Three programs tie as 'Best Online MBA Program'

For the first time, online MBA programs have their own category

The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Temple University, and Indiana University business schools tied for the top spot in U.S. News & World Report's inaugural ranking of the "Best Online MBA Programs."

The publication has been ranking online programs since 2012, but previously, MBA and non-MBA programs fell into a single category.

Right behind the three-way tie for the top spot, the business schools of University of Florida and Arizona State University matched for No. 4, while University of Texas at Dallas came in next.

Related: Harvard, MIT top U.S. News inaugural global rankings

Rounding out the top 20, Georgia Southern University, Mississippi State University, and University of Tennessee-Martin tied for No. 18.


Analysts examined data from 195 schools that provide online business degrees. Only degree-granting programs were evaluated, and for-profits and non-profits were both included. However, 27 schools did not receive rankings because they reported fewer than 10 enrolled students or the program was less than one year old.

How do you define MOOC success?

Using data reported by the schools, analysts use "ranking indicators" to judge each program in five categories:

  • Student engagement, 28%: best practices, graduation rate, class size, one-year retention rates, time to degree deadline;
  • Admissions selectivity, 25%: standardized test scores, experience, acceptance rate, undergraduate GPA;
  • Peer reputation, 25%: as determined by a survey of high-ranking officials at the involved schools;
  • Faculty credentials and training, 11%: terminal degree faculty, preparedness to teach distance learners, tenured faculty, technical staff available to faculty; and
  • Student services and technology, 11%: student debt level, technological infrastructure, support services.

Public reception

"These rankings have improved greatly over the last few years as U.S. News has been open to input," Russell Poulin, deputy director of research and analysis for the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, told Inside Higher Ed via email. However, he acknowledged that they still "have a long way to go."

Because U.S. News & World Report relies on self-reported data from the schools, some may be ranked incorrectly because of reporting mistakes or deliberate misrepresentation. Critics assert the peer reputation factor skews the rankings in favor of well-known colleges regardless of real instructional quality (Brooks/Morse, U.S. News & World Report, 1/6; Haynie, U.S. News & World Report, 1/7; Mitchell, U.S. News & World Report, 1/6; Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed, 1/7).

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