U.S. News Ranking Due Out March 17th

U.S. News & World Report‘s annual MBA ranking will be published on March 17th. The new list will feature a trio of new specialty MBA rankings on business analytics, one of the hottest growth areas in MBA curricula, as well as real estate and project management.

The announcement of the publication date and change was made in a blog post by Robert Morse, the long-time keeper of the U.S. News rankings who is the media company’s chief data strategist.

The new specialty business rankings will be based solely on U.S. News‘ peer assessment surveys that were sent to business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs in the fall of last year. They are simply asked to nominate up to 15 programs for excellence in each discipline.  A mere seven nominations can get a school on these lists, making them less than credible. The new specialties will be in addition to the dozen that already exist from accounting to production/operations.


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. A recent survey of Harvard Business School MBA students found that the controversial annual list is the most read of all the MBA rankings and the most influential. Some 74% of the responding HBS students said they consulted the ranking while applying to business school, while 46% said the publication’s rankings influenced their school choices. The survey was conducted by the school’s marketing and communications staff to determine how impactful MBA rankings are in applicant decisions.

Because U.S. News weighs both GMAT and GRE class averages in its methodology, the ranking has caused many schools to over-index those measures in its admission and scholarship decisions. Even though Dartmouth Tuck had an application drop of 22.5% last year, for example, it still managed to post a new record class GMAT average of 723. After Columbia Business School reported a record class GMAT average of 736 in 2018, at that time higher than any other business school in the world, the school’s MBA program jumped three places to rank sixth, up from ninth a year earlier and tenth in 2016. It was the largest single year-over-year gain of any top ten MBA program last year. It is known that a large chunk of scholarship money is given out by schools to effectively buy high GMAT scores.

B-school administrators will be closely watching to see if the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School can hold on to first place (see Wharton Is U.S. News Top Grad School). Last year, the school captured top honors for the best full-time MBA program in the U.S. Wharton knocked out both Harvard and Chicago Booth which shared first place the previous year. In 2019, HBS and Booth slipped two places each into a three-way tie for third place with MIT Sloan, while Stanford’s Graduate School of Business gained two places to rank right behind Wharton in second place.


The most vulnerable place to be in the U.S. News ranking is near the bottom of the top ten or the top 25. Last year, Yale School of Management finished in ninth place, with both Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business tied for tenth. Knocking on the door for a return to the top ten this year will be Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business which slipped two places last year to rank 12th. Also eager to crack the top ten will be New Yor,k University’s Stern School of Business and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, both in the three-way tie for 12th with Tuck.

Attempting to either improve their position or hold on to rankings toward the end of the top 25 would be Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business, Indiana Unversity’s Kelley School of Business, and the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, all of which were in a three-way tie for a rank of 21st last year. Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business will hope to move to a more comfortable spot in the top 25 from its current rank of 24th.

Also vulnerable in any new ranking are schools that had strong finishes last year, largely because there is a tendency in rankings to self-correct to historical places on the list. These schools would include the University of Southern California’s Marshall School which rose to its highest rank ever last year, jumping three spots to rank 17th. In the previous three years, Marshall has moved up 14 places from a rank of 31st in 2016. Also in this category is the University of Florida which had risen nine places last year to finish 25th for the first time in its history.


The magazine will put a 2021 date on the ranking, even though it is coming out this year and based on 2019 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. Last year, U.S. News said it surveyed all 475 MBA programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International in the U.S. in the fall of 2018 and early 2019. A total of 367 responded, with 131 providing enough information to be assessed for a ranking.

The magazine does its own peer assessment survey of B-school deans and MBA directors (25% of the score), though U.S. News failed to report the response rate or the number of responses it received to this survey. The highest scores achieved in this survey was a 4.9 on a five-point scale, with Harvard and Stanford gaining the top 4.9 scores last year. It also does its own survey of corporate recruiters (accounting for 15% of the overall ranking). U.S. News averages the recruiter scores over the past three years for the ranking.

Other metrics included in the ranking are starting salaries and bonuses (14%), employment rates at and three months after graduation (7% and 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%). Last year for the first time, U.S. News included analytical writing scores as part of the methodology. For what will be the third consecutive year, MBA programs with less than 50 percent of their full-time fall 2019 entering students submitted average GMAT scores and average GRE quantitative, verbal and analytical scores will receive less credit for those test scores in the rankings.




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