Ten Surprises In U.S. News’ MBA Ranking

Portrait of young man with shocked facial expression over orange studio background

Every ranking brings surprises, and today’s new U.S. News & World Report list of the top MBA programs is no exception. Schools rise and fall, some MBA programs disappear altogether, and methodologies change. Here are the top surprises in the 2019 U.S. News MBA ranking.

Chicago Booth gains first place in U.S. News‘ annual MBA ranking for the first time ever, sharing the top spot with Harvard Business School

1. Chicago’s Surprise First Place Finish

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is no stranger to ranking wins — at least not since Edward “Ted” Snyder was dean of the school from 2001 to 2010. Snyder set the school on a solid trajectory with great forward momentum after his departure. From 2006 to 2012, the school’s MBA program was ranked first on consecutive Businessweek lists. It has also placed first in seven of The Economist MBA rankings, including for five straight years from 2012 to 2016.

But this is the first time Booth climbed to the top of a U.S. News MBA ranking. It did so, moreover, on the back of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which had claimed a first-place tie last year with Harvard Business School. This year Booth replaced Wharton to share the No. 1 title with Harvard, while Wharton fell into third place, exactly where Booth was a year ago.

There are plenty of reasons for Booth’s success. Flush with money, the school has been able to attract some of the world’s best MBA students with significant scholarship gifts and recruit and retain some of the best faculty anywhere. Eight business school profs at Chicago have won Nobels: George Stigler in 1982, Merton Miller in 1990, Ronald Coase in 1991, Gary Becker in 1992, Robert Fogel in 1993, Myron Scholes in 1997, Eugene Fama in 2013, and Richard Thaler last year. Among the world’s business schools, no other institution can claim more faculty who have won the prestigious honor.

The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan

2. Michigan’s Ross School Cracks Top Ten In Seventh Place

The other big news in this year’s U.S. News ranking is the emergence of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Ross not only cracked the Top Ten for the first time in 14 years — it finished seventh overall, jumping four places from its rank of 11th last year. To do that, the school had to jump over Columbia Business School, Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, and Yale’s School of Management. No small feat. It is the highest rank achieved by Michigan in the U.S. News ranking since 1999.

The news is a big win for Scott DeRue, a highly popular Ross professor who became dean in July of 2016. When DeRue succeeded Alison Davis-Blake, the school was ranked 12th by U.S. News. Last year, Ross gained one spot to place 11th. While U.S. News did not disclose the actual ranks in its “sneak peek,” this year’s list would represent the second improvement in rankings for the school under DeRue. As recently as 2013, the school ranked 14th under Dean Davis-Blake.

Ross knocked Yale University’s School of Management out of the top 10 largely on the basis of its pay and placement numbers, which account for 35% of the overall ranking. The average salary and bonus for a Ross MBA graduate last year was $150,052, more than $12,000 over the $137,155 average at SOM which fell two places this year to rank 11th. Yalie pay is the lowest average salary and bonus of the top U.S. News-ranked 18 schools, even below UT-Austin’s $139,406.

Yale’s School of Management

3. Yale’s School of Management Tumbles Out Of The Top Ten

Ross’ gain this year was Yale’s loss. The school tumbled out of U.S. News‘ Top Ten for the first time in three years to finish in an 11th place tie with Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Sure, Dean Edward “Ted” Snyder was on a sabbatical this past year, but the real reason why the school fell has to do with the fact that it places the highest percentage of MBAs from any class into the non-profit sector.

Yale’s numbers were dragged down by the 5.2% of its graduating class that took jobs in the non-profit sector where the median base salary was only $67,500, nearly half the SOM class median of $124,900, and where few if any graduates received bonus money. At Ross, so few MBAs go into non-profit jobs that the employment report doesn’t even list the category. So depending on your point of view, those graduates add valuable perspective and diversity to SOM’s class or they hurt the school in rankings.

Still, the school’s drop is unexpected. SOM welcomed the most qualified class of MBA students to its campus last fall. The class  boasts a 727 GMAT average – a record for the school and a number that eclipses peer programs like Berkeley Haas, MIT Sloan, and Columbia. At the same time, the class’ 730 median average ties it with Harvard’s incoming class. Along with a two point rise in average GMATs, Yale also experienced a bump in GPAs averages, going from 3.63 to 3.67. Nearly a fifth of the 2019 Class hold graduate degrees, with another 13% pursuing dual graduate degrees. So don’t count SOM out. It could very well be back in the top ten next year.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.