What do you think of the rankings culture around the MBA? Have rankings become too important, do you think?
I get why students and parents look at rankings. Higher ed needs to be more transparent, and it’s hard for an outsider to look in and understand, for example, ‘How does a finance professor writing in the Journal of Finance help my student or help me?’ I get the opacity, transparency problem.The other thing is, rankings are incredibly powerful advertising for the schools, especially for graduate students and international students. If you’re not ranked, it’s really hard to get Asian students because it’s their No. 1 criteria.
I wish rankings measured the raw material a student gets in a program and the outcomes that they get at the other end. If we could measure the difference a school makes in a student’s life that way, I think rankings would be better. But that’s a hard thing to measure. (READ: Rethinking The Rankings: USC’s Geoff Garrett Calls For A Paradigm Shift)
Do I think we’ve taken rankings too far? Yes. You saw what happened here. You’re seeing what’s happening up at Columbia now. The upside to the schools of really high rankings is really high, and it’s more than embarrassing that people will go so far as to use fraudulent data to get there. So I do think it’s gone too far. Absolutely.
What rankings does Fox participate in now?
So we’re back in US News and World Report. We’re doing QS (Global). We’ve started doing Poets&Quants. I mean, we do care about rankings, but we don’t have a ranking strategy. We do participate and the simple reason is because students pay attention. (Fox confirmed that it also participates in Business Insurance and Princeton Review rankings.)
And, how do new students coming to Fox feel about the scandal now? How has it impacted enrollments?
So, the undergraduates don’t care. It’s still a little bit of a topic for current MBAs. They know it’s there. You don’t have to Google very far until it comes up. I get questions about it. Could it happen again? No. Does it hurt enrollments? Yeah.
I think of everything we’ve been through in the last four years, it’s hard for me to disentangle which parts are from the ranking scandal, which parts are pandemic related, and which parts are demographics. But it has hurt enrollments, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. Because our rankings went down, rightfully so, and it’s going to take us a while to rebuild. Students use rankings. For the good or bad, they use them.
You know as well as I do that all MBA programs are suffering. Some of that is just the normal suffering, some of it’s the pandemic, some of it’s the international problem. In the MBA world, unless you’re one of the Magnificent Seven, it’s a really rough world to play it right now.
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