In case you missed it, Forbes published its 2015 rankings for MBA programs in early September 2015. Stanford GSB and Harvard Business School are in the #1 and #2 spots, respectively. For the top 1-year international MBA programs, INSEAD (in France and Singapore) takes the #1 spot with IMD (in Switzerland) at #2. As for two-year international MBA programs, Forbes ranks LBS as #1 and IESE (main campus in Barcelona with locations in Sao Paulo, Madrid, NY, and Munich) as #2.
This year’s Forbes rankings methodology is based on 2010 MBA graduates’ return on investment, which compares 2010 graduates’ work compensation in the first five years out of b-school to their cost of attending business school (tuition, fees, and two years of foregone salaries). The Forbes methodology also accounts for scholarships and grant aid, which can significantly reduce the opportunity cost of attending b-school for students who receive this financial support.
Stanford GSB and Harvard both report astoundingly high post-MBA salaries in the five years after graduating, with Stanford’s median annual salary at $255,000 and $239,000 for Harvard Business School. Other U.S. schools ranked in the top ten by Forbes that also had median salaries of $200,000 or higher include Columbia Business School (#4 rank), Chicago Booth (#6 rank), Wharton (#7 rank) and MIT Sloan (#9 rank).
When it comes to evaluating ROI, Forbes notes that 2010 MBA graduates from the top international one-year b-school programs had a median five-year gain of $125,500 compared to median gains of $64,000 for 2010 graduates from the best two-year international MBA programs, and $42,500 for graduates of the top U.S. two-year programs. The time to pay back the costs of an MBA is also shorter for graduates of one-year international MBA programs (2.4 years) relative to graduates of two-year international programs (3.4 years) and US counterparts (4 years). With the tuition and fees of top U.S. MBA programs topping $200,000, it’s no surprise that there’s also been an increase in U.S. students heading abroad for their MBAs.
While considering the Forbes ranking, it’s important to recognize that this ranking methodology is based solely on ROI of MBA graduates from 2010. Other factors that might be important to prospective MBA students, such as quality of academic offerings, school culture, quality of student skillset, and faculty expertise, are not incorporated. In addition, MBA graduates who choose to enter professional fields that are less lucrative (such as working for a non-profit) will likely have lower annual compensation and this will negatively impact a school’s ranking by Forbes.
When considering MBA programs, we tell our clients to not focus too heavily on rankings, and instead invest time exploring the programs that best align with what they are looking for and will meet their individual needs. However, we understand the importance of b-school costs and Forbes does a great job of highlighting the question of ROI so do take a look for yourselves at Forbes’ 2015 MBA rankings.