US News MBA Ranking 2017: The Redemption of Stern

NYU Stern MBA Business School Class of 2016

Photo credit: Anmar El-Khalil during graduation week 2016

Last year when the MBA rankings came out for US News and World Report, NYU was shocked and horrified. The school that was ranked 10 when we were admitted had dropped to 20. We all invested approximately $300K* in getting an MBA and now the perceived value of our degree had dropped significantly. In reality, many of us from the class of 2016 already had jobs so it would have little to no effect on us, but it was still a slap in the face. Either way, it felt awful and was a terrible way to end our MBA experience.

That Sprint we held monthly town hall meeting to discuss the action the administration was taking to correct the rankings problem. Some people felt defeated and bitter and others were energized to correct this grave injustice. We poked fun at ourselves at Stern Follies #Top20MBA. No matter how people behaved in reaction, underneath we were all really hurt by what had happened.

So the real question is why did NYU drop 9 places to 20. US News and World Report admits that they were missing one data piece from Stern and that they pulled a random value out of their @#$ to fill in for that number rather than ask us for it. Rankings are serious business and can seriously impact application volume and matriculation for schools, so US News should not take it lightly. The protocol for data submission starts with the school submitting roughly 300 pieces of data. Next, US News confirms that they received all the data that they need before calculating the rankings. Next they generate the rankings, and finally they publish them.

US News knew that they were missing 1 data point from Stern for the rankings, yet they never informed us of it. US News is supposed to verify that they have received all data points before starting the ranking process. Someone at US News had to spend time “estimating” the one piece of data that was missing yet it never occurred to them that they might just drop us an email to inform us of the missing value. They ended up coming up with an estimate that was wildly off by around 2000 basis points.

As a reasonable person, I have a hard time believing that US News did not do this maliciously. Rankings that stay the same each year are boring and don’t get attention. However, when there are big moves it attracts attention. I believe that US News knew exactly what they were doing when they decided to publish the rankings with their fabricated data point because they knew it would it would attract headlines and generate revenue for their company.

This year NYU Stern submitted all of the data points and bounced back to number 12. I don’t think that US News ever had anything against Stern but they also didn’t care if they hurt people in their quest for more pageviews. It feels good to be back in the general rankings range that I started my MBA, but I can’t help but have a bad taste in my mouth.

Stern is truly an amazing school and I owe much of my success to it. Not only does it have top notch professors, but the students are both talented but also down to earth. Some MBA programs are cutthroat, but NYU is not one of them. Everyone is extremely collaborative and works well in a team environment. We help each other rather than compete.

The head of Stern recruiting at a consulting firm once told me a story about recruiting at Stern. He told a partner that they had to be more harsh with the interviews in the afternoon than the morning at Stern. The partner had not attended Stern, so he didn’t understand why. So this consulting manager informed him that NYU students puts the school and each other ahead of themselves and they will help each other prep for the interviews even if it hurts themselves. In my experience at Stern, we lived up to that expectation. Everyone was collaborative and helpful. No one was cutthroat. It is an amazing place to get your MBA.

*$120K in tuition and $180K in salary opportunity cost.

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