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Breaking Down Business School Rankings: U.S. News & World Report 2017 Best Business Schools

U.S. News & World Report 2017 Business School Rankings Breakdown


Posted March 14, 2016 by Lee Davidson - Senior Associate, Copywriter/Editor - AACSB International

On March 16, U.S. News & World Report will release its 2017 Best Business Schools ranking. This list is unique among rankings for a number of reasons. First, it only ranks AACSB-accredited institutions in the United States that offer business master’s programs, though the term frequently used by U.S. News in referencing their ranking is “MBA program.” Second, rather than having a “top” cut-off number of schools in its listing, U.S. News ranks all eligible schools; those schools that did not submit survey responses are simply listed as “Unranked” in the interactive table. So what we’re essentially looking at is a listing of all U.S. AACSB-accredited schools offering master’s programs in a given year (more on that later), ordered by the factors that U.S. News deems significant in determining “best” status.

How Are U.S. News’ Business School Rankings Determined?

As with each business school ranking, U.S. News uses its own unique methodology to arrive at each year’s rankings. What’s particularly different, and perhaps controversial, about this ranking is that a significant determining factor—a quarter of the overall ranking weight—is based on business school deans’ and directors’ opinions of their peer institutions. In a survey provided by U.S. News, they are asked to quantify their opinions of other schools based on a 1–5 scale (“marginal” to “outstanding,” respectively). Corporate recruiters are also given a similar survey, the responses of which account for 15 percent of a school’s overall ranking. The remaining factors that go into a school’s ranking are more quantifiable in nature: placement success, mean starting salary, employment rates, student selectivity, entrance exam scores, GPAs, and acceptance rates.

Wait—What Year Are We In?

A future one, it appears. Another oddity about this particular ranking is that it references the upcoming year in its title; so the listing that comes out on March 16, 2016, will be called “2017 Best Business School Rankings.” According to business school rankings authority John Byrne in Poets & Quants, “As a marketing ploy, U.S. News will claim this is a 2017 ranking to give it greater shelf life, even though it is based on 2015 data and released in 2016.” The information collected for the ranking that comes out this year will have been from fall 2015 through early 2016. By any stretch of the imagination, it’s difficult to see how these rankings can apply to the year 2017. By then, new programs will be established, current institutions will have earned new accreditation, and older degree offerings will be updated. So it’s important to keep an open mind when looking at rankings in the media.

What’s the Best Way to Search for My Business School?

U.S. News positions their ranking as a search tool for potential students better select their program based on school location, tuition, size, and average test scores. However, if that were the case, there would be no actual rankings; the table would simply be a search tool sorted only by unweighted categories of information. By participating in the rankings game, many media organizations are also competing for news placement, which may not ultimately serve the best interests of their purported audience, prospective students.

BestBizSchools takes an unbiased approach at offering much of this same information about all AACSB-accredited business schools, inclusive of all degree offerings, in our searchable online database. We let you determine which business school is “best” for you. With so many accredited programs offered by institutions both nationally and globally and in a variety of formats, the standard of excellence is already guaranteed; all you have to do is decide which school best fulfills your needs.

What Else Should I Consider When Choosing a Business School?

If you're making a decision on which business school to attend, take a wide variety of factors into consideration. First and foremost, focus on your own needs and desires when choosing a master's program. What courses are you interested in and will further your career the most? Check to see if the school is accredited. Consider tuition and financial aid opportunities as well as the faculty and what jobs graduates can expect after completing the program. Some of these are factored in to business school rankings, but not all.


AACSB International is providing this information in order to help prospective students understand the nuances among different rankings and how they are calculated. AACSB does not support or endorse any specific ranking methodology and encourages students to consider AACSB Accreditation as part of their search criteria when evaluating business school programs for fit, quality of education, and career success.

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