How We Rank Online MBA Programs

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How We Rank Online MBA Programs

Our MBA rankings review programs to help learners find the best MBA for their needs. To build our rankings, we rely on information from respected sources, including government agencies and national databases. In particular, we focus on factors related to student satisfaction during the program and success after graduation, like retention rates, median earnings, and graduation rates.

  • Quality
  • Affordability
  • Online Flexibility
  • Student Success

Program availability and quality also matter in our rankings. For instance, MBA programs with low student-to-faculty ratios may rank higher than institutions with large student populations. Likewise, schools that offer more specialization options may earn a higher ranking than those with only general MBA degrees.

Regarding affordability, we consider net price and financial aid to ensure students can manage the cost of attendance. We also review student loan default rates to gauge MBA graduates’ financial success.

Our methodology weighs 10% for affordability, 30% for quality, 40% for student success, and 20% for online flexibility. Learners should keep these percentages in mind when reviewing our rankings and compare them to their own needs. For example, a student primarily concerned with the cost of attendance may need to overlook some high-ranking programs since affordability is worth only 10% on our rankings.

We base our unique rankings on information and analysis. No school can increase its ranking by influence or payment. We also update our rankings regularly to reflect current program information.

About the Data We Use

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is a government-regulated organization that offers statistics on education for all grade levels, including higher education. The organization’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) provides relevant information for our rankings, such as retention rates, graduation rates, and student-to-faculty ratios.

Candidates can review specific schools by using NCES’s College Navigator. NCES also offers general statistics on financial aid, enrollment, graduation rates, retention rates, and awarded degrees through tools like Trend Generator. Other NCES resources include the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study and the Postsecondary Education Quick Information System. Overall, NCES delivers a plethora of reputable information that helps to shape our rankings.

We also use College Scorecard, a part of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), for college-level learning data. College Scorecard allows users to review schools based on factors like size and program availability. These scorecards address factors like cost, employment, and student loan default rates. College Scorecard offers a central hub for comparing and contrasting college options.

Our staff uses these resources to determine which MBA programs merit placement on our rankings, along with their ranking order. However, our quality assurance team only chooses institutions after researching them, and only if the selected schools present enough available data.

Our site updates rankings when our resources release new information. This up-to-date approach ensures learners receive the most relevant information possible when exploring MBA programs through our rankings.

A Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

  • Quality — 30%
  • Affordability — 10%
  • Online Flexibility — 20%
  • Student Success — 40%

About Our Ranking Factors

Our criteria relate to experiences before and after graduation. For instance, a high retention rate indicates student approval of the program and low student loan default rates imply financial well-being after entering the workforce.

We weigh these factors through percentages that illustrate each category’s importance. Student success, for example, holds the most significance when choosing an MBA program, so this factor weighs more heavily on a school’s ranking than any other detail.

Academic quality, made up of several subfactors, ranks as the second-highest concern. The weighted percentage for student-to-faculty ratio, for instance, is larger than the percentage for the number of available programs.

  • Subfactors for Quality

    Retention Rate Retention rate concerns the percentage of first-year students who return to the same school. A high retention rate reveals student satisfaction with the college or university, while a low rate may indicate dissatisfaction. U.S. News & World Report states that a 33% retention rate is common among institutions. Therefore, retention rates that exceed 90% show that the school goes above and beyond to create a supportive and efficient learning environment for students.
    Number of Programs Offered The more programs a school offers, the more students that school can assist. For example, an institution that offers information systems, international business, and finance specializations targets more students than a school that only offers a general MBA. Departments may also allow students to earn secondary degrees or certificates in areas such as public health, law, and business analytics for better employment chances, which increases program value.
    Student-to-Faculty Ratio Institutions with 20 or fewer learners per faculty member can provide a more personalized learning experience. This factor can benefit students in the classroom and after graduation by building networking connections for career opportunities.

  • Subfactors for Affordability

    Net Price Net price represents the cost of attending an institution after applying financial assistance methods. These rankings highlight schools with low net prices since these colleges and universities offer more financially attainable degrees. Students must pay the net price out of pocket through lump sums or payment plans. Lower costs, then, lessen the economic burden of a degree. Additionally, low net prices may ensure degree-seekers can handle monthly payments, which prevents sitting out for terms after falling behind on payment plans.
    Financial Aid Financial aid includes loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs. Each type of aid includes unique traits. For instance, students with financial need may earn grants without needing to repay them, but loans require repayment. Work-study programs operate like jobs, and candidates may receive scholarships based on factors such as academic or athletic excellence, heritage, location, or major. Financial aid amounts vary by institution, with more expensive schools commonly offering higher awards. Our rankings consider the award package in comparison to the cost of attending to determine which institutions excel in this category.
    Loan Default Rate Loan default rate illustrates the percentage of students who typically fall behind on student loan payments after earning their degrees. As of 2016, the national default rate surpassed 10%. This expectation, however, can vary by state. Low rates indicate affordable education and manageable loan payments after graduation.

  • Subfactors for Online Flexibility

    Percent of Graduate Students Enrolled Partially Online This percentage represents the number of students who complete some of their courses online. Hybrid programs require this attendance method. However, schools may also allow learners to attend some courses in person, even if their program is available completely online. High percentages of partially online students indicate flexible learning options but may also imply a lower number of fully online programs. Learners should research the reason for these percentages before selecting a school.
    Percent of Graduate Students Enrolled Fully Online A high percentage of fully online students reveals significant degree-completion options for distance learners. This factor allows out-of-state students to earn degrees and provides more flexibility for enrollees with busy schedules. In fall of 2017, over 3 million students took exclusively online or distance classes, and online enrollment continues to grow. For these reasons, high numbers of online learners can earn schools high rankings.

  • Subfactors for Student Success

    Median Earnings Median earnings represent the middle-income expectation for graduates. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, households in the nation earned a median salary of $61,937 in 2018. Higher median earnings from colleges or universities indicate high salary potential for graduates, which increases an institution’s value. Colleges, schools, departments, and programs within an institution may also report their own median income for graduates. Additionally, these median earnings may represent different time frames after graduation
    Graduation Rate Graduation rate refers to the number of learners who complete their degrees from start to finish at the same institution during set time frames. NCES reported a six-year bachelor’s graduation rate of 60% for first-year students in 2011. Percentages under this average may be viewed as comparatively low, whereas high graduation rates, like 70% or higher, imply student satisfaction with the school.

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Advertisement is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.