OnlineMBAToday.org ranks online MBA programs based on the factors that matter most to prospective enrollees. This unique online MBA ranking methodology uses current data that reflects the needs of future business leaders.
Our precise method of collecting and analyzing data ensures that our MBA rankings remain free of outside influences. Since our data relies on statistics from federal agencies, schools cannot buy higher spots on any of our directories. Our site does incorporate ad partners, but these relationships do not influence placement on our MBA program rankings.
To rank graduate business degrees, we collect, organize, and apply hard data. We also weigh significant factors for prospective students, including academics, affordability, reputation, and program availability.
Each of these categories may include various subcategories relevant to business students' success. We weigh these subcategories differently, depending on the type of degree.
We pull data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a federal agency that collects, analyzes, and publishes statistics about education in the United States. Students, teachers, and policymakers can use NCES statistics when researching their educational interests.
This page covers the data we use to determine our rankings, a dissection of our methodology, and detailed information about each of our major categories and subcategories.
About the Data We Use
In ranking the schools featured on onlineMBAtoday.org, we use verifiable data published by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). We maintain our ranking methodology for business degrees through annual updates and careful handling of the data.
When determining a school's place in our rankings, we primarily rely on statistics from NCES. This federal agency collects, analyzes, and publishes statistics related to education at every level. Anyone interested in finding information on topics related to U.S. education can find peer-reviewed data on the NCES site.
NCES maintains a system dedicated to postsecondary education. Annually, the agency manages a system of college-level surveys through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).
IPEDS investigates and disseminates information regarding postsecondary education trends. Its system provides data around educational areas such as student enrollment, retention rates, institutional revenues, and graduation information for schools from around the United States. Occasionally, IPEDS offers insufficient data for a single school. In these cases, our quality assurance team excludes that school from our MBA rankings.
We keep our ranking methodology current by recollecting data each year. This process helps to keep our lists on top of trends at individual schools. While older rankings may appear on our site, we never rebrand our previous year's ranking in a new year. Rather, we repeat our system of data collection and analysis using fresh IPEDS educational statistics.
As of Nov. 3, 2020, IPEDS has released only a portion of its updated school data for 2020. Our rankings on this site use the most current data available at the time of publication.
A Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology
Future business leaders look for MBA programs that can help them meet their personal and professional objectives. When exploring prospective programs, degree-seekers need to know which factors matter most.
Our ranking methodology for business degrees rests on academics, affordability, reputation, and program availability. We weigh each of these factors differently depending on the degree type and level. The following pie charts show how we weigh the factors in two categories.
About Our Ranking Factors
To create each of our weighted factors, we draw data from subfactors to determine each school's score. These subfactors contain elements that matter to higher education students, including student debt, online enrollment, graduation rates, and return on investment.
Subfactors for Academics
Retention Rate: This figure indicates the rate at which students remain in a postsecondary program at their institution. The percentage of degree-seeking college students enrolled in consecutive years or completing the program determines the retention rate.
In fall 2018, IPEDS presented the full-time retention rate in postsecondary institutions as 75.5%. Researchers drew data from 5,135 institutions to determine this figure. This rate has trended on a slight increase since 2007.
- Graduation Rate: Schools calculate their graduation rate by dividing the total number of people who complete the degree within a six-year timeframe (150% of the typical time) by the revised adjusted cohort. For example, In the fall of 2020, IPEDS determined the overall six-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time students pursuing a bachelor's degree reached 62%.
Robust Faculty: Researchers determine this subfactor by the ratio of full-time to part-time faculty members at an institution. These faculty members may teach, research, or hold administrative titles.
As of fall 2018, IPEDS counted 1.5 million faculty members at degree-granting postsecondary institutions. Of these faculty members, 54% worked full time and 46% part time. Although the overall number of faculty members increased from 1999-2018, the part-time faculty grew more quickly than full-time faculty.
Subfactors for Affordability
Price for Students With Grants or Scholarships: To obtain the average net price of education, researchers subtract the average amount of aid — local, federal, state, or institutional funding — from the total cost of attendance. This figure includes tuition, books, fees, room and board if applicable, and any other expenses.
For first-time, full-time undergraduate students in the 2017-2018 academic year, the average net price of attendance stood at $13,700 at public institutions, $22,100 at private for-profit institutions, and $27,000 at private nonprofit institutions.
Students Getting Financial Aid: Financial aid refers to education funds such as loans, grants, scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, tuition waivers, and employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement. Funds provided by family members do not qualify as financial aid.
According to IPEDS, the percentage of first-time, full-time undergraduate students receiving financial aid in the 2017-18 academic year reached 86%, an 11% increase since the 2000-01 academic year. The average amount of grant and scholarship aid for the same students in the same year varied based on the type of educational institution.
Students at private, nonprofit, four-year schools received an average of $23,700, while those at public institutions received $8,100 with $6,600 going to degree-seekers at private for-profit schools.
Students Getting Federal Aid: Applicants can begin their search for student aid by completing their FAFSA forms. This document determines how much assistance a student can receive from ED, including grants, loans, federal work-studies, and more.
During the 2018-2019 academic year, the average first-time, full-time undergraduate student received $6,630 in federal student loans.
Post-Graduation Student Debt: Taking out loans to help pay for the cost of education typically puts students in debt. Borrowers enter default when they violate the terms of their loans or fail to pay them back according to the schedule.
After 12 years of collecting data, IPEDS determined that about one in five students who took out loans in 2003-2004 fully paid them off without defaulting, and
Subfactors for Reputation
- Percent of Applicants Admitted: Researchers divide the number of admitted students by the number of total applicants for a single academic term to quantify an institution's admission rate. This number fluctuates based on admission requirements such as test scores, high school GPA, and other factors.
Admissions Yield: For college admissions offices, yield refers to the percentage of students who enroll in a college or university after they have received an offer of admission.
Researchers gauge enrollment rates according to the percentage of students enrolled in graduate or undergraduate programs at postsecondary institutions. For students aged 18-24, the overall college enrollment rate reached 41% in 2018. This figure increased from a 35% rate in 2000.
Return on Investment: In educational circles, ROI refers to the difference between the cost of an educational investment and the net profit after earning the degree. Graduates' salaries play a crucial role in factoring this equation.
NCES data indicates that the percentage of individuals aged 25-34 who worked full time in 2010-2018 increased with every level of degree earned. For example, the median annual wage of a worker with a bachelor's degree was $54,700.
Subfactors for Program Availability and Online Flexibility
Percent of Online Students Enrolled: In many postsecondary institutions, students may complete individual courses through virtual education or earn entire degrees online. The percentage of students enrolled online or in other distance programs varies widely among institutions.
The NCES reported that 35.2% of students in postsecondary institutions were enrolled in at least one distance education course as of fall 2018. This marked a significant uptick since 2012, when the NCES reported that only 26.4% of postsecondary students enrolled in distance courses.
Percent of Relevant Degree Level Offered: Students can pursue any level of higher education through online learning or distance education programs. Many schools offer associate, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees either partially or entirely online. Distance learning continues to grow in popularity.
At degree-granting higher education institutions, 34.5% of undergraduate students and 39.8% of post-baccalaureate learners enrolled in distance education courses as of fall 2018.