Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business topped all of their competitors in offering the best online master’s programs in business, according to U.S. News’ 2022 ranking published today (Jan. 25). Kelley moved up from second place to share top honors with USC which had claimed first alone last year.
Rounding out the top ten for the best non-MBA graduate degrees in business were Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Georgia, both tied for third place, and the University of Alabama and Villanova University, both tied for fifth.
Besides its highly ranked online MBA, which is currently in a three-way tie for first with USC and the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, Kelley won the recognition for its three other master’s degrees offered online. They are MS degrees in business analytics, finance, and strategic management. All three options are 30-credit degree programs that cost $45,044 for students entering in the fall of 2022.
SOME WILD UP AND DOWNS FOR MANY BUSINESS SCHOOLS IN THE RANKING
Kelley also offers something of a short cut for online MBA students who want to get a dual degree. By using some of the elective courses in the MBA, a student can also pick up one of the MS degrees by completing only an additional 12 credits. A dual-degree would expand the time to complete the programs to two and one-half to five years, versus the two to four for students doing just the MBA program that now costs $82,158.
USC offers two online graduate degrees in addition to its MBA. They are an MS in global supply chain management and a master’s in business taxation for working professionals.
Many schools on this rankings experienced roller-coaster-like rides up and down the list. In placing third this year, for example, Carnegie Mellon jumped 21 places from 24th only last year. The University of Alabama achieved its No. 5 ranking by soaring 26 spots from a rank of 31st last year. Just as implausible, Texas A&M University rocketed up 56 places to rank 16th this year from 72nd a mere 12 months ago.
SEVERAL PROMINENT B-SCHOOL OFFERINGS NOT IN THE RANKING
Those swings should use applicants a solid reason to discount the ranking. Plus, the ranking does not include many other prominent business schools that are offering high quality online degrees. The University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business is one example. The school now offers an MS in accountancy, priced between $20,564 and $27,200, as well as an $11,000 master of science in management. The latter degree, launched little more than a year ago, boasts nearly 700 students. It is the most successful launch of a graduate program ever on the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus. Yet, Gies doesn’t merit a mention on the ranking because it declines to participate in rankings (see Online Rankings? No, Thank You, Says Gies).
The U.S. News ranking is based on unaudited data provided by “regionally accredited” business schools along with what U.S. News calls a peer assessment survey of “high-ranking academic officials at MBA programs.” For the latter survey, the website tosses in data that it collected for the past three years. But the ranking organization does not report how many officials were surveyed nor how many responded. U.S. News does not survey students, graduates or employers for the ranking. The school-provided data and the opinions are rolled up into an overly complicated formula that centers on nearly 50 different metrics in five measured categories: Student engagement (30% of the weight), expert opinion (25%), student excellence (15%), faculty credentials and training (15%), and student services and technology (15%).
For the 2022 ranking, U.S. News decided against using new entrants’ GMAT and GRE scores which in the past comprised 40% of each school’s student excellence score. More schools are now waiving standardized tests are not requiring them at all for their online degree programs. The weight applied to those scores was redistributed to the other admissions data so that undergraduate GPA now accounts for double the impact it had (50% vs. 25% in the student excellence category. Average work experience and acceptance rates also assumed greater importance, each accounting for 25% of the category, up from 15% for admit rates and 20% for work experience.
IN MEASURING ‘ENGAGEMENT,’ U.S. NEWS MEASURES ANYTHING BUT TRUE STUDENT ENGAGEMENT
In each category, several metrics are taken into account. To measure “engagement,” for example, U.S. News assigns a 35% weight to graduation rate defined by the two-year average of students who completed the online MBA within three years, another 35% to what it terms “best practices.” Half the score in this part of the ranking is based on a program having accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs or the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.
The other half is based on ten different components that range from an anti-plagiarism policy to required course evaluations. Some 10% of the weight is given to class size, under which sections with fewer than 20 students receive full credit, while classes with 50 or more students get no credit. Another 10% weight is applied to one-year retention rates, defined as a program’s average re-enrollment rate over four years.
And finally the remaining 10% weight is given to “time to degree deadline,” described by U.S. News as a requirement for students to complete their degree or retake coursework within 1.5 times the program’s length. All of this is for only one of the five measured categories, and it is rolled up in the ‘engagement’ category that doesn’t really measure how deeply engaged students are in their courses.