When U.S. News reveals its new MBA ranking on March 20th, the big question is whether Wharton and Harvard Business School will again share the magazine’s crown for having the best full-time MBA program in the U.S.
Last year, for only the second time in 28 years, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School fought its way into a tie for first place with Harvard Business School. To capture the top prize, Wharton had to rise three places, jumping over both Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
Though the U.S. News ranking fails to assess schools outside the U.S., it is arguably the most watched and followed of all the MBA rankings—and certainly is the most influential in the U.S. The magazine will put a 2019 date on its forthcoming ranking, even though it is coming out in 2018 and will be based on 2017 data. That’s largely because of the use of quantitative data on admissions and career outcomes. The methodology takes into account a wealth of proprietary and school-supplied data to crank out its annual ranking of the best full-time MBA programs.
The magazine does its own peer assessment survey of B-school deans and MBA directors (25% of the score). It also does its own survey of corporate recruiters (accounting for 15% of the overall ranking). U.S. News said it averaged the recruiter scores over the past three years for the ranking. The magazine reported a 43% response rate last year for the peer survey but none for the mashup of recruiter polls.
HOW U.S. NEWS EVALUATES FULL-TIME MBA PROGRAMS
Other metrics included in the ranking are starting salaries and bonuses (14%), employment rates at and three months after graduation (7% to 14%, respectively), student GMATs and GREs scores (about 16%), undergrad GPAs (about 8%), and the percentage of applicants who are accepted to a school (a little over 1%). This is the fifth year U.S. News included GRE scores in its ranking methodology.
While the metrics employed by U.S. News may appear to be reasonable, they yield very close results–in many cases the difference between an MBA program ranked 35 and 40 or 60 and 70 is statistically meaningless. The best proof of this is the roller-coaster, year-over-year flips and flops in the ranking by so many schools.
The further one goes down the list, the more likely you’ll see wildly volatile results—evidence that these MBA programs are so close together in quality that there really is no meaningful difference among them—at least as measured by the U.S. News’ methodology.
LOTS OF TIES UP AND DOWN THE U.S. NEWS LIST
Consider the seven schools that U.S. News last year placed in the same rank of 57th. Those seven schools alone had 104 changes in places, with each averaging a change of 15 positions on the ranking. The Zicklin School of Business at CUNY’s Baruch College jumped 28 places to rank 57th from 85th last year. The Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah soared 22 places to 57th from 79th. The Isenberg School at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst rose 18 places to 57th from 75th.
The newest ranking will revisit some of the big surprises and shocks from last year when Stanford, despite its highly advantageous geographical location in the most dynamic economy in the world, fell three places to fourth, behind HBS, Wharton and No. 3 Chicago Booth. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School and MIT’s Sloan School of Management each climbed one place to finish in a three-way tie last year with Stanford for the No. 4 spot.
New York University’s Stern School of Business, unfairly penalized by U.S. News over a human error in filling out the magazine’s survey, climbed back to 12th place last year from 20th in 2016. Yale’s School of Management, which rose five spots in 2016 to win its highest U.S. News ranking ever, held onto its ninth place finish. Will Yale remain solidly in the top ten this year or nudged aside by other rivals?
WILL GW’S BUSINESS SCHOOL MAKE A RETURN TO THE LIST?
For some schools, even more may be at stake. George Washington University last year was tossed from the list after ranking 51th a year earlier. The reason: the school received pre-publication rankings data from U.S. News and found what a business school spokesperson says was “a discrepancy in our average GMAT score. After further review, we determined that the GMAT average we had provided to U.S. News for both the full-time and part-time MBA programs had been inadvertently miscalculated. We alerted U.S. News on March 9, provided them with the correct GMAT data, and confirmed on March 10 that all other business school data we provided was accurate.”
U.S. News, having already calculated its rankings, apparently decided to penalize the school for the mistake. “We regret this error and take seriously our responsibility to ensure the integrity of the information we report to U.S. News and all agencies,” says Dustin Carnevale, executive director of marketing and communications. “We believe we did the right thing by immediately and proactively reporting the error and providing the correct data to U.S. News as soon as the error was discovered. The action taken by U.S. News in no way diminishes the excellence of our programs, the quality of our faculty or the success of our students.”
George Washington would hope to get back in the game this year. Temple University’s Fox School of Business, removed by U.S. News from its online MBA ranking earlier this year after a data problem, has withdrawn from this year’s list, pending an investigation into its rankings data. Temple had reported that all 255 of the program’s latest incoming class submitted GMAT scores to get into the program. In fact, the school acknowledged that only 50 students, or 19.6%, submitted GMAT scores. This year it won’t appear at all on the full-time MBA ranking after placing 32nd in 2017, a nine-place jump over the year-earlier results (see Fox Bows Out Of All U.S. News Rankings).