As interest in online MBA programs continues to explode, Poets&Quants will publish on Nov. 9 its fourth annual ranking of the Best Online MBA options. Along with the list, we’ll release the most extensive amount of statistical and qualitative data ever made public on the online MBA market.
There are multiple changes to this year’s ranking. For one, the ranking will be the largest ever, including 47 schools — up from 35 the previous two years and 25 in the first version of the ranking. Along with the rankings, highly detailed school profiles for each school will be updated and published.
Data-driven articles examining total costs, average GMATs, acceptance rates, and other core metrics also will be published on or soon after Nov. 9. Exclusive alumni survey data that capture student satisfaction levels and the career outcomes of online MBA graduates–from all 47 schools will also be made public. All data used to generate this year’s ranking was gathered via alumni and school surveys between April and October. The addition of 12 new programs in this year’s ranking will make it the largest online MBA-related dataset we’ve ever published.
FOUR NEWCOMERS IN THIS YEAR’S TOP-10 ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS
Last year, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business took the top spot. Tepper was followed by Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Rounding out the top five were the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, Lehigh University’s College of Business, and the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Four new schools punched their way into this year’s top-10 — two of those newcomers made significant advances from last year’s list while the other two programs are participating in the ranking for the first time. Both Villanova University and George Washington University catapulted into the top-10 after finishing 28th and 24th, respectively, last year. Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business in the heart of Silicon Valley and the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business in tech-rich Seattle make their ranking debuts with a big splash, landing among the top ten programs in the world.
In alphabetical order, here are this year’s top 10 Poets&Quants online MBA programs:
Auburn University Harbert College of Business
Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business
George Washington University School of Business
Indiana University Kelley School of Business
Lehigh University College of Business
Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business
University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School
University of Southern California Marshall School of Business
University of Washington Foster School of Business
Villanova University School of Business
SOME METHODOLOGICAL CHANGES TO THIS YEAR’S RANKING
Not surprisingly, this year’s contest was the most competitive ever. Based on a methodology in which 300 total points are possible for the outright winner, less than two points separated the schools ranked sixth through 10th. The 19th-ranked school was about 15 points from the sixth-ranked school.
For the first time since launching the ranking, we’ve also slightly modified the methodology based on feedback received from participating schools. As a reminder, our surveys and ranking approach were originally created in collaboration with deans and senior administrators at leading schools. Each year, after the ranking is published, we invite every participating school to offer suggestions that would improve our list of the best. We then digest that feedback and decide if any changes should be made to our ranking processes.
Like last year, we evaluate every online MBA program from three equally weighted perspectives: admissions standards, academic experience, and career outcomes, each worth a total of 100 points. The admissions standards category, generated from the school survey data, saw no changes. Some 50% of that category was given to average GMAT scores of students entering during the 2019-2020 academic year. Average undergraduate GPAs (20%), average work experience (20%), and acceptance rates (10%) for students entering during the 2019-2020 academic year made up the rest of the category.
SOME IMPROVEMENT WERE MADE TO HOW WE ASSESS ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE AND CAREER OUTCOMES
Slight adjustments were made, however, to both the academic experience and career outcomes categories. Data from the alumni survey generates scoring for both categories. Some 80% of the academic experience category was based on the average score of 15 questions scaled one-to-10, a change from 75% and 11 questions last year. The latest graduates are asked how likely they are to recommend the program to a colleague, friend, or family member, their satisfaction with international experiences and consulting projects, and the quality of their professors and ability to make connections with them and other students, among many other questions. The remaining 20% is the average percentage of students who participated in international experiences, student clubs, and organizations, and at least one consulting project. Those questions were not included in last year’s ranking.
Last year’s career outcomes category was based on alumni responses to if they reached their “primary” (40%) and “secondary” (20%) career goals as a result of the program. Another 20% came from alumni assessing the support they received from career coaches or career advisors in the program. And the final 20% came from a graduate rating of the career opportunities from the new network built from the online MBA program. This year, 40% was given to the average of students reporting increases in pay or a promotion because of the program. Another 20% was given to the average rating (again on a one-to-10 scale) of the career advising and coaching provided by the school. The remaining score was comprised of the average of students reporting reaching their primary goal (20%), secondary goal (10%), and their assessment of the value of the school’s alumni and professional network (10%).
Of course, no singular ranking is perfect, and college decisions shouldn’t be made on rankings alone. This is why we suggest digesting all of the articles published with the rankings and urge prospective students to parse all the data gathered through the months-long process along with the individual school profiles.