A History of the US News MBA Ranking 1990 – 2013

US News MBA rankings 1990 - 2013

With close to a quarter of a century of business school rankings to its name, US News is one of the longest-established of the big five media MBA rankings. Indeed, while BusinessWeek claims to have published the first full business school assessment in 1998, a reputation survey published by US News in 1987 would actually make it the oldest MBA ranking on the block. But it was in 1990 that US News developed the methodology that is broadly similar to the one we see today.

The most US-centric of the five major MBA rankings, US News doesn’t attempt to create a separate list of top business schools from Canada, Europe, Asia and the rest. It is also among the most subjective, relying for 25% of its methodology on a peer assessment score from business school deans and directors, who are asked to rate programs on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding). and a further 15% with a similar corporate recruiter survey. While a further 35% of the ranking is calculated based on placement success, measured in terms of post-MBA starting salary and bonus, and employment rates, US News also places student selectivity on the agenda by allocating a 16.25% weighting to GMAT or GRE scores, and 7.5% to their GPA. There is also an acceptance rate, though this accounts for only 1.25% of the overall score.

It is perhaps no surprise therefore that the business schools that dominate the US News ranking boast among the highest average GMAT scores for their admitted students, though that is true of pretty much all the major rankings. It may also explain why MIT Sloan claimed the #1 spot back in 1995, the only time the business school has achieved this feat in any of the big 5 rankings. Coupled with a technology boom, Sloan at the time boasted an average GMAT score to rival west coast rival Stanford GSB.

Other than that one exception 18 years ago, Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB have dominated US News, ranking #1 a total of fourteen times each. They have shared the #1 spot 5 times since 1990, including the 2013 ranking published this month.

Comparing this year’s results with those of 1990 you see how little has changed among the top 10 schools on the list. Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT Sloan and Northwestern’s Kellogg still occupy the first five places, and as our table below indicates, none of these schools have ever fallen lower than #6 in US News. Chicago Booth has been similarly stable, ranking #6 this year, with a highest position of #4 and a lowest of #9 since the ranking began. Columbia gatecrashed the top 3 in 1998, no doubt matching record highs on Wall Street, and has been a consistent top 10 ever since.

Beyond this cluster of schools, things begin to shift a little more. Among the schools that have made the most upward progress over a twenty year period are UC Berkeley Haas, which moved between #10 and #15 in the 90s, but has made the #7 spot its own since 2001, placing 9 times in that position. NYU Stern has been a consistent climber since it ranked #18 in 1990, and has made the top 10 in 5 of the last 7 years.

The other big winner is UT Austin McCombs, a school now on the radar screens of many more MBA applicants, as it enjoys its location in one of the fastest growing cities in the US, with a dynamic local economy that includes a booming tech industry, and good health in the energy sector. Emory Goizueta is bouncing back, after falling to #24 in 2008 – the lowest rank that any of today’s top 20 schools in US News has registered – and now claiming a place at #18.

Elsewhere, Yale SOM might have thought it had finally secured a place at the top table last year when it ranked #10 for the third time, but fell 3 places in 2013, largely because of the progress made at other schools. The Ross School at the University of Michigan has seen a marked decline since the early 90s, with the #5 rank in 1993 now a distant memory compared to its #14 today.

Looking at the highs and lows among the top 20 since US News began its ranking, it is worth noting that all the schools from #7 to #20 have seen a difference of between 6 and 9 places between their highest and lowest rank. For many that is a sign of stability among the top US business schools, though if you are at the school that is now 9 places below a historic peak perhaps the perspective is a little different.

We’ve tried to squeeze 20+ years of results into the table below, which may play havoc with page layout. Initially US News published a ranking once every two years, moving to annual results from 1994 onwards. They also somewhat confusingly describe their results for the following year, so a ranking published in 2013 is called the 2014 ranking. We have ignored this extended shelf-life marketing approach, and refer to the year in which the ranking was published.

We think this might be the only time that all 24 years of results for the top 20 have been gathered together in one place, so we hope you find it useful.


2015Institution'14'13'12'11'10'09'08'07'06'05'04'03'02'01'00'99'98'97'96'95'94'92'90Best RankWorst Rank
1Stanford GSB1111122222221121111311113
3U Penn - Wharton1333533332323432333243325
4Chicago Booth4645554568696976656766849
5MIT Sloan5443354444444545342125515
6Northwestern - Kellogg6445434544545352664554426
7UC Berkeley Haas777777787687107101410101010121313714
9Dartmouth Tuck9997787796910911111288767106612
10Virginia Darden111213131315141213141211101511111011119131111915
11NYU Stern101011109111010131314121312141314131317171818918
11Michigan - Ross11141314121312111110101310109710121211877514
13Duke Fuqua14111212141214121111117688910998999614
13Yale SOM13131010111013141515141413121615151518161916251225
15UCLA Anderson161415141514111610111214151211108171613101415817
16Cornell Johnson17161616181714141615141616161516192015151512121220
17UT Austin McCombs15171716181818181823171818181618151819191820241524
18UNC Kenan-Flagler19201919212019182021212117181816151617181617171421
19Washington Foster22233537332634292918-------------1837-
20CMU Tepper18191818161517171617171718171918151414141315141319
21Emory Goizueta201819232722242018181921222321212123222322>25>2518>25

Source: MBA Admissions Edge, Consus Group, Kellogg


Also on MBA50.com:

See the results of the ranking of MBA rankings, combining the last 12 months of media tables

Full analysis of the winners and losers in the FT MBA Ranking 2013

Harvard claims #1 position in the FT’s 2013 Full-Time MBA ranking for first time in 8 years



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