The world of educational rankings is very robust. There are many big names in the rankings game, including Bloomberg Businessweek, US News & World Report, Financial Times, Forbes, PrincetonReview, The Economist, Eduniversal, and Quacquarelli Symonds. These organizations rank business schools, MBA programs, and even online programs. Online MBA programs only have a few prestigious rankings, and among the most respected of them is the US News & World Report Best Online MBA Programs Ranking.
US News & World Report
US News & World Report is a multi-platform publisher of news and information that traces its history back to the weekly newspaper, the United States News, founded in 1933. In 1948, the newspaper merged with the World Report magazine, forming US News & World Report. While publishing news in health, education, finance, travel, and news, the US News brand of service journalism boomed in 2010 with the introduction of several rankings products.
US News started ranking online programs five years ago, and specifically started ranking online MBA programs two years ago. In January, US News released their latest online MBA ranking with a list of 225 different online MBA programs.
US News offers prospective students an analytically rigorous ranking based on data specific to the distance program by a specific school, and not solely based upon its traditional business school’s overall reputation. Meaning, that this ranking is not just a subset of a larger on-campus MBA or business ranking. Students do not have to assess the data and see how it might apply to the online program. This data is different and gives students a unique perspective into the exact program in which they might enroll.
One of the most highly applauded features of the US News and World Report ranking is their methodology transparency. They meticulously paint a detailed picture for everyone to see of how they calculate their rankings.
For the 2016 edition, US News ranked online MBA programs using five categories: Student engagement at 28%, Admissions selectivity at 25%, Peer reputation at 25%, Faculty credentials and training at 11%, and Student services and technology at 11%. Let’s look at this visually:
Selectivity and Reputation, in red and green respectively, take up half of the scoring and the other half consists of engagement, teacher quality, and technology. In layman’s terms, half of the ranking consists of how the program is perceived and half is the quality of the program’s infrastructure.
Pros and Cons of the Ranking
US News does an excellent job finding mainly specific, objective, tangible data to collect for online MBA programs. They collected data on how a program is set up and the quality perception of the program from high-ranking academic school officials. Their data is mostly transparent hard facts that cannot be reputed. This is to be commended. This is why their ranking is among, if not the top, online MBA rankings.
As exceptional as the data and methodology is, is does not give a complete picture of a program in and of itself. The individuals that can give a true picture of their experience in the program, students and alumni, are not given much of a voice in this ranking. The biggest voice they have is the graduation rates and retention rates of the program. Granted, this does show how many students decide to stick with the program and graduate, but it does not give a true perception from the student perspective.
Take, the Princeton Review Online MBA ranking, within their student survey, they ask questions like:
- Is the business school is meeting your academic expectations?
- Has the program done a good job of enhancing your skills?
- How would you rate the depth and breadth of classes available through your program?
- Overall, how good are your professors as teachers?
While these questions are inherently subjective and thus possibly fallible, when answered honestly they give so much insight to prospective students. It might be impossible to debate which methodology is “more important” to prospective online MBA students, but what is certain, is that neither should stand alone. Prospective students should look at both and take them into consideration.
Notable Online Programs in the Ranking
The top five programs in the US News & World Report Online MBA Ranking is as follows:
There is a reason that US News & World Report sits at the top of the ranking world. They go to great lengths to find extensive objective data that applies to a wide range of programs available. But this data will not give a very good picture of the ethos of a particular program. Within the Online MBA Ranking, data is not available from the student and alumni perspective and thus only show the intended quality of a program, based on the infrastructure, and the perspective of the program from the view of peer academic officials.
What prospective students need to remember is that there are numerous rankings available and it is important to gather information from multiple sources. Do not just look at just one ranking, no matter how robust or “good” it is. Use it as a piece of a greater puzzle that shows the best next step for you.
Rankings can be very helpful. There are hundreds of online MBA programs to choose from, this ranking alone lists over 200! Let the rankings narrow your list down. Then research and apply. See which ones you get accepted into. See which ones you like the most. Then make the most informed decision that you can.
Stay tuned for more ranking reviews, and happy hunting.
Other reviewed rankings: