually gaining experience applicable to the real world,” writes James. “The professors and teaching is of the highest quality,” he adds. Even more, notes 2010 grad Rahul Sapra, the program teaches the right lessons. “The case study method at Darden is particularly good at preparing students to succeed in environments that lack structure, predictability, and reliable market data.”

When it comes to community, it’s hard to beat Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, which ranked second in Forbes’ survey. Like Darden, Tuck is renowned for its case-based teaching culture. And if you truly want to understand how much Tuck alums treasure their experience there, consider this statistic: Over 70% of alumni contribute to the school’s annual fund (with the number approaching 80% among more recent alums). Not surprisingly, Tuck climbed four spots over the 2014 ranking. Even more, according to Forbes, it was the only program besides Darden to rank in the top five in all three satisfaction measurements.

USC’s Marshall School of Business loves to tout its “Trojan Network,” where alumni are known to conscientiously look out for its own. Not surprisingly, Marshall traditionally ranks alongside Darden and Tuck in The Economist’s ranking of alumni network strength. And this sense of togetherness, coupled with strong alumni involvement, is one reason why Marshall ranked third in terms of alumni satisfaction. “USC Marshall is second to none in building a top-rate network,” writes Kathryn in the Forbes survey. “Five years out and I am still in touch with many of my classmates and contacts affiliated with USC Marshall. I credit USC Marshall with opening the door to my dream job right out of b-school.”

Forbes’ Top Five is rounded out by Michigan State’s Broad College of Business – which produced the highest job satisfaction scores of any school – and Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Indiana (Kelley), Duke (Fuqua), Rice (Jones), and the University of Wisconsin each dropped out of the Top 10 from the previous ranking. Ironically, however, Rice and Duke each ranked in the Top 10 in Bloomberg Businessweek’s alumni survey.

From a big picture standpoint, high rankings and high pay don’t necessarily correlate to alumni happiness. Among the programs with the ten highest paid alumni on average, just four (Stanford, Booth, Tuck, and Kellogg) were also ranked among the most satisfied alumni. In other words, alumni from Harvard ($239K), Columbia ($208K), and Wharton ($207K) were actually less content with their education and career than alumni from USC ($151K), Emory ($132K), or Michigan State ($112K).

Here is Forbes’ ranking of the top 10 schools for alumni satisfaction:

1) University of Virginia (Darden)

2) Dartmouth College (Tuck)

3) USC (Marshall)

4) Michigan State (Broad)

5) Emory University (Goizueta)

6) Stanford Graduate School of Business

7) University of Chicago (Booth)

8) MIT (Sloan)

9) UCLA (Anderson)

10) Northwestern University (Kellogg)

DON’T MISS: Which Schools Have the Happiest Grads

Source: Forbes

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