A New Ranking Of Online MBA Programs


For some schools, there is no doubt that these programs have become big money makers. The University of Texas at Dallas, ranked ninth by U.S. News, boasts an online MBA enrollment of 1,053 students who are each paying more than $42,200 to get the degree. Poets&Quants estimates that the school is bringing in some $14.7 million a year in tuition and fees from its online MBA program alone. In the last application period, UT-Dallas reported that some 1,198 applied to the program and UT-Dallas accepted 535 of them. Penn State’s online MBA program also looms large, with 747 students who are each paying $59,312 in tuition for the degree.


U.S. News’ rankings methodology is a convoluted hodgepodge of some 60 different data points, most of which are self-reported by the schools. The magazine said it determined the numerical rank of the programs based on four major factors: faculty credentials and training, student services and technology, student engagement, and admissions selectivity. That latter category, arguably the most important element in measuring the quality of a program, includes mean GMAT and undergraduate GPA scores of new entrants, acceptance rates, employee sponsorship, experience, and whether or not the program required letters of recommendation to get in. Admissions selectivity accounts for 25% of the ranking’s weight.

Another 25% is devoted to a survey of deans who were asked to evaluate “the academic quality of the other online graduate business degree programs listed on the survey on a scale of one (marginal) to five (outstanding).” U.S. News did not disclose either the number of administrators who were surveyed nor the number of respondents. UNC said it also declined to complete this survey.

Ultimately, U.S. News assigned the greatest weight, 28%, to its measure of “student engagement” which includes the graduation rate of the program, a series of “best practices” reported to U.S. News by the schools, and accreditation. The best practices portion of the methodology alone has U.S. News awarding schools 1.6 points each for 15 different factors: policies of instructors tracking, reviewing, and providing feedback on student participation; frequencies of instructors tracking, reviewing, and providing feedback on student participation; school tracks students after graduation; collaborative coursework; formal copyright policy; anti-plagiarism policy; American Disabilities Act policy; certified instructional designers; students sign ethics statement; instructor response timeframe; instructor office hours.

A year ago, U.S. News published a list of the best online MBA programs without assigning a numerical rank to each program (see U.S. News’ Quirky Online MBA Ranking). This is the first time the school actually ranked such programs by number.

(See following page for table of U.S. News’ Top 20 With Average GMATs, GPAs & Acceptance Rates)