How We Rank Online MBA Programs

Want to learn more about our MBA ranking system? This methodology page explains how we assess academic quality, affordability, availability, and reputation.

Our methodology assists students in choosing the best master's in business administration (MBA) program for them. We consider four main data points in our rankings: academics, affordability, reputation, and program availability.

Combining this data allows us to assess an MBA program’s value. Using quantifiable metrics helps ensure our rankings are consistent and fair. To determine which program is right for you, go to our rankings.

Metrics are only as strong as their sources. This is why we use the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) as our primary sources of data for ranking schools. The NCES is a federal agency responsible for collecting, analyzing, and publishing educational data.

Schools can't compensate us to appear in our rankings, boost their rank, or adjust our methodology. While we do feature advertisement partners on our site, these relationships do not influence our rankings or school selection.

Learn more about our methodology, data, and subfactors on this page.

About the Data We Use

The NCES relies on IPEDS for its data. Both the NCES and IPEDS are quality sources of data managed by the federal government. IPEDS gathers data annually from thousands of colleges, universities, and technical institutions.

We frequently update our rankings with the latest IPEDS data. Our team also manually checks all data before including it in our lists, excluding schools without sufficient data. Some data points may receive updates more or less frequently than once a year. In these cases, we update our ranking lists when new data is available.

Our ranking lists use the most current data available at publication.

Our Ranking Methodology for MBA Programs

School rankings are only as valuable as the methodology behind them. That's why we chose weighted factors that measure qualitative and quantitative metrics.

The weight for each metric varies depending on the type of ranking. For example, affordability is the key metric for affordable MBA programs rankings. Our general MBA rankings, meanwhile, consider affordability, reputation, academics, and program availability equally.

The following pie charts offer a visual representation of our weighted ranking system:

Subfactors to our MBA Ranking System

Our rankings focus on the following data reported by IPEDs: academics, affordability, reputation, and program availability. We also consider subfactors for each of the metrics. We chose these metrics as schools consistently report this data, which is essential in assessing a program's value.

Our goal is to distill reputable data into simplified rankings that help students choose the best program for them. We weigh each of these factors based on the focus of our rankings lists. This way, students can pick the rankings that match their requirements.

We weigh various factors together rather than choosing individual data points. By using multiple data points, we can ensure no singular data point is an outlier, causing a program to be ranked higher than it should be. Instead, we have a holistic view of the program with an emphasis on what certain students find desirable in a program.

Subfactors for Academics

  • Retention Rate: The retention rate refers to the percentage of full-time, first-time degree-seekers from the previous year who enrolled again in the current fall semester. Schools with a significantly different retention rate indicate students are continuing their studies at the school or dropping out at a different pace than the average school.
  • Graduation Rate: The graduation rate refers to the number of students that graduate within 150% of the expected time for a degree, which is six years for a bachelor's degree. It is not the percentage of students that graduate in total. Graduation rates for two- and four-year degrees differ. If an institution has above-average graduation rates, it means a higher percentage of students graduate within the expected timeframe when compared to other U.S. schools overall.
  • Robust Faculty:We include two data points in this metric: the student-to-faculty ratio and the proportion of full-time to part-time faculty. A smaller student-to-faculty ratio indicates smaller class sizes. A larger full-time to part-time faculty ratio indicates an increase in the number of full-time faculty to part-time faculty.

Subfactors for Affordability

  • Price for Students With Grants or Scholarships: For this metric, we reference the NCES' average net price of college for students receiving aid. The NCES calculates this figure by taking the total price of attendance minus scholarship awards from federal, state, or local governments and institutional sources. The lower the number, the less a student will need to pay for their education.
  • Students Getting Financial Aid: We use two data points to determine how students receive financial aid: the percentage of full-time undergraduates awarded financial aid and the average amount of grants and scholarship aid awarded. Grant and scholarship aid was highest for private nonprofit schools and lowest for private for-profit schools.
  • Students Getting Federal Aid: Federal aid refers to students receiving federal loans. We look at both the percentage of undergraduate students awarded federal loans and the average amount awarded. Both the percentage of students who received the loans and the amount varied by sex, race, dependency status, and institution.
  • Post-Graduation Student Debt: Both the average loan default rate and median debt for students six years after entry contribute to post-graduation student debt. The three-year default rate is the percentage of borrowers who entered repayment and defaulted by the end of their second year.

Subfactors for Reputation

  • Percent of Applicants Admitted: This metric refers to a school's admissions rate. Admissions rate is the percentage of total applications accepted by universities. Using this information, you can see how selective a university is compared to other schools. The most prestigious schools likely have a lower acceptance rate — 0.5% of schools accepted less than 10% of applicants.
  • Admissions Yield: This factor measures the percentage of admitted undergraduate students who actually enroll in the fall. Schools with a higher admission yield than this might have a more prestigious reputation
  • Return on Investment: We look at the median earnings of working graduates aged 25-34 to determine a school's return on investment.

Subfactors for Program Availability and Online Flexibility

  • Percent of Online Students Enrolled: Online programs allow students to study from any location. IPEDS data shows the percentage of graduate students taking fully online courses, as well as postbaccalaureate students taking at least one distance course. We only consider this subfactor when ranking online MBA programs.
  • Percent of Relevant Degree Level Offered: Not all schools offer the same degree options and levels. Students may prefer to attend schools with a higher percentage of degrees at a certain level. Degree categories include associate, bachelor's, master's, doctorate, and certificates. We use the most recent IPEDs data to determine the percentage of relevant degrees offered at each school.

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