When someone says Harvard MBA is not the best business school, the other competing names that come to mind are the likes of Stanford, Wharton, MIT and other regular suspects that dominate the MBA rankings.

Instead when you hear names like BYU Marriott, Wisconsin School of Business, Foster (Washington), Fisher (Ohio), Simon (Rochester), Mendonza (Notre Dame) being listed higher than Harvard University and many other top MBA programs, now that’s a discussion topic.

MBA rankings are interesting (and at times controversial), specially when their evaluation methodologies bring universities and programs as different as chalk and cheese into the same ring. It’s difficult to say single MBA ranking is the best of the lot, as each one places varying levels of emphasis on parameters ranging from GMAT scores to salaries.

One such aspect that matters to a lot of international students is the value they get back from the money they spend. We covered this in an earlier post. Read it here – Payback time for the top MBA colleges in the world.

M7 Financial, a company that focuses on student loans, has come up with their own version of MBA rankings to tap into this prime concern. Instead of a broad-based evaluation of diverse parameters like many of the other business school rankings, the financial firm decided to focus purely on the financial aspects (return on investment) of the top MBA programs in USA.

Taking a cue from the Wall Street rating agencies that assign a credit rating to listed companies so investors can take an informed investment decision, in this ranking each business school got a credit rating.

The ratings ranging from A+ to C reflect the relative difficulty (modest, very manageable, manageable, demanding, very demanding) for students to manage their loan obligations vis-a-vis their career prospects.

You can find the full report here.

Best Value MBA Programs List

MBA Program Rating Leverage
Average Starting
Salary + Bonus*

Marriott School of Management

A + 0.25 28.05 $110,216 $27,942 $3,930

Wisconsin School of Business

A 0.21 34.68 $109,293 $22,410 $3,152

Michael G. Foster School of Business at University of Washington

A 0.32 21.99 $118,759 $38,394 $5,399

Ohio State University Fisher College of Business

A 0.39 18.37 $108,510 $41,991 $5,905

Simon Business School at University of Rochester

A 0.41 17.24 $92,262 $38,058 $5,352

Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley

A 0.48 14.76 $134,078 $64,598 $9,085

Emory University’s Goizueta Business School

A 0.52 13.8 $124,148 $63,979 $8,997

Mendoza College of Business at University of Notre Dame

A 0.53 13.32 $115,296 $61,547 $8,655

Harvard Business School

A 0.53 13.31 $138,346 $73,926 $10,396

W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University

A 0.54 13.22 $103,903 $55,887 $7,860

University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business

A 0.57 12.51 $123,868 $70,395 $9,900

Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University

A 0.57 12.41 $115,693 $66,265 $9,319

Stanford Graduate School of Business

A 0.58 12.24 $137,525 $79,869 $11,232

Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University

A 0.58 12.22 $102,806 $59,801 $8,410

Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis

A 0.62 11.55 $110,533 $68,047 $9,570

Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University

A 0.66 10.77 $131,181 $86,595 $12,178

Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management

A 0.67 10.56 $113,170 $76,205 $10,717

Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

A 0.68 10.52 $135,838 $91,834 $12,915

Kelley School of Business at Indiana University

A 0.68 10.51 $113,898 $77,038 $10,834

Kenan-Flagler Business School at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

A 0.69 10.37 $123,526 $84,696 $11,911

Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University

A 0.71 10 $131,975 $93,832 $13,196

College of Business at University of Illinois

A- 0.56 12.81 $94,751 $52,612 $7,399

Carlson School of Management at University of Minnesota

A- 0.59 12.09 $117,972 $69,372 $9,756

University of California, Los Angeles, Anderson School of Management

A- 0.63 11.34 $123,353 $77,326 $10,875

Carroll School of Management at Boston College

A- 0.66 10.71 $96,915 $64,342 $9,049

Stephen M. Ross School of Business at University of Michigan

A- 0.73 9.8 $134,883 $97,915 $13,770

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management

A- 0.73 9.7 $137,057 $100,512 $14,135

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University

A- 0.76 9.41 $129,037 $97,500 $13,712

Darden School of Business at University of Virginia

A- 0.76 9.4 $136,102 $102,968 $14,481

Yale School of Management

A- 0.76 9.3 $126,013 $96,341 $13,549

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

A- 0.8 8.88 $135,101 $108,186 $15,214

Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University

B 0.99 7.17 $84,915 $84,187 $11,839

Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management

B 1.11 6.42 $80,592 $89,245 $12,551


What does this new MBA ranking mean for you

Just because this is the most recent ranking to be released, should you forget about all the research you did using the MBA rankings data provided by Financial Times, Businessweek, Economist et al?

No. Don’t do that. If the team that published the MBA ranking was transparent about the methodology they used and the parameters they analysed, then rely on those facts and draw your own conclusions.

These new ratings, for instance, are based on a subset of data used by the US News ranking. So, it’s a derivative ranking.

Not every international student is looking for a bargain or value deal.

For some, prestige is everything. They would rather drop the idea of an MBA abroad if they can’t get into the Ivy League universities. Several IIT / IIM guys who come to us with elite degrees from India are clear about this.

For others, the ability to target specific companies and industries (management consulting, investment banking, private equity) is more important than absolute prestige or financial value. As an example, many technology companies (outside the Amazon, Google league) aren’t too brand-focussed. They would care more about your pre-MBA experience along with your new degree to decide whether you deserve to be invited for a job interview.

There’s a larger chunk of international students who’d prefer a more holistic risk mitigation strategy i.e. the ability to maximise the brand power while minimizing their overall cost of attending an overseas MBA course.

You’ll need to decide for yourself which category you fall in and select the right MBA college.

If you get stuck along the way, drop us an email. We’ll see how we can help.

And by the way, Harvard never positioned itself as a value school. It always came with a premium tag. So it’s unlikely that the Harvard admissions team is losing their sleep over how to rejig their fee structure to compete with BYU, Simon, Foster and Company.

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