MBA Ranking Methodology

We have put this quick overview together to help you understand how we rank programs. Although there are many best college lists, ours is different – and that is because of how we approach ranking.

Each best college ranking you will find online uses a variety of criteria when ranking programs, and many of them either place a heavy emphasis on tuition, or don’t factor it in at all. This emphasis or lack of inclusion can cause a ranking to focus on the extremes of online education, and by extremes we mean the most expensive or least expensive (cheapest) programs. The end result is a list that tends to exclude programs that fall in between those two extremes but offer an excellent and reputable education.

This is where our approach to ranking is different. We do assign a high value to tuition, but we also take into account aspects of a program’s quality, including:

  • Admissions Selectivity
  • Online Learning Quality
  • Program Support and Experience

Doing this helps us to avoid a skewed list that only focuses on the extremes of the education spectrum. In other words, it helps us to take a more holistic approach to ranking that we truly believe benefits prospective students, or at minimum provides an alternative perspective from other traditional rankings.

And at the end of the day, that is what our list is all about. Our mission is to help students find a program that will meet their needs and help them achieve their goals. If we can do that, we have succeeded.

Ranking Criteria

Ranking programs is a big task. To approach this, we use multiple criteria covering a broad spectrum of the education experience. From support services to ROI and tuition, each criteria is selected to help create a list that is well-rounded and holistic in its approach.

Admissions Selectivity Score

  • Acceptance rate
  • Average undergrad GPA
  • Average GMAT score
  • Average GRE score
  • % of students with prior work experience

Faculty and Teaching Score

Faculty members that are engaging, experienced and qualified bring classes to life and can greatly impact students. From online teaching experience to training and tenure, there are multiple criteria that Discover Business used to rank faculty. These include:

  • Faculty that teach courses online
  • Tenured or tenure-track faculty
  • Average experience teaching online
  • Program financing of faculty training
  • Required hours of initial training
  • Formal peer reviews of instructors
  • Tech staff supporting faculty
  • Student to faculty ratio

Student Experience Score

From academic advising to live tutoring, technical support and career placement assistance, support services play a vital role in a good education. Robust and top-tier programs offer the exact same support services – and sometimes more – to their students. Support services used in ranking include the following:

  • Class size
  • Three year graduation rate
  • Academic advising
  • Career placement assistance
  • Digital library access
  • Librarian access
  • 24-7 Technical support
  • Live tutoring
  • Instructor response time
  • End-of-course evaluations

Affordability and Financial Aid Score

For many students the cost of an education is an important deciding factor when selecting a program or institution. In light of this, Discover Business has used the following in its ranking:

  • Per-credit In-State
  • Per-credit Out-Of-State
  • % of employer sponsored students
  • % of Students with college aid
  • Proportion of grads with debt


The following weights have been used in Discover Business’ rankings:

  • 20% – Admissions
  • 35% – Faculty and Teaching
  • 30% – Student Experience
  • 20% – Affordability and Financial Aid Score

Data Sources

A wide-range of authoritative and respected data sources have been used to compile this list. These include (listed in alphabetical order):

AACSB Data – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is a nonprofit that exists to encourage innovation, increase engagement and maximize the impact of business education. It was founded in 1961 and currently has over 1500 member organizations in over 90 countries and is an incredibly far-reaching network that connects academia, business and students. Accreditation from the AACSB is highly valued by business schools around the world. As of fall 2016, 755 institutions around the world are accredited by AACSB.

Accreditation Council For Business Schools and Programs – The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) exists to promote improvement and recognize excellence in business education across the globe. It was founded in 1988 and accredits business programs, not institutions. The ACBSP is a well respected nonprofit and it’s accreditation is highly prized with over 1000 business institutions under its banner across multiple continents. As of fall 2016, 2,983 business programs around the world are ACBSP accredited.

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Founded in 1884, The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is part of the U.S. Department of Labor. The BLS exists to collect, analyze and distribute economic information to the general public. This includes data on working conditions, labor market information, and pricing fluctuations.

International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education – The International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE) is a nonprofit that exists to promote, develop and recognize outstanding MBA programs around the world. The organization was founded in 1997 and currently has hundreds of members across the globe. As of fall 2016, over 1,100 programs are accredited by the IACBE.

NACE Salary Survey – The National Association of Colleges and Employers connects thousands of college career service professionals with thousands of recruiting professionals and business affiliates. It is an authoritative source on job market trends, starting salaries, and other areas related to the employment of college graduates. It is a nonprofit and was established in 1956.

National Centre for Education Statistics – The National Centre for Education Statistics is part of the U.S. Department of Education. It’s mission is to provide nonpartisan scientific evidence that can be used to build and enhance education policy.

Online Learning Consortium – The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is an organization that is dedicated to advancing and promoting quality online education. The OLC provides a wide variety of resources to accomplish this, including publications, advisory services, and professional development tools. The organization is a nonprofit and began in 1992.

The Network of International Business Schools – The Network of International Business Schools (NIBS) is an association of over 70 business schools across the globe. Members in the organization collaborate and work together to provide their students with a globally-focused education. NIBS is a nonprofit and was launched in 2008.

Universities Common Data Set – The Universities Common Data Set is a resource offered by a collaboration between publishers and the educational community. Publisher’s include the College Board, Peterson’s and U.S. News & World Report. The aim of the data set is to provide accurate and high quality information to students who are transitioning into higher education.