Inside the 2019 ‘U.S. News’ Best Online MBA Program Ranking

2019 online mba ranking

Where is the best online MBA program in the country? Who tops the charts when it comes to student engagement, student excellence, academic faculty, and more? The U.S. News & World Report just released its 2019 ranking for the “Best Online MBA Programs” in the US. The Online MBA programs at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School each came in tied at first place.

Value of the Ranking

In 2016, the number of students taking online classes reached more than six million, according to a 2018 Babson Survey Research Group report. Nearly three million exclusively took distance education classes for their graduate and undergraduate degrees.

There’s no doubt that online learning has grown in popularity and will continue to grow, with Babson study co-author Julia E. Seaman saying, “The growth of distance enrollments has been relentless.” And MBA programs can’t stop or avoid the tide.

Over the last eight years, U.S. News has ranked the best online MBA programs to find the accredited public, private, and for-profit business schools that rate highly according to a questionnaire sent to students and faculty (more on that later). This year, the U.S. News collected data on 301 schools—up from 282 last year—to give one of the most comprehensive rankings yet.

Person Using Laptop

Over 300 schools were reviewed for the most recent U.S. News & World Report “Best Online MBA Programs” ranking.

Key Data from the Online MBA Ranking

This year’s Online MBA ranking was filled with a familiar cast of programs but with a change-up of order.

For the four previous years, Temple University’s Fox School of Business topped the ranking until it was thrown out for misreporting critical data. Now, with the new ranking data, IU Kelley placed first for the second year in a row for its gold standard classes and 100 percent student employment rate.

Tied for first place this year is UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, rising in the ranking up from fourth in 2018. At the same time, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business fell from first place to third. Rounding out the top five in 2019 is The University of Florida Hough Graduate School of Business in fourth (up two spots from last year) and the USC Marshall School of Business in fifth (up three places from 2018).

No school fell out of the top ten this year. Instead, all top ten schools remain the same as the previous year, just shifting rankings. The biggest gain was made by the University of Mississippi Business School, which ties with Auburn University Harbert and Penn State World Campus for ninth place. This was a sixteen place jump from 2018 when Mississippi ranked 25th overall.

The top two schools to make the list—IU Kelley and UNC Kenan-Flagler—were also the largest programs by far with both schools just barely under 1,000 students enrolled. The next closest school regarding the number of students was the ASU Carey School of Business, enrolling just under 500.

As for cost, the honor for the most expensive school in the top ten went to Carnegie Tepper. Students in the Online MBA program there pay $2,063 per credit hour. That’s more than double the cost of the two most affordable schools in the top ten Auburn University Harbert and the University of Mississippi, which cost $875 and $810 per credit hour, respectively.

Top 10 Schools

The top 10 online MBA programs as ranked by the US News & World Report are as follows:

  1. (Tied at #1) Indiana University Kelley School of Business
  2. (Tied at #1) UNC Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School
  3. Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business
  4. University of Florida Hough Graduate School of Business
  5. USC Marshall School of Business
  6. (Tied at #6) Arizona State University Carey Business School
  7. (Tied at #6) University of Texas at Dallas Naveen Jindal School of Management
  8. University of Maryland—College Park Smith School of Business
  9. (Tied at #9) Auburn University Harbert College of Business
  10. (Tied at #9) Pennsylvania State University—World Campus
  11. (Tied at #9) University of Mississippi Business School

Online MBA Ranking Methodology

U.S. News’ five-tier methodology in its Online MBA ranking values engagement above all-else.

To rank the 301 business schools, U.S. News & World Report broke down a student and faculty questionnaire into five categories with varying weight. Here’s a look at each category and how it was weighted in the current ranking formula.

Engagement — 28 percent

Engagement looks at how an online MBA program promotes participation in courses and encourages interaction with instructors and classmates. The idea was to look for online MBA programs who had instructors that were accessible, responsive, and willing to create a rewarding experience.

Student Excellence — 25 percent

Excellence looked at how well prepared MBA candidates were to handle the workload. It gave weight to standardized test scores, acceptance rates, undergraduate GPA, and work experience.

Expert Opinion — 25 percent

To garner expert opinion, the US News surveyed high-ranking academic officials at each MBA program to account for intangible factors that demonstrated academic respect.

Faculty Credentials and Training — 11 percent

Instructors with impressive academic credentials were also important to the ranking. Specifically, the US News looked for faculty credentials that mirrored those of campus-based programs.

Student Services and Technologies — 11 percent

Strong online MBA programs require schools to incorporate a diverse array of online learning technologies, which allow more flexibility for distance learning. The ranking looked at services and technologies outside of class, strong support structures, career guidance, financial aid resources, and more.

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About the Author

Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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