Poets & Quants for Executives

U.S. News’ 2013 Ranking Of Part-Time MBA Programs

by John A. Byrne

Berkeley's Haas School of Business

Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

When it comes to rankings of part-time MBA programs, the pickings are pretty slim. There’s U.S. News & World Report, which ranks part-time MBAs annually, and then there is Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Absent from the landscape is The Financial Times, The Economist, and Forbes, which last ranked part-time programs in 2005 when New York University’s Stern School came out on top.

US NEWS’ TOP FIVE: BERKELEY, CHICAGO, NORTHWESTERN, NYU & UCLA

For our money, the better of the two existing lists is from U.S. News. The results seem far more credible than BusinessWeek’s peculiar effort. The top of the U.S. News list is dominated by schools that are consistently rated among the best for their full-time flagship MBA programs: UC-Berkeley’s Haas School, the University of Chicago’s Booth School, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, New York University’s Stern School, and UCLA’s Anderson School.

In head-shaking contrast, BusinessWeek puts Elon University’s Love School of Business, its number one ranked part-time program, ahead of Chicago, Northwestern, NYU, UC-Berkeley, and Michigan, among others. Does anyone even know where Elon University is? (For the record, it’s in North Carolina).

Rounding out the top ten on the U.S. News list for 2013 is No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Texas at Austin, No. 8 Ohio State, and tied for a rank of ninth place, Carnegie Mellon and Indiana. U.S. News, by the way, ranks BusinessWeek’s No. 1 school in a tie for 69th place with William & Mary, Rutgers, and the University of Delaware.

US_News_Grad_2014_3_12_13MOST PRESTIGE AND REPUTATION COMES FROM FULL-TIME MBA RANKINGS

Most business schools derive prestige from full-time rankings and that status tends to align with all the programs a school offers from Executive MBA and part-time programs to non-degree executive education courses. After all, these programs are more often than not taught by the same faculty and course offerings largely reflect those in the full-time curriculum. So when a specialty ranking fails to synch up in any meaningful way with a full-time ranking, the results should be significantly discounted.

U.S. News uses five different criteria to rank part-time MBA programs, the largest of which is a survey of business school deans and MBA program directors at some 325 part-time MBA programs. The survey, which asks business school officials to rank programs on a five-point scale with five being outstanding and one being marginal, had a response rate of 45% in 2013. It accounts for half of the ranking’s weight. Average GMAT or GRE scores, years of work experience, and part-time enrollment each account for a weight of 15%. The remaining 5% is devoted to undergraduate grade point average of the latest entering class. Only U.S. schools are ranked.

The flaws in the methodology are obvious. Most deans and program directors have only a vague sense of the quality of another school’s part-time offering so the survey has little more than the authority of a popularity poll in high school. Using average GMAT scores is troublesome because many very good programs no longer require the GMAT so the scores they collect and average are going to be artificially high. Giving more points to a program merely because it has a large enrollment has nothing to do with quality. In fact, one could easily argue that schools with massive part-time enrollments are just money makers for the schools with scant attention paid to quality.

Even worse, U.S. News puts a numerical rank on 212 part-time programs when the available data could never support a credible ranking that deep. In fact, ties among schools are ever present, an acknowledgement that the underlying scores are so close that many assigned ranks are statistically meaningless.  U.S. News has seven schools tied for both 50th and 212th places, six schools tied for a rank of 73, and eight schools at 204.

Nonetheless, it’s helpful to have some sense of which schools are doing the best job in the part-time MBA business, however imperfect the actual results may be.

(See following page for table of U.S. News’ top 25 part-time MBA programs for 2013)

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  • Just an initial gut reaction

    I’m an EMBA student at a top 3 school and I often criticize the size of a few b school’s factory-like full time programs (HBS’s whopping 1600 for one), but there is something that feels wrong about having so many part time students in a program. Even though I am getting a world class education and that my classmates bring far more to my learning than that of a less experienced full timer, the fact is that I’m not working as hard (or being taught as much) as a full timer. So I can’t help but start to think just a little less of this list’s top five school with their ridiculous large part time programs. I’m happy that more people get the perks of a world class education, but something in my gut just feels that both:

    1) each school’s name/brand value will be diluted by the graduation of people that are not as “top notch” as each school’s equivalent full times (any people wont know they weren’t full time students and hence think less of the full time program).

    2) we are headed in the same direction that law schools went in – overly expensive part time and EMBA programs, that are churning out folks into a smaller and smaller market and diluting the brand of the MBA in general. Really, Stern has 2k in part time students? And how many programs across the world does CBS really need?

    I know that I just expounded an elitist attitude (but first of all, I don’t disdain elitism, I strive for it – why not try to be one of the best?) and that it is great that more people get access to a great education. But the education is only so much. The fact is that I am also paying for a brand name (and so is everybody that wishes they get into HBS/S/W). And it just feels that the schools are weakening that side just for $$$. Don’t flip out on me folks.

