If you’re keen on diving deeper into a specific area of study in your Online MBA program, it may very well impact your decision on where to enroll. U.S. News publishes specialty rankings that single out Online MBA Programs that are known to provide better options in such fields as business analytics, finance, marketing, and general management.
This year’s winners? Carnegie Mellon took the top prize for business analytics. Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business got it for finance and general management. The University of Maryland won it for marketing.
But before the celebrations start, it should be noted that these specialty rankings are based entirely on responses to U.S. News‘ peer assessment surveys which are sent to the deans of business schools with Online MBA Programs and their program directors. The usefulness of this data is questionable.
U.S. NEWS USES A LOW BAR TO CREATE ITS SPECIALTY ONLINE MBA RANKINGS
U.S. News does not publish a response rate for this survey, and many deans and directors refuse to complete it. Those that do fill it out have a vested interest in promoting their own programs. And there have been reports of collusion where the officials of one school agree to scratch the back of another in return for a mention on the survey (see Is There a Jesuit Business School Conspiracy?).
Moreover, U.S. News establishes a low bar for inclusion in these rankings. To be rank-eligible, a school needs only five ratings from peer institutions. In other words, it’s possible to get ranked if merely five deans and directors mention the school. For each specialty, respondents are asked to volunteer up to 15 institutions that they believed had strength in these areas. Schools were then ranked in descending order of total ratings received by peer institutions. Ranking programs by the number of elective offerings in these disciplines or whether they offer concentrations or specializations in a given discipline would have greater credibility than U.S. News‘ peer assessment surveys.
Another obvious problem with the methodology is that it does not include schools that are either new to the online arena or decline to participate in rankings. These include such major players now offering online MBA options as the University of Michigan, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, New York University’s Stern School of Business, the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business and Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.
The results, therefore, can be somewhat peculiar. It’s odd, for example, that Maryland would beat Indiana Kelley in marketing because the Kelley School is strong in that discipline, historically sending many MBA graduates into the major consumer packaged goods companies including Procter & Gamble.