How Recruiters, Alumni & Students Really Feel About Their B-Schools

Stanford GSB’s Knight Management Center


Alumni were equally grumpy about their alma maters. That’s a big red flag, considering they are the ones who sign big checks during annual campaigns and answer calls from agonizing applicants and self-starting students. Many have reached the position where they can hire as well. This year, 10,000 graduates from the 2009, 2010, and 2011 classes opened up about their experiences – a 33% drop in alumni participation from the previous year. This survey integrates three dimensions: alumni pay increases, career satisfaction, and responses to 16 undisclosed questions related to “their MBA experiences, the specific impacts their MBA programs have had on their careers, and whether they would recommend their program to others.” Combined, this criteria represented 30% of a school’s 2017 rank.

Here, Stanford GSB earned the best scores, a position it has held for three years running. Berkeley Haas was the runner-up among alumni. Haas was followed by Harvard Business School, Rice Jones, and Emory Goizueta. Like the recruiter survey, private schools made up 9 of the 10 highest-ranked programs among alumni. More interesting, alumni heaped high marks on several programs that received tepid evaluations from recruiters, including Stanford GSB, Berkeley Haas, Emory Goizueta, Notre Dame Mendoza, and Yale SOM. Another surprise? Alumni sentiment wasn’t necessarily tied to outcomes. Just four schools in the alumni Top 10 were among the programs where 2016 graduates enjoyed the highest average pay.

The Marriott School of Management is ranked 33rd among the top 100 U.S. business schools by Poets&Quants.

The Marriott School of Management

Wondering where alumni sentiment is surging upward? Just compare this year’s results with the 2015 alumni survey, which includes the class of 2007, 2008, and 2009. In other words, just one class overlaps with the 2017 results. Here, Notre Dame Mendoza and Brigham Young Marriott made the deepest inroads, climbing double digits to rank 6th and 8th respectively. The connection? Both are religious-affiliated programs that hammer home the fundamentals, yet infuse the curriculum with an underlying deeper purpose.

Beyond that, the University of California-San Diego Rady made the biggest leap, going from 60th to 23rd in just two years. Higher satisfaction rates among Rochester Simon’s alumni enabled it to vault into the top 20, while Cincinnati Lindner’s 23 point bump helped it reach 21st. True to the Midwest theme, Iowa Tippie (+28), Minnesota Carlson (+26), and Wisconsin (+11) also gained ground – as did Texas-Dallas Jindal (+19) and Maryland Smith (+19).


Still, 18 MBA programs suffered double digit declines among alumni. The most glaring is found in Ann Arbor, where Michigan Ross plummeted 19 spots since 2015 to rank 47th among alumni – the lowest finish among Top 20 programs in Bloomberg Businessweek’s overall ranking. Cornell Johnson, a Top 10 program among its alumni just two years, also skidded to 22nd in the survey. The same is true of UCLA Anderson, which sagged 10 spots to 16th since the 2015 ranking.

Ross School of Business

By the same token, Texas McCombs dived 24 spots to 37th, a number that should be rectified in the coming years thanks to the spring opening of its state-of-the-art Rowling Hall. The real head-scratcher, however, is USC Marshall. It is the home to the vaunted “Trojan Network,” Labrador loyal alumni who watch out for their successors by readily volunteering to act as mentors or opening doors wherever they can. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the network is decidedly more ‘soft’ Swiss than ‘toughened’ Trojan as alumni ranked their school 58th in their survey. Still, the Trojans can be thankful that they aren’t in Fort Worth, where alumni cast Texas Christian Neeley out of the Top 20 – and all the way down to 69th – a volatility that borders on being outright arbitrary.

In fact, alumni satisfaction could be a mine field for many top MBA programs based on the survey. Despite ranking 4th overall, Chicago Booth finished 35th among alumni, a drag that torpedoed any hope of catching Wharton in the overall rankings. Count MIT Sloan in the same boat. Ranked 3rd overall, it finished 20th with alumni – a five spot bump that failed to negate Wharton’s advantage among alumni and students. This even extends to Northwestern Kellogg and Columbia Business School, whose solid marks in other ranking categories were dragged down by ranking 18th and 26th respectively among their alumni. The same is true for Michigan Ross, Cornell Johnson, Carnegie Mellon Tepper, and Washington Foster, whose claims to the Top 10 are undercut by alumni ranking them anywhere from 22nd to 47th.

Of course, alumni sentiment runs both ways. The Top 25 finishes of Emory Goizueta and Brigham Young Marriott, for example, can be credited to ranking among the Top 10 with alumni. At the same time, some MBA programs are far more popular with alumni than their overall rank might indicate, headlined by Baylor Hankamer (13th vs. 67th) and Oklahoma (14th vs. 53rd) – a clear sign that both schools exceeded the expectations that alumni had when they were students.

Go to next page to see how graduating students rank MBA programs.

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