    • ChoiceEcon

      While I don’t have any experience with EMBA programs,
      I did attend one of the listed schools on a part-time basis, in fact a school
      listed with a PT enrollment of 880, Georgia State. In the case of Georgia
      State, they oriented almost entirely towards their PT evening program. There is
      no name for which you are paying. If anything, that’s it’s downside. It’s all
      skills. What I can say about my time there was that it was amazingly effective
      and the skills I learned have stayed with me throughout my career, Even before
      graduating I was picked up by AT&T as a process re-engineer designing the
      process they use for deploying their long distance network. This was
      a job for which one of my professors made the initial connection,
      through his connections with former students. That position led to a prime
      management position, then to a prime position with Intuit, then into
      consulting, where I became a VP with one of the leading brand consulting firms,
      Interbrand, where among other projects, we managed the post-merger rebranding
      of SBC into the new AT&T, that year’s super bowl of branding. I’ve since
      founded my own very successful firm, consulting to consulting firms, for which
      end-clients range from Coke, Pepsi, Wrigley, Mars, Nestle, (and numerous other
      FMCG/CPG behemoths) to pharmaceutical companies like J&J,
      Novo Nordisk, GSK, BMS, Teva to colleges and universities including UVA, UNC,
      Michigan, Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Wake Forest, etc. I’ve even had consulting
      firms like the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) fly me to Asia to run studies for
      them there. All of this is of course based on how hard I am and have been
      willing to work, and to hone my craft, but the skills I picked up at Georgia
      State were hugely influential in my own development. At the risk of sounding
      pedantic, I would encourage you to take your opportunities, and especially your
      opportunities to work hard and learn seriously. As they say, what you get out
      of life is largely a function of what you put into it. Oh, and one last item on
      Georgia State. The reason most of us selected it was because we had jobs with
      career tracks we could not imagine leaving, My peers were already working for
      the companies that the graduates of other programs only hoped to go to work
      for. These were companies like Coke, CNN, Delta, and UPS at the very top tier,
      and then nearly at the same level companies like Deloitte, BellSouth, Norfolk
      Southern, and Equifax. Without the range of classes offered,
      which requires a sizable student body, frankly I don’t think anybody, certainly
      not my peers, would have considered this school. That said, since leaving, I’ve
      run into an impressive number of people with degrees from this school around
      the country, especially on the east coast. Skills do still matter. Schools that
      focus on them, especially hard skills, do their students and themselves a real
      favor. For what it’s worth, if your school is not, you might want to share with
      them the story of how Emory
      overhauled itself a couple of years ago.
      Schools that turn out poorly prepared students, more than schools that admit
      them, are the ones whose reputations are, and should be, most at stake. It
      sounds like you might be going to one. You should make sure to hold them
      accountable, as the value of your own degree is on the line long term.

      • BK in CHI

        I may have been the only one to read that entire life story, but I enjoyed it. Always good to be consulting the consultants. Message me if you’d like to connect, as I am currently deciding between MBA programs

  • Raghu Tadepalli

    John – as dean of Elon’s business school I did not appreciate your snide comment. Unlike full-time MBA programs which no doubt have a great deal of prestige, part-time MBA programs are the ‘cash cows’ for most universities. That is why the schools that you so admire have such large programs. They help pay for the scholarships that are offered for full-time MBA students. Additionally, the market for part-time MBA programs is local – not regional or national. I wish you had asked us what makes the Elon part-time MBA stand out.We would have shown you. As you’ve pointed out many a time, each publication has their own goals in ranking. Our program is small (about 250) and we offer our students a great deal of personal attention. Is it any surprise we do well in a ranking where student opinions are given a lot of weight? I respect the fact that you like to write about brand name MBA progams (more visits to your website) but please don’t disparage less known but good programs without at least spending some time and effort trying to learn about them. Raleigh is just a 1 hour plane ride from NYC.

    • tparker75

      I’m pretty much a cynic when it comes to education and such. After visiting over 30 schools with my kids I found Elon in our top 5. It wasn’t until the President of the University told us visiting parents to tell our perspective freshmen NOT to pick Elon did I see how wise they were. After five years and two kids at Elon, I figured out Elon has its act together. Small classes, professors who call students if they miss a class, very positive climate, etc. Granted I did not attend Elon’s business school (I did my graduate work elsewhere), but I suspect its like the rest of the school – a great education.

  • NONAME

    Blah Blah Blah…I went to a part time program not on your list and I have had a successful career…a debit is a debit and a credit is a credit in the accounting class from my program just as in the accounting classes in the programs on your list…the only difference is that the programs on your list PAID you to put their name on the list…

  • Jackov

    MBA grads still need 5-10yrs experience for an entry-level mgmt job (hopefully paying enough to cover loan debt).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001984920680 Maria Smith

    Good post about MBA it is very useful for students

    Selecting B Schools

  • LonesouI

    Hi John,
    Great article. I’m curious about the asterisks next to Kellogg’s and Booth’s acceptance rate. Does that indicate speculation? There was no explanation. Also, you mentioned that many good programs no longer require GMAT scores. So how were they able to get the data for that? I’m wondering which schools no longer require it? Thanks

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