We’ve written in the past about websites that produce fraudulent college rankings to make money from second-tier business schools desperate for students. There’s certainly no shortage of them in the modern-day Wild West that is the Internet.
Well, put MBACompass.com, a website that is part of a small Kirkwood, Washington-based company called SR Education, on the list of the latest frauds. According to its own methodology, the website claims that online MBA schools were ranked based on the percentage of alumni who hold executive-level jobs. Claiming its researchers evaluated alumni data from “hundreds of universities to rank the top 25 best online MBA programs,” the company’s calculations are apparently based on a perusal of LinkedIn profiles.
“MBACompass understands the importance of career advancement for MBA students,” says Mariya Bashkatova, lead product manager of the website, in a news released published today (Nov. 13). “This is why we decided that researching alumni career data was essential for helping prospective MBA students determine the best MBA programs for them. We are excited to be the first MBA rankings to highlight alumni outcomes, specifically looking at the number of executives each school has produced,”
So which online MBA comes out first on this metric? The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
YET ANOTHER FRAUDULENT ONLINE MBA RANKING
Problem is, Ross does not have a single alum of its online MBA program. That’s because the school only welcomed its first cohort of 72 online students just three months ago (see Michigan Ross Enrolls Debut Online MBA Cohort). The program has yet to graduate anyone from its online MBA Program and won’t until 2021.
Yet, this website ranks Ross first, claiming that 37.4% of the program’s alumni have executive positions based on its cursory examination of LinkedIn records. The top five schools on the list include programs at such schools as No. 2 Pepperdine University, the No. 3 Naval Postgraduate School, and No. 4 the University of St. Thomas–institutions that aren’t ranked at all by other more credible efforts to measure the quality of online MBA programs.
A METHODOLOGY THAT IS INDECIPHERABLE
Missing from this list of 25 online MBA programs, meantime, are several of those most frequently acclaimed offerings at Carnegie Mellon, Indiana University, the University of Massachusetts, and Auburn University (see The Top Online MBA Programs Of 2020). We won’t bother to name the other schools on the list, because the entire enterprise is obviously a sham, misleading potential applicants and Google algorithms.
Even if this alumni metric had been legitimate, which it clearly is not, the website is entirely vague on how it researched LinkedIn for this data. At no time does it explain how many alums it found for each school, over what period of time, and then what job title would qualify a person as holding an “executive-level job.”
The explanation for its methodology, moreover, is virtually indecipherable: “The number of business school alumni holding positions with ‘executive’ in their job titles was collected from LinkedIn in June of 2019. The total number of business school alumni was also collected from LinkedIn. The entire school profile on LinkedIn was used when a business school profile did not exist.”
A FORMER MICROSOFT MANAGER IS BEHIND THESE FAKE RANKINGS
The person behind this fiasco is Sung Rhee, a former Microsoft manager from 1991 to 2000 who claims a Harvard degree in computer science. As the founder and CEO of SR Education, he has seen his company savaged by former employees in reviews on Glassdoor. Nicole Hopler, identified on the company’s website as marketing manager, told Poets&Quants that Rhee was not available for an interview. She maintained that the site did not select executives who had taken the online MBA program but rather “the alumni of the school as a whole, and is not specific to online programs…”We’ve added an additional sentence to our methodology to make that clearer to users. Additionally, most graduates of distance MBA programs receive the same degree as campus programs, so it would be impossible to differentiate between online and campus graduates based on LinkedIn data.”
No kidding. Rhee’s bio on the company’s website puts a nice gloss on his motivations for founding and running his company. “After working in the education industry for over 9 years as the CEO of SR Education Group, Sung became discouraged by how difficult it was to find accurate information about what’s truly important to prospective students. He saw the need for sites dedicated to transparency around finding quality education options that are both affordable and accessible.”
Obviously, transparency is not the reason for SR Education’s existence. Instead, it is to do lead generation for second- and third-tier programs and reap the benefits of those leads from business schools. In summing up the cons of working for SR Education, one former employee listed “Poor management structure, lack of feedback, no room for growth, favors quantity over quality, questionable money-making practices, (and) black hat SEO.”
Another former employee, also writing on Glassdoor, suggested that just about everything the company does revolves around Google. “The main con of working at SR Education Group is simply the nature of the niche it is in,” the person explained. “The successes of the online education vertical are closely tied to Google’s ever-changing search algorithms. As a result, high-level priorities and project goals can change quite rapidly. If you’re someone who would get frustrated having to leave a project unfinished because of these shifting priorities, then SR Education Group is not for you.”
It’s also not for anyone who is seeking credible and accurate information on higher education programs. The company’s website asserts that CEO Rhee is “an Ivy League grad who’s passionate about changing the landscape in higher education so it better reflects the interests of students. He knows prestige doesn’t always translate to quality and doesn’t want to see students get a raw deal.”
Any user of this website, however, is getting a raw deal. And any business school that supports this sham should be called out for their unethical behavior.