Yale University’s School of Management fell behind NYU, Duke and the University of Virginia to land in 13th place in the new U.S. News & World Report MBA ranking published on March 12th. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, meantime, moved out of last year’s tie with the University of Chicago’s Booth School which fell two places to sixth.
Those are just two of many changes in the new and always controversial U.S. News annual ranking of the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S. Harvard and Stanford maintained their grip of a first place tie, while Wharton held on to its third place ranking. MIT’s Sloan School and Kellogg remained in a fourth place tie.
The biggest gains among the top 25 schools were by the University of Washington’s Foster School and the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School. Foster jumped 12 places to rise to a 23rd place with Carlson. Foster was 35th last year. Carlson rose seven places from 30th last year.
Yale drop is a significant surprise but due to improvements at other schools
Yale’s drop out of the top ten, reported last week by Poets&Quants when U.S. News released a sneak preview of its top ten schools in alphabetical order, is a big surprise. A new and experienced dean, Edward Snyder, who had held the deanships at both Darden and Booth, has been making significant changes at the school in the past two years. So many observers would have expected the U.S. News survey to show a more positive result. It’s important to note, however, that the underlying data behind a numerical ranking is often bunched together, making changes in ranks appear more significant than they really are.
Interestingly enough, the underlying data for Yale did not change and U.S. News awarded the exact same score–an index number of 84–that Yale received last year. What made the difference was the improvement in the scores for Stern, Fuqua and Darden. Each of those three schools improved its index scores by four points in the latest survey to 87 for Stern, 86 for Fuqua, and 85 for Darden.
Just how tightly clustered many schools are can be seen by the number of MBA programs that are tied with others for the same rank. In the Top 50, more than half of the full-time MBA programs have the exact same rank as at least one and as many as three other schools for their numerical rank on the U.S. News list. Only 23 of the top 50 occupy a rank alone.
In numerous cases, three schools are tied for a single rank, such as Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Notre Dame, which all placed 27th. In one instance, four schools have the same rank: Arizona State, Brigham Young, Rice and Vanderbilt are all tied for 30th. And then, at a rank of 79, there are actually five tied schools: State University of New York at Binghamton, Fordham University, Syracuse, Texas Christian, and the University of Colorado.
Wild swings in the rankings are common because the underlying data is so tightly clustered
The result: Peculiar and unexplainable swings in rank often occur in a single year even though no major changes were made to a school’s MBA program that could impact its true standing. Some of the more wild swings in this year’s survey affected the University of Arizona’s Eller School, which rose 13 places to a rank of 44th from 57th in 2012. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign dropped ten places to finish 47th from 37th a year earlier.
But there were even steeper tumbles and ascents. Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lally School in Troy, N.Y. plummeted by 26 places to finish 96th from 70th a mere 12 months ago. The University of Utah’s Eccles School jumped 23 places to finish 61st, up from 84th a year earlier. (See Winners & Losers in U.S. News’ 2013 MBA Ranking)
Like all rankings of business schools, the U.S. News list often engenders much controversy and debate. But it is among the most influential and most followed of several prominent rankings. The magazine only ranks U.S.-based schools, unlike BusinessWeek, The Financial Times, or The Economist which publish global rankings, either combined or separate. (One other note: As a marketing ploy, U.S. News claims this is a 2014 ranking to give it greater shelf life. It is based on 2012 data and released in 2013 which is why we label it a 2013 ranking.)
U.S. News’ methodology takes into account a wealth of proprietary and school-supplied data to crank out its annual ranking of the best business schools. The magazine does its own survey of B-school deans and MBA directors (25% of the score). This year, U.S. News said about 43% of those surveyed responded, but it did not reveal how many deans were actually surveyed or how many replied. It also does its own survey of corporate recruiters (accounting for 15% of the overall ranking and for which 16% of those surveyed responded), starting salaries and bonuses (14%), employment rates at and three months after graduation (7% to 14%, respectively), student GMATs (about 16%), undergrad GPAs (about 8%), and the percentage of applicants who are accepted to a school (a little over 1%).
Tulane’s Freeman School tumbles 24 places after scandal
Tulane University’s Freeman School, which admitted in January that it submitted inflated data to U.S. News for five consecutive years, tumbled 24 places this year to a rank of 67th based on the now accurate information it gave to U.S. News for the ranking. The school had said it inflated average GMAT scores by an average 35 points for five straight years from 2007 through 2011. Freeman also conceded that it had falsely increased the number of completed applications it received by an average of 116 applications over the same time period. U.S. News tossed Tulane out of its ranking as a result of the admission, but the school was back in this year.
This year, Tulane said the average GMAT score for its just enrolled class of full-time MBA students was 629–some 41 points below its reported number of 670 last year. The school’s acceptance rate ballooned to 82.9%, up from the reported 56.7% number last year. The average grade point average also showed a slight decline to 3.24, from 3.30 last year, and the percentage of graduates who had job offers by commencement plummeted to 54.9%, from a reported 78.8% a year earlier.