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

UCLA Anderson students. The UCLA Anderson School of Management will launch its MSBA this fall, says Executive Director Paul Brandano. Learn more about UCLA Business Analytics

UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Courtesy photo


Although the 2017 Bloomberg Businessweek ranking featured fewer responses from employers and alumni, students were more than happy to give their two cents. This year, 9,461 students completed the school survey, up from the 9,112 respondents credited to the 2015 survey. True to form, the 27 questions asked in the survey are left to the imagination. That said, Bloomberg Businessweek does allude to items like “campus climate, effectiveness of career services, and responsiveness of faculty and administrators.” Even more, responses from the 2016 class are lumped with the graduating class, with each school responses calibrated to balance large and small school enrollments.

Looking for a roller coaster ranking? Well, there are plenty of steep dives and barrel rolls with students at the helm. Last year, UCLA Anderson ranked 15th among alumni. How quickly things change, as it spiked up to 1st. So what happened to last year’s #1 program among students? Indiana Kelley crashed to 32nd. The same is true with the Class of 2015’s favorite program: the University of Maryland bottomed out at 39th in 2017. Call it the b-school answer to the Madden Curse. Perhaps this instability is why student opinion counts for just 15% of the ranking’s weight.

That’s not to say student opinion doesn’t matter. In reality, it can serve as a barometer for how recent investments have re-shaped a school’s MBA experience. More important, consistency can mirror a deeply-entrenched student culture whose values are passed on from class-to-class. The latter is personified by Virginia Darden, a deeply academic and interactive program, which ranked 9th in both 2015 and 2017 (and 2nd in 2016). Duke Fuqua, defined by its supportive “Team Fuqua” ethos, finished 11th in 2017 and 12th in 2015 – despite different respondents completing the student survey. The ranking results at collaborative Northwestern Kellogg, custom Chicago Booth, and purpose-driven Berkeley Haas programs have also wavered very little in recent years.

Darden produced the second-highest percentage of consulting MBAs among more than two dozen top programs in 2016, 38% of its graduating class. Courtesy photo


After UCLA, William & Mary Mason, Cornell Johnson, Michigan Ross and Berkeley Haas round out the Top 5 programs for student satisfaction. These rankings were particularly satisfying for Mason and Johnson, which rocketed up 42 and 32 spots respectively. These weren’t the only big swings found over the past two years. In spite of its alumni’s misgivings, USC Marshall’s students love the program. The newly-graduated Trojan Network delivered higher scores, pushing the program up 16 spots to 6th overall. Likewise, Southern Methodist Cox and Carnegie Mellon Tepper marched into the Top 10. Wharton, NYU Stern, Texas McCombs, and Washington Foster climbed into the Top 20 by making similar progress with students. Sure enough, Iowa Tippie picked up steam among students here as well – making it one of the few programs to improve by double digits across recruiters, alumni, and students.

That’s not to say several programs didn’t falter, as scores were lower across the board in 2017. Dartmouth Tuck is unquestionably the surprise of the group. Renowned for its traditionally close-knit community, students still tanked the program, with its rank sinking from 17th to 35th in two years. That hardly compares to the head-first plunge taken by Michigan State Broad. Even after reeling in double-digit improvements from recruiters and alumni, Broad endured a jaw-dropping 53 spot collapse, falling from 7th to 60th since 2015. Punishing, yes – but small consolation to several programs that are in the midst of soul searching, including Minnesota Carlson (-23), Georgia Tech Scheller (-20), and Texas A&M Mays (-18).

Such numbers also highlight a big difference between how students experience MBA programs and how Bloomberg Businessweek ranks them. Notably, several MBA programs falling outside the Top 25 generated more plaudits from students than their better-known (and higher priced peers). These schools were led to Houston Bauer (24th with students vs. 65th overall), William & Mary Mason (2nd vs. 42nd), Pepperdine Graziadio (48th vs. 75th), and Texas Christian Neeley (34th vs. 55th). The opposite is true as well. Several blue chip MBA programs didn’t quite live up their hype according to Bloomberg Businessweek’s student surveys. Among these schools, you’ll find MIT Sloan (22nd with students vs. 3rd overall), Harvard Business School (18th vs. 1st), and Wharton (17th vs. 2nd).

Go to next page to see how alumni and student opinions differ about their schools.