Not much changes in the rankings year to year for the workhorses of the graduate business education world. That much is plain from the latest U.S. News ranking of nearly 300 part-time MBAs in the United States, released Tuesday (March 30).
For the third straight year, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business sits atop the ranking, followed by UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, which has been No. 2 since 2019. Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, a top-four school in the U.S. News full-time ranking released this week that also boasts the top one-year MBA, was third once again, as it has been since 2018. Ditto for fourth-place New York University Stern School of Business, fifth-place UCLA Anderson School of Management, and sixth-place University of Michigan Ross School of Business, all of which have now been in those spots in the rankings for four years running.
Prior to Booth’s ascendancy, UC-Berkeley Haas was the top dog in U.S. News‘ part-time MBA ranking for several years in a row in the early to middle part of the last decade. But since Booth ousted Haas, little has changed in the top portion of the ranking in the last three years. Nor does Booth seem likely to give up the crown anytime soon. With more than 1,200 students currently enrolled, it is one of the largest programs, offering distinct weekend and evening options that appeal to professionals — mostly outside Chicago — uninterested in leaving their jobs while they pursue a degree. Not to mention that the University of Chicago imprimatur goes a long way: Once again in 2021, Booth’s full-time MBA was named a top-three program by U.S. News.
THE HIGH COST OF A TOP PROGRAM & THE BARGAINS IN THE LOWER RANKS
U.S. News’ part-time MBA rankings are based on five factors, the biggest of which, comprising 50% of a school’s overall score, is an average peer assessment score based on surveys in fall 2020 and early 2021 of B-school deans and MBA program directors. These school officers are asked to rate the other part-time programs on a scale from “marginal” (1) to “outstanding” (5). Also included in the ranking methodology are a number of key data points for part-time MBA students entering in fall 2020: average GMAT score and average GRE quantitative, verbal and analytical writing scores (15%); average undergraduate GPA (12.5%); number of years of work experience (10%); and percentage of a school’s fall 2020 total full-time and part-time MBA enrollment that is in the part-time MBA program, with a higher percentage that is part-time scoring higher in the rankings (12.5%). Read more about U.S. News‘ methodology here.)
All of this provides a treasure trove of data on programs that are otherwise difficult to find. The ranking is the only repository of average GMAT, acceptance rate, tuition, and enrollment data for many ranked part-time MBA programs, which paradoxically fly under the radar despite their popularity.
For example, thanks to U.S. News data, we can calculate that average enrollment for the 12 schools in the top 10 (three are tied at No. 10) is 675, with No. 7 Carnegie Mellon Tepper’s small 80-person program on the low end and Chicago Booth’s 1,267 on the upper. We can further calculate that the average acceptance rate, excluding the top three schools that refused to provide the data, is 64%, with Tepper’s 33.7% the lowest and No. 10 Minnesota Carlson’s 88% the highest. And finally we see that the average GMAT score for the 12 schools is 653.7, with Berkeley Haas’ 691 leading the way sand Minnesota’s 594 trailing. (See the next page for all this data for U.S. News‘ top 50 ranked part-time MBA programs.)
And what about cost? Neither Booth nor Kellogg provided data on student indebtedness to U.S. News, but Berkeley did: Average indebtedness of a part-time Haas MBA student is $79,270, with 45% carrying debt. At all three schools, the cost of getting an MBA part-time exceeds $140,000. Based on price tag alone, then, it’s worth considering the value in a smaller, lesser-known program — like No. 28 University of Utah Eccles School of Business, for example, where the degree’s per-year cost is $29,400; or No. 41 University of Florida Warrington College of Business, where it’s $32,971.*
A DOWNWARD TREND IN ENROLLMENT FOR SOME SCHOOLS
Though they continue to be the most popular form of MBA, before coronavirus part-time MBA programs in the U.S. faced a troubling decline. In GMAC’s 2019 Application Trends Survey, a majority of responding schools reported total application declines among part-time lockstep MBA (53% report declines), part-time self-paced MBA (54%), and flexible MBA (56%) programs. Segmenting part-time lockstep and self-paced programs by their scheduling options showed similar results, as most weekend (56%) and evening (55%) programs were also down that year.
Even the top part-time programs have not been immune: just about all have seen declines in enrollment since 2016. Chicago Booth’s program shrank from 1,366 students that year to 1,267 currently, a 7.2% decline; UCLA Anderson School of Management, ranked fifth, saw a more significant loss, from 986 students to 857 (13.1%). No. 4 NYU Stern School of Business saw enrollment decrease by 130 students, 1,381 to 1,251, equaling 9.4%. No. 10 Indiana Kelley fell from 294 to 278, a loss of 5.4%.
The biggest drop-offs occurred at No. 6 Michigan Ross, which went from 430 to just 213 currently, a whopping decline of 199 students, or 46%; and Carnegie Mellon Tepper, which dropped from 143 to 80, a decline of 44%. But two schools have bucked the trend: Enrollment is up at both Northwestern Kellogg (from 804 to 1,098, 36.6%) and Berkeley Haas, which grew its part-time population from 802 in 2016 to 919 in 2021, a 14.6% increase.
There are other positive signs for part-time MBA programs, including renewed interest stemming from the pandemic. Read more here.
See the next page for U.S. News’ ranking of the top 50 part-time MBA programs in the United States.