Chat Transcript: "Spare-Time" B-School Rankings

As the economic crisis deepened, fewer companies were willing to pay for employees to enroll in part-time, EMBA, or executive education programs. As a result, more students than ever are paying their own way, and they have more demands and higher expectations of their business schools. While researching the data for the 2009 rankings of these "spare-time" MBA programs, BusinessWeek found that student satisfaction was down. Many said they want more help with career services, an amenity once reserved mostly for full-time MBA students and undergraduates. Recently, BusinessWeek editors Louis Lavelle (LouisBW) and Geoff Gloeckler (GeoffBW) unveiled the 2009 rankings and took questions from BusinessWeek reporter Francesca Di Meglio (FrancescaBW) and the public about everything from methodology to specific programs. Here are edited excerpts of their discussion: gsbmpr: Is the part-time ranking based solely on the director's poll? GeoffBW: No. There is no director's poll component to the part-time MBA ranking. It is based on a student survey, sent to graduating students at each school, as well as an academic quality measure, and a measure of post-MBA outcomes. EnergyScott: How often does BusinessWeek rank each type of MBA program (full-time, executive, and part-time)? LouisBW: We rank full-time MBA programs every other year. In alternate years, we rank executive MBA, part-time MBA, and non-degree executive education programs. We rank undergraduate business programs annually, in the spring. Nick29: Can you explain the metrics for the executive education open/custom enrollment? GeoffBW: Sure. To rank the executive education providers, we ask each school to provide us with a list of their top corporate subscribers. We survey those companies, asking which programs they use and how they feel about the product each program provides. The rankings are based on those responses. The 2009 ranking is based on responses from 188 companies. kate1: Can you tell us about the methodology you used in 2009 for executive education, both custom and open? Has it changed from previous years? GeoffBW: The methodology is exactly the same as in past years. The only difference is that it was a bit harder getting the companies to respond to the survey. cobadean: I'd like to know how the rankings were decided. What elements were utilized, and what percentage of the overall decision does each represent? LouisBW: For the executive MBA ranking, we use surveys of EMBA graduates and EMBA program directors. For the executive education programs, we use a survey of companies that send employees to the programs. For the part-time ranking, we use several different metrics: a survey of students, an academic quality score (GMAT, work experience, tenured faculty, class size, electives, completion rate), and a measure of post-graduation outcomes (for example, how many students think the program was responsible for them achieving their goals). cobadean: What surprises did you find when evaluating graduate programs? GeoffBW: The major trend (and I'm not sure it was a big surprise just based on the economy and how it factors into people's decisions) is that student satisfaction was down across the board. At every EMBA program, except for one, student satisfaction fell compared with 2007. I think because so many more students (both EMBA and part-time) are spending their own money to fund their MBA (instead of having corporate support) expectations are much higher. That showed in the student responses. Garlichj: I've never heard of the No. 1 school in the part-time ranking. Where is it located? LouisBW: Worcester, Mass., outside Boston, I believe. texman: There is usually a lot of volatility in rankings involving student satisfaction. I noticed in the part-time rankings, for instance, Worcester Polytechnic Institute rose from 9 to 1, while Loyola sank from 4 to 13, from one ranking cycle to the next. What are prospective students to make of these rapid shifts? GeoffBW: I think the reason for the volatility in the part-time MBA ranking is because it is a new ranking. This is only the second year we have done it. My guess would be that as we do more part-time rankings, the top schools will start to cement themselves at the top. The same trend occurred in the first few years of the undergraduate ranking (and some would argue it still is happening). Also, we had a lot of new schools entering this year. I'm not sure that this is bad thing. Simmonsj: For the part-time programs, will there be more than just the top five in each region published on the Web site or in the print version of the magazine? LouisBW: In the print version of the magazine, we only had room for five from each region. But online all the ranked programs are listed. There are plenty of great schools that didn't make it into the print editions, so you should take a look at the Web site. MegW: When you say every school except one had diminished student satisfaction for EMBA, what is the one you're referring to? GeoffBW: It's the University of Texas at Austin (McCombs EMBA Profile). ChicagoBears: Does the size of a program matter when these rankings are considered? GeoffBW: Not really, except when it comes to response rates. What we did notice in 2009, however, is that the smaller programs were able to meet the need for things like career services support a little better than the larger programs. sandeepkrishna: How do regional rankings work? Can we find out our regional rankings and scores on various measures? LouisBW: All this information will be in a big table on the Web site. The way the regional rankings work is that we first create the national ranking, then we divide the schools up by region. The school with the highest national rank in each region is No. 1, then No. 2, etc. msg621: The No. 30 part-time program was listed fourth in the Mid-Atlantic region. Are there supposed to be five per region? GeoffBW: There are five per region, but that doesn't mean they are in the top 30. For instance, the fifth-ranked program in the Northeast is Fordham, but it is ranked 55th nationally. Of the regions, the Midwest is, by far, the most competitive. Simmonsj: How do you measure post-MBA outcomes for part-time students? LouisBW: In our survey, we asked students how responsible they believe their school was for them achieving their career goals. The percentage of those saying their school was "completely" responsible is the measure we use. gregjohnson82: