Kellogg Reclaims Title of Best Executive MBA Program

Photograph courtesy Northwestern University

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has reclaimed the top position after a two-year absence in Bloomberg Businessweek’s biennial ranking of the best executive MBA programs.

Until 2011, Kellogg was the only school to ever hold the top spot, ranking No. 1 six consecutive times. It now retakes top honors from its crosstown rival, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which finishes second this year.

Overall student satisfaction dropped 6 percent this year compared with 2011, with students complaining more about lack of career support. Additionally, financing the expensive executive degree continues to be a major concern for students. Currently, the average price of an executive MBA at a top-10 program is about $125,000, with schools like Pennsylvania, Northwestern, and Chicago charging north of $160,000.

To rank executive programs, Bloomberg Businessweek uses two measures: a survey of graduating EMBA students that covers their entire MBA experience, from admission to graduation, and a poll of EMBA directors that asks for feedback on which programs they view as the best. The student survey calculation includes three years of data, encompassing the last three ranking cycles (2009, 2011, and 2013). Schools that fail to receive any points in the directors’ poll measure are not ranked. Instead, they are assigned the “second tier” designation. For 2013, 42 schools are ranked and 21 are in the second tier.

Following Kellogg and Booth in the EMBA ranking are Southern Methodist’s Cox School of Business (up four spots from seventh in 2011), the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, (up five spots from ninth), and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management stands pat in the fifth position.

The biggest mover in this year’s ranking is the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, which jumped up 12 spots to 15th overall, thanks to a strong showing in student satisfaction. Students in Mendoza’s Chicago-based program laud the school’s strong alumni network and the close-knit, community atmosphere it is able to build among EMBA participants.

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business makes its debut in the EMBA ranks at No. 13. This year was the first that the new program was eligible to be ranked. Darden is unique in that a large portion of its first-year core curriculum is presented via distance learning.

Rutgers, Boston University, Georgia Tech (Scheller), and Rochester (Simon), each earned a spot among the 42 ranked programs this year after being relegated to second-tier status in 2011. Meanwhile, Baylor (Hankamer), Georgia (Terry), Michigan State (Broad), Queen’s, and Western Ontario (Ivey) each were assigned the second-tier designation after failing to receive any directors’-poll points.

Nine schools were eliminated from the ranking due to low student response rates. They are the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University at Buffalo, the University of Iowa, Virginia Commonwealth, the University of Colorado at Boulder, Villanova, Kennesaw State, Maastricht School of Management, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

A decade ago, the majority of EMBA participants were fully supported by their employers, meaning the employer would foot the tuition bill as long as the student/employee agreed to stay at the company for a set amount of time post-graduation. For the most recent graduating class, nearly 40 percent of students paid for the entire degree on their own.

Due to the “flabbergasting price-point” as one 2013 Columbia EMBA grad put it—and the fact that most of the financial burden is coming out of their own pockets—student expectations on the executive MBA front are high. The schools that were best able to meet those expectations—Southern Methodist, Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business, and USC’s Marshall School of Business, where students were the most satisfied among 2013 grads—each enjoy overall rankings in the top 15.

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