Ten Biggest Surprises In Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2017 MBA Ranking

9) Yale Suffers Its Third Straight Drop, Falling To 16th From 6th In 2014?

In the past five years, no elite business school has seen a greater increase in full-time MBA applications than Yale University’s School of Management. This past year, 4,098 candidates applied for one of the school’s 348 seats, up a remarkable 60.5% from 2,554 in 2014. When many full-time MBA programs have witnessed declining applications, it was a record year for Yale SOM.

Those increases, more importantly, have allow the school to substantially increase its average GMAT and GRE scores, grade point averages, and the caliber of undergraduate institutions on the resumes of its incoming classes. This year’s incoming class, for example, boasts the highest average GMAT and GPA ever recorded at Yale, 727, up two points over last year, and 3.67, vs. 3.63, respectively.

Yale’s median GMAT score of 730 is now equal to Harvard Business School. The average grade point average for SOM’s Class of 2019 now slightly exceeds Harvard’s 3.67 and is second only to Stanford’s 3.73. And with this latest application jump, Yale has more candidates per available seat in the classroom than even Harvard Business School, 11.8 vs. HBS’ 11.0. At Wharton and Kellogg this year, applications were essentially flat. At Harvard, they were up by 6%.

So how did the hottest elite MBA program fare in the latest Businessweek MBA ranking? You know the answer. SOM fell two places to rank 16th, well out of the Top Ten, and just behind the University of Washington. And that is after a three-position drop in the previous year from a rank of 11th in 2015 and a five-point decline the year before that when SOM finished sixth.

Yale’s performance in this ranking reminds us of what Businessweek fails to measure, something that is more important than many of the metrics it uses: the quality of the incoming students and the demand for an MBA program from the market. Unlike U.S. News, there is no effort to capture the test scores and undergraduate GPAs of incoming students nor is there any attempt to capture how highly selective a school’s MBA program has become.

Yet student quality may well be the ultimate measure of the actual quality of an MBA program. Most of the learning in and out of the classroom occurs through students and the brainpower and experience they bring to school truly matters. Just another reason to think of this ranking as entertainment–not an informative tool to help smart people decide where to go to graduate school.

Rice Business Students

10)  Is Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business A Top Ten MBA?

Let’s just say this out loud: We think Dean Peter Rodriguez of Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Management is among a small group of the very best leaders in business education—and thanks to generous scholarship support, the school has been able to attract an exceptional group of MBA students.

During the 2016-2017 admissions cycle, Jones drew an all-time high 813 applications – 11% better than the previous year — for its small intake of under 120 students. Impressive, no doubt, but it was the quality of candidates who stood out. This year’s class boasts an average GMAT of 711 – eight points higher than Texas’ flagship program at McCombs. What’s more, the score represents a 21-point improvement over the 2018 Class – and 35 points better than the most recent graduating class.

Some 80% of the MBA class receives financial aid – one of the highest rates in the country. This generosity is rooted in Rice’s mission, which is to draw the top minds and pair them with untapped talent that may lack the finances to continue their education. This has created a virtuous cycle – both inside the business school and within the university at large – where talent draws even bigger talent over time.

But is Rice a top ten business school? Businessweek certainly thinks so. Last year, the school ranked eighth. This year, it’s in tenth place. That puts Rice ahead of Virginia Darden, where Jones Dean Rodriguez spent a good portion of his career, as well as Berkeley, Yale, Cornell, Michigan, UT-Austin, UNC-Chapel Hill, and UCLA. Pretty heady company. Anyway you cut it, Rice’s ability to hang tough in the top ten has to be one of the biggest surprises in this year’s ranking.