Big Changes In U.S. News Ranking Of MBA Programs

Harvard Business School - Ethan Baron photo

Harvard Business School – Ethan Baron photo

In the cat-and-mouse game at the top of U.S. News’ MBA ranking, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business today (March 16) found itself in an awkward spot. Not only did Stanford lose its No. 1 ranking to Harvard Business School. Worse, the school now shares second place with the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business which achieved its highest ranking ever on the list.

Stanford’s slippage makes this year the first in seven years that the school failed to hold first place on its own or in a tie with another school. That’s despite the fact that Stanford reported a record low acceptance rate of 6.1%, a full percentage point lower than the 7.1% of a year earlier and nearly five points lower than Harvard’s 10.7%.

It also is the first time that Chicago pulled ahead of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School which placed fourth this year. The MBA programs of both schools have been locked in a battle of ever-escalating GMATs, a key component of the U.S. News’ ranking. Wharton’s average GMAT of 732 is now only one point below Stanford and has risen 14 points from 718 in four years. Chicago Booth, meantime, has reported record GMATs for at least 13 years in a row, with a 726 for the latest entering class, up from just 687 in 2002. It was Booth’s slightly better employment numbers that allowed the school to edge out Wharton which tied or bested Chicago on every other metric.


Perhaps the biggest news among the elite U.S. business schools, however, is the emergence of Yale University’s School of Management. Yale jumped five places to rank eighth, catapulting over six of the world’s most prominent business schools to gain its highest ranking ever in U.S. News.

Yale finished 13th last year and had to push past Columbia Business School, Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, the University of Virginia’s Darden School, New York University’s Stern School of Business, the University of Michigan’s Ross School, and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business to enter the Top Ten.

Only two Top Ten schools kept their exact ranks from last year: No. 5 MIT Sloan and No. 7 UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business. As always, however, the differences among these schools is so small that this year U.S. News has six MBA programs in tied positions. Besides Stanford and Chicago in second place, MIT now shares fifth place with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, which placed sixth last year. Tying for a rank of eighth place is Yale and Dartmouth Tuck, which was ranked ninth a year earlier.


The biggest shock among the first-tier schools is New York University’s plummet to 20th place from 11th, a drop of nine places in a single year. Robert Morse, the rankings guru at U.S. News, said that Stern fell as much as it did because the school initially failed to submit the number of new MBA students who provided standardized test scores. That information is used by the magazine in its ranking model to compute a value for a school’s average GMAT and GRE scores.

“This measure is included in the rankings to determine the strength of a school’s entering class relative to other programs,” wrote Morse in a blog post. Though Stern later provided U.S. News with the missing numbers, Morse said that the school’s rankings were “negatively affected as a result of the data omission. U.S. News will not recalculate NYU’s rankings – or any other school’s rankings – because of non reporting.”

Stern Dean Peter Henry, in an email to students, immediately took issue with the magazine’s decision. He called the resulting rank “anomalous and inconsistent” with the facts. “The failure to submit the data is ours,” he wrote. “That said, it was wholly unintentional, it’s a question we’ve always answered in the past, US News never flagged the missing information, and the missing data was virtually identical to last year’s. Going forward, we will further tighten the procedures for data submissions so such lapses do not recur” (see Why U.S. News Whacked NYU Stern).

The University of Southern California’s Marshall School lost six spots to fall to a rank of 31 from 25. Rice University’s Jones School of Business jumped eight places to 25th from 33rd. Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management gained five spots to place 22nd, up from 27th last year (see The Biggest Winners & Losers In The New U.S. News Ranking).


Stanford’s decline in the closely watched yet controversial U.S. News sweepstakes occurs after a year in which the school made headlines around the world for a sex and leadership scandal involving Dean Garth Saloner. But the negative publicity apparently had little to do with the school’s fall in ranking. More likely, it occurred because more Stanford MBAs shunned the mainstream recruiters who came to campus, preferring to either do their own startups or work for early stage companies that are now competing with the likes of McKinsey and Goldman Sachs.

The evidence shows up in the metrics on employment data collected by U.S. News. This year, Harvard outflanked Stanford by earning slightly better scores from corporate recruiters, which are surveyed by U.S. News, but also higher employment statistics for its latest graduating class. At graduation, 81.0% of Harvard MBAs had jobs, nearly 10 points higher than Stanford’s 71.7%. Three months after commencement, 91.1% of HBS’ graduates were already employed, compared to 86.2% at Stanford.

That’s not because there were fewer job opportunities for Stanford graduates. The gap between offers and acceptances at Stanford tripled last year to six percentage points from two in 2014. Some 92% of Stanford MBAs had job offers three months after graduation, but only 86% accepted them. Graduates not only became more selective. More of them were conducting one-off searches for MBA jobs with startups and early stage companies that tend to take longer.

The Top Ten Business Schools On Core Metrics

School GMAT GPA Accept Rate Pay Jobs at Grad Jobs Later
  1. Harvard 725 3.66 10.7% $149,784 81.0% 91.1%
  2. Stanford 733 3.75 6.1% $145,173 71.7% 86.2%
  2. Booth 728 3.59 24.7% $143,475 86.5% 95.0%
  4. Wharton 732 3.60 19.8% $146,761 80.8% 93.6%
  5. MIT 716 3.54 14.6% $146,201 86.1% 92.4%
  5. Kellogg 724 3.60 20.6% $140,107 86.3% 93.8%
  7. Haas 715 3.66 13.0% $143,485 72.0% 93.8%
  8. Tuck 717 3.52 22.6% $148,025 83.3% 95.1%
  8. Yale 721 3.60 20.7% $139,310 76.6% 92.2%
10. Columbia 715 3.50 18.0% $146,436 76.7% 92.5%

Source: Schools reporting to U.S. News & World Report

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