Stanford Tops New U.S. News MBA Ranking

The top five MBA programs, according to U.S. News’ 2021 MBA ranking

Stanford Graduate School of Business today (March 30) maintained its number one ranking from U.S. News & World Report, while arch-rival Harvard Business School continued to languish on the most influential list of the top U.S. MBA programs. This year, Stanford gained sole possession of the top spot as the Wharton School slid into second place. Harvard gained one spot but ranks fifth this year in a tie with MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Unlike recent MBA rankings from both The Economist and the Financial Times, the new U.S. News list ranks every major business school. Only two big B-school brands–Wharton and MIT–declined to provide new data for the ranking due to the COVID 19 pandemic. It is a testament to the power of the U.S. News‘ ranking. Every M7 business school boycotted The Economist‘s ranking, while five of the M7 schools–Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT Sloan and Columbia–opted out of the FT ranking. Instead of excluding Wharton and MIT, however, U.S. News chose to use year-earlier admissions and employment data to make the ranking as useful as possible to prospective students.

Among the Top 25 winners, two business schools stood out for their improved performance: Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business rose four places to place 21st, while Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business moved up three spots to rank 16th in a tie with the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. Dartmouth College’s Tuck School found its way back into the Top 10 by gaining two places from last year.


Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, meantime, slipped four places to 26th, just outside the Top 25. And something of an upset occurred in Los Angeles: USC’s Marshall School of Business beat out UCLA’s Anderson School of Management to claim top honors in the key L.A. market. USC’s full-time MBA program jumped to 16th place from 17, UCLA’s offering slipped to 18th from 16th a year earlier.

Stanford kept its number one ranking despite falling off four of U.S. News specialty MBA rankings in project management, where the school ranked second last year, business analytics (6), information systems (6), and international business (15). Those sub-lists do not count in the overall MBA ranking, however, but they do reflect the judgments of other deans and senior faculty members. Still, the school posted the lowest admit rate of 8.9%, a rise of two percentage points from a year earlier, and the highest average salary and bonuses for its graduates at $176,083.

Harvard Business School’s fifth-place finish, although better than last year when it fell to sixth, its lowest rank ever in U.S. News‘ rankings, is largely a function of the magazine’s methodology. The average salary and bonus for Harvard’s MBAs last year was $171,785, a sum that is lower than six other schools in the Top 10. Harvard’s job rate of 82.5% at three months after graduation is also the lowest of any Top Ten business school. HBS also trailed key rivals in all three admission metrics used in the ranking: admit rate, undergraduate GPA, and average GMAT.

In fact, the average GMAT score of 727 for an enrolled Harvard MBA last year was behind three other peer schools–Stanford (733), Wharton (732) and Columbia (732)–and was tied with three others–Kellogg, MIT and UC-Berkeley Haas. And while Harvard’s peer assessment score of 4.8 was equal to Stanford, Wharton, and MIT, its scoring from corporate recruiters was just a tad behind Stanford and Wharton, 4.4 for HBS vs. 4.5 for No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 Wharton.

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