Harvard Falls To Lowest Rank Ever In U.S. News MBA Ranking


As usual, there also were some dramatic year-over-year ups and downs for several schools. Among the eight schools that will pop champagne corks today is North Carolina State’s Poole College of Management. Poole soared 33 places to rank 52nd from 85th last year. Other big winners include the University of Kansas, up 25 spots to place 68th, and the University of Massachusetts Isenberg School of Management, which climbed 21 places to finish in 53rd place, up from 74th last year (see below table).

And there are a bunch of newcomers or returnees. After a two-year absence, for example, Temple University’s Fox School of Business came back on the list at a rank of 62nd. The school’s leadership decided on a rankings hiatus after it was revealed that Temple officials had fraudulently inflated data on its online MBA program over several years to gain a higher ranking. Fox returns to the full-time MBA ranking by U.S. News but at a rank that is 30 places below its last rank of 32nd in 2017.

And the big losers? Besides two schools that fell entirely off the ranking, including the MBA programs at the Drexel University and the University of Arkansas, 17 full-time MBA programs that managed to stay on the list had double-digit changes in their status. Two of the three biggest drops were at University of California schools. UC-Irvine’s Merage School of Business plunged 24 places to rank 67th from 43rd, while UC-San Diego’s Rady School of Management plummeted 20 spots to finish 89th from 69th a year earlier.

Only a week ago, Rady disclosed that it accidentally provided more positive employment outcomes for its MBA graduates to the Financial Times for its 2020 ranking of the best full-time MBA programs. The school reported that 76% of its Class of 2019 MBA graduates had accepted jobs within three months of commencement when the actual number was 13 percentage points lower at 63%. The correct data was given to U.S. News and was a cause of Rady’s 20-place drop.
Dean Lisa Ordóñez attributed the error to an “outdated” method for analyzing career placement information and said the school has since fixed the issue.

Even so, the largest single dive was experienced by the University of Oklahoma’s Price College of Business. The school lost 27 places, falling to a rank of 85th from 58th last year. Three other schools that were in the top 100 last year–Binghamton SUNY, South Florida, and the University of Cincinnati–fell into a catchall rank of 99 to 131 this year.


What could possibly cause a school to tumble more than 20 places in a single year? Consider UC-Irvine. The school’s free fall by 24 places was largely the result of lower employment rates. Merage MBAs employed at graduation fell to 52.1% last year from 57.4% a year earlier but the job rate for MBA grads with jobs three months after commencement really tanked to 70.8% from 85.2% a year earlier, a difference of nearly 15 percentage points (see table above).

“The drop doesn’t represent the reality that 90 percent of our students accepted positions with many of today’s leading global organizations, just not within the 90-day period. Finding employment that resonates personally is critical for today’s talent, so we must also take a long-term view of student success, which is the ultimate value of attaining an MBA,” notes Eric Spangenberg, dean of the Paul Merage School of Business.

Otherwise, for Irvine, it was a mixed bag. Average class GMATs actually inched up three points to 670, along with average starting salaries and sign-on bonuses which came to $108,548 last year, up slightly from $107,905 in 2018. Those small gains were, no doubt, offset by a lower score on U.S. News‘ recruiter survey, falling to 2.7 from 2.8 on a five-point scale, and a higher acceptance rate which rose to 31.8% from 27.3%.


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. The magazine puts a 2021 date on the ranking, even though it is coming out in 2020 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. This year, U.S. News said it surveyed all 477 MBA programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International in the U.S. in the fall of 2019 and early 2020. A total of 364 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 one representing a reply of “marginal” and five “outstanding.” Stanford gained the top 4.9 score. It also does its own survey of corporate recruiters (accounting for 15% of the overall ranking). U.S. News said it averaged the recruiter scores over the past three years for the ranking. Stanford also got the highest score on this metric, a 4.5.

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%). This year for only the second time, U.S. News included analytical writing scores as part of the methodology. For the third consecutive year, MBA programs that reported that less than 50% of their full-time fall 2019 entering students submitted average GMAT scores and average GRE quantitative, verbal and analytical scores received less credit for those test scores in the rankings.

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