HOW U.S. NEWS RANKS ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS
The U.S. News ranking is based on an overly complicated formula that centers on nearly 50 different metrics in five measured categories: Student engagement (28% of the weight), admissions selectivity (25%), peer reputation (25%), faculty credentials and training (11%), and student services and technology (11%). In each category, several metrics are taken into account. In admissions selectivity, for example, assigns a 40% weight to average GMAT and GRE scores of incoming students, 20% on the class’ average undergraduate grade point average, 20% on the acceptance rate, and finally 20% on what U.S. News calls “experience.” If fewer than 75% of the latest incoming class is admitted without a GMAT or GRE score, U.S. News will penalize the school.
That latter ‘experience’ metric is based on three equally weighted parts: The extent to which work experience and undergraduate business coursework is required; whether applicants are required to submit three letters of recommendation, including one from a professional contact; and the percentage of new entrants sponsored by an employer. In effect, U.S. News arbitrarily penalizes schools that require only two recommendation letters or schools whose students are not sponsored.
One obvious disadvantage of the U.S. News list is that it is entirely U.S.-centric. Besides the new Poets&Quants‘ ranking of online MBAs, the only other major ranking, published by the Financial Times, is a global ranking but it only rates 20 schools so it has limited value. The latest FT list puts Britain’s Warwick Business School first, with Spain’s IE Business School second, and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst third. In contrast, UMass is ranked 17th by U.S. News this year. The only schools making the top ten in both U.S. News and the FT rankings are Indiana’s KelleyDirect program, ranked fourth by the FT, the University of Florida, placing seventh in the Financial Times, and Arizona State, ranked ninth (see Warwick Tops IE In Financial Times Online MBA Ranking).