U.S. News 2020 Online MBA Ranking: Some Familiar Names & A Few Surprises

A record 335 U.S. business schools participated in U.S. News’ online MBA ranking

More surprising than the actual winners and losers of U.S. News & World Report‘s 2020 ranking of the best online MBA programs released today (Jan. 14) may well be how many schools are now playing in the online space. A record 335 business schools in the U.S. alone participated in this year’s ranking which resulted in 321 ranked programs.

Otherwise, there were some familiar names and a few surprises on today’s new list of the top online MBAs. In fact, the five top leading programs last year finished in exactly the same place on this newly updated list, with Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School sharing top honors for the third time. Over the eight years that U.S. News has been ranking online MBA programs, Kelley has racked up the most first-place wins with four, while UNC is right behind with three.

One shocker: Temple University’s Fox School of Business, which was tossed off the list last year after the school acknowledged that it had fraudulently reported data to U.S. News over a number of years, managed a return to the list of the best. But instead of ranking first, as it did for four consecutive years from 2015 to 2018 when it inflated rankings data to secure its No. 1 status, Fox managed to do no better than 88th place this year, tied with six other business schools.

THE TOP TEN ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS ACCORDING TO U.S. NEWS 2020 RANKING

2020 Rank & School 2019 Rank Enrollment Total Cost Three-Year Graduation Rate One-Year Retention Rate
1. Indiana University (Kelley) 1 1014 $74,520 81% 99%
1. University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) 1 799 $125,589 89% 96%
3. Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper) 3 126 $136,000 98% 97%
4. University of Florida (Warrington) 4 504 $59,807 95% 96%
5. University of Southern California (Marshall) 5 178 $106,197 97% 100%
6. Penn State University–World Campus 9 486 $59,328 92% 95%
6. University of Mississippi 9 85 $31,860 87% 85%
6. University of Texas-Dallas (Jindal) 6 303 $86,014 64% 72%
9. Villanova University 13 298 $64,800 71% 96%
10. University of Arizona (Eller) 21 345 $51,525 88% 92%
10. University of Maryland (Smith) 8 436 $88,776 80% 94%
10. University of Washington (Foster) 126 111 $75,000 NA NA
10. University of Wisconsin MBA Consortium 9 330 $27,900 76% 96%

Notes: Three-year graduation rates for entering cohorts of at least ten students during the July 2015-June 2016 academic year. Retention is calculated as a four-year average of one-year retention rates.

“When Temple first reported issues with submitted data to the publication in January 2018, we understood that it would take time to restore the inevitable damage to the ranking and reputation of the Fox School,” the university said in a statement released to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “But it was the right thing to do to restore public trust in the integrity of our data.” Temple has kept the cost of its online MBA the same–$59,760–despite the scandal and plunge in its ranking.

A TOP-TIER OF ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS EMERGES

Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School blended online MBA offering is again third, while the University of Florida and the University of Southern California respectively fourth and fifth. Because of ties, U.S. News now has 14 different programs in its top ten. They include three schools ranked in sixth place, Penn State, the University of Mississippi and the University of Texas at Dallas. Villanova University is the sole occupant of the ninth spot, while U.S. News has five different programs all ranked tenth. They are Arizona State University’s Carey School, the University of Arizona, the University of Maryland, the University of Washington, and the University of Wisconsin’s MBA Consortium. This year, the Amherst program ranked 28th, down from 17th only a year ago.

More important than a single year’s ranking, of course, is which schools are able to maintain their lead in this and the Poets&Quants‘ annual ranking of online MBA programs that surveys the latest students and graduates. It’s clear that a top-tier of online MBA programs have emerged and they include Indiana University, Carnegie Mellon, the University of North Carolina and the University of Southern California. These top-tier players are the only four schools that are in the top ten in both this latest U.S. News list as well as the 2020 ranking from Poets&Quants.

There are other schools, of course, that have either only recently launched their online MBAs or have decided not to participate in rankings that may also vie in this top group. They include such recent entries as the University of Michigan and Southern Methodist University’s Cox School along with the highly disruptive $22,000 iMBA program at the University of Illinois Gies College of Business which has thus far declined to participate in rankings. Another surprise: The relatively new online MBA at highly regarded Rice University failed to break into the top 100. It was ranked 123rd with seven other schools that include St. Bonaventure University and Cleveland State University.

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