Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management shot to the top of Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2015 ranking of the best part-time MBA programs this week. In a new methodology based on survey of current students and alumni of part-time programs, Kellogg got the second best scores from students and the ninth best from alumni to claim the No. 1 spot.
Kellogg’s emergence makes it the fifth winner of Businessweek‘s part-time ranking since the publication first began started rating such programs in 2007. Over the five iterations of the ranking, five different schools have landed at the top of the list: Besides Kellogg this year (2015), Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business climbed to the top in 2013 after finishing third in 2011 and seventh in 2009. North Carolina-based Elon University’s Love School of Business was first in 2011, but is now 17th. Worcester Polytechnic in Massachusetts was on top in 2009, but has since dropped to 40th. UCLA’s Anderson School, this year ranked fifth, claimed the title in BusinessWeek’s debut part-time ranking in 2007.
Though enrollment has been falling for part-time MBA programs in many cities, the evening format remains the single most popular for students who want to hold on to their jobs and gain the degree. Rounding out the top five part-time programs on Businessweek’s new biennial ranking is No. 2 Carnegie Mellon, No. 3 Rice University, No. 4 Georgetown University, and No. 5 UCLA. Kellogg’s Windy City rival, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, climbed two places this year to rank sixth among the best.
A NEW METHODOLOGY FOR THE RANKING BROUGHT NEW RESULTS
For this year’s ranking, Businessweek threw out half a dozen metrics reported by the schools, including average GMAT scores, class sizes, completion rates—and a calculation of post-MBA outcomes. The magazine replaced those measures with a survey of alumni and combined it with its regular satisfaction poll of recent graduates. Businessweek said it gave the student survey a 50% weight, with three-quarters from 2015 data and the remaining quarter from 2014 data) and placed a 50% weight on an alumni survey. The alumni survey score was based on three metrics, all weighted equally: alumni MBA program feedback, alumni compensation change over time, and alumni job satisfaction.
The result of those changes was significant, as you would expect. Among the Top 25 part-time programs, eight saw double-digit gains or falls, not including Kellogg which didn’t even make the Businessweek list two years ago. Butler University in Indianapolis soared 32 places to rank 25th, while Ohio State jumped 28 spots to finish at 19th and Georgetown University leapt 24 positions to rank fourth best in the U.S. The University of Texas at Austin saw its standing improve by 20 places to rank 15th. The steepest drop for any part-time MBA program still remaining in the Top 25 occurred at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. It’s part-time offering tumbled 18 places to rank 24th from a lofty perch of 6th place in 2013. All told, the magazine ranked 74 part-time programs.
Look a little further down the list and some of the changes are rather mind-boggling. In the next grouping of 25 schools, ranked 26th through 50th, there are 18 schools whose programs had been ranked two years ago by Businessweek and seven new schools. Of the 18 part-time offerings, more than half–exactly ten–had double-digit changes. Shockingly, New York University’s Stern School fell 21 places to finish 49th this year behind many schools not well known for graduate business education. Belmont University’s Massey Graduate School of Business, in Nashville, zoomed 31 spots to place 28th.
HOW BUSINESSWEEK COMPARES TO U.S. NEWS’ RANKING OF PART-TIME PROGRAMS
Very big changes, of course, tend to undermine the credibility of a ranking because school programs rarely change much over a short two-year timeframe. So what could cause wild variation is either a change in methodology or the fact that the differences among the programs are so statistically meaningless that the numerical ranks are not a valid assessment of the experience.
While no ranking is ever perfect, it’s interesting to view the Businessweek results against the only other prominent ranking of part-time MBA programs published annually by U.S. News & World Report. The lineup of schools in that ranking, based on an entirely different methodology, appears far more credible. UC-Berkeley comes in first, with Chicago second, Kellogg third, NYU fourth, and UCLA Anderson in fifth place (see comparison on following page).