How close was the University of Texas at Austin to making the part-time list? I know Northwestern (Kellogg Part-Time MBA Program) wasn't included in the last edition, and now I notice that McCombs isn't included in 2009.I find that particularly interesting since in a recent article BusinessWeek, with data from PayScale, showed that Texas MBAs, including full-time and part-time, make significantly more than SMU Cox (Cox Part-Time MBA Profile), collectively as well. GeoffBW: The reason Kellogg is not ranked is because it chose not to participate in the ranking. To answer your question about UT-Austin, it ranked number five in the South, 37th overall. Kristincooper: I don't see University of Texas at Austin listed in the top 25, but you just commented that it was the only school where the student satisfaction rate rose this year. GeoffBW: UT-Austin is in the second tier of EMBA programs. It barely missed the top 25. arr1: On what scale do you measure the different schools? How much difference between the No. 1 school and the next one? LouisBW: This is a tough question to answer. Sometimes the differences between schools are fairly minor, but in other cases the differences are huge. I'm not sure which ranking you're referring to, but in all three the differences between No. 1 and No. 2 were significant. Kellogg3: What impact do you think the economic downturn has had on the rankings and quality of the programs, besides perhaps more self-funded students? I would imagine it is a lot easier to get into the programs now than in the past because of a decreased number of applicants. GeoffBW: I'm not sure that it's easier to get in, but application volume is down. A lot of students complained about lack of career services support, in both part-time and EMBA programs. I think the expectations are a lot higher now than they were two years ago when things were going good with the economy. PJR: Do you have regional EMBA rankings? LouisBW: We don't. When we created the part-time rankings a few years ago, the idea was to make a ranking that would be useful to part-time students. Since part-timers need programs that are close to work, a regional ranking made the most sense. That's not the case for executive MBA programs, which are held mostly on weekends. mkander: Did just 25 EMBA programs get ranked or will there also be more included online and in the magazine? GeoffBW: The top 25 get ranked, then there is a second tier that includes another 25. tsy205: How many more schools participated in this go-round of the part-time rankings?GeoffBW: Ninety-nine schools participated in 2009. I want to say that's about 20 more than 2007. csousa2: This ranking is very consistent through the years. This also makes it difficult for new schools to get into the ranking. Are you considering coverage of schools growing in importance? LouisBW: Some of our rankings are consistent (our full-time MBA rankings, for example). But the newer rankings, such as those for part-time MBA and undergrad business programs, have more volatility as new schools enter the competition. We're always looking for new schools to feature in our coverage. arr1: How many schools participated in this ranking? GeoffBW: Eighty-three in the EMBA ranking. Thirty-three were eliminated because of low student response rate or zero director's poll points. Simmonsj: Was there a required percentage of student responses to be included in the rankings? GeoffBW: It varies, depending on the size of the program. For EMBA, the cutoff was around 50%. Part-time was much lower. zara: Are the second-tier EMBA programs ranked? GeoffBW: They are not. ssr001: During previous rankings, I have noticed some of the top universities did not make it to the list (especially part-time rankings). Are the rankings given only to the universities who opt to go through the process? LouisBW: That's correct. The biggest obstacle for many schools is supplying e-mail addresses for students/graduates for our surveys. Some are prohibited from doing so, others refuse as a matter of policy. csousa2: Do you see new international schools (non-U.S.) in the picture? I studied at IPADE in Mexico. LouisBW: We have a lot of international programs that participate in the EMBA and executive education rankings, but the part-time ranking is U.S. only. IPADE's a fine school from what I hear. We'd love to have more good schools participate in all our rankings. ChicagoBears: What percentage of schools were eliminated in the part-time program? GeoffBW: Twenty-nine schools were eliminated from the part-time ranking, so I guess that's about 30%. Simmonsj: Was the second tier of part-time schools published in 2007? GeoffBW: In 2009, we have ranked nearly 70 part-time MBA programs. The entire list will be available online. gregjohnson82: I see that you mentioned EMBA programs are usually only offered on weekends. For UT-Austin's part-time ranking, did you consider only the evening program that is offered in Austin or also the part-time weekend programs offered in Dallas and Houston? GeoffBW: Each school is able to have one program ranked. For UT, we looked at the Austin EMBA program. sandeepkrishna: Do part-time MBA rankings go up to 100? GeoffBW: I think it goes to 69. Every school that had the correct response rates received a ranking. abby1999: Seems like Kellogg's EMBA program has always been ranked No. 1. Why do you think that is? LouisBW: You're not incorrect. Kellogg has been the No. 1 EMBA program since we started ranking those programs in 1991. I think part of the reason is that Kellogg is great at what it does, but I think after that many No. 1 rankings, it's tough for other schools to overtake Kellogg. Reputation is a powerful thing, and these rankings have the effect of solidifying reputations. Camden: How many schools participated in the executive education custom program ranking? GeoffBW: Eighty-something. I don't know the exact number offhand. sandeepkrishna: For part-time MBA, can we figure out our rank if we did not make it to the top 30? GeoffBW: If you had a high enough response rate, your ranking will be on the Web site. ssr001: Why do some of the top universities (from the full-time rankings) with part-time programs fail to make it to the part-time ranking lists? LouisBW: Some schools with top full-time programs don't have part-time programs, while other choose not to participate. In many cases, they can't give us student e-mail addresses for our surveys.

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