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Best value MBA programs: BYU Marriott beats Harvard MBA

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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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

14 thoughts on “Best value MBA programs: BYU Marriott beats Harvard MBA”

  1. Now a days, even Baba-Jis are asking for 7-8 Lakhs for their15 days workshop on “enlightenment”. People who have atteneded such courses, claim that the “experiences” they get can’t be compared on an economic scale; for it is priceless.

    Another logic they put forward is that, unless you put a good amount of money at stake, you can’t concentrate during Baba-Jis discourses and get the best out of the course. Only when you shell out a large amount of money, you suddenly becomes a “believer” and a true practitioner of the “trade”, as you have to use the same GYAN to recover your money.

    Perhaps, same is true for MBA as well.

  2. Good analogy, Oracle. I had to read it twice though, to figure out where you were going with it 🙂

    Pricing plays a big role in the marketing strategy.

    With the premium brands, apart from the initial psychological draw (‘I can be part of an elite club’) there’s also the subsequent financial lock-in (‘Damn! I paid more than others. Now I have to convince the world it was a good investment’).

    For the more modest programs that teach pretty much the same concepts, it can be easier for students to recoup their investments,

    Different target groups for different programs.

  3. Iam holder sir recently i paased out from uni so now iwant to take my further study mba from germany plz guide me sir

  4. Hello sameer I have question that My marks in graduation are just 50.40 in bsc non medical so could you please tell me which is the best suitable country for me go and do my managment program and is it necessary that I have to give GMAT exam for getting admission in reputed universities. Plz help me out.

  5. Hello Sameer
    I am currently doing B. Comm honours from Delhi University. I am going to be in my second year soon. I want to do my MBA from abroad and i want to start preparations for it so i can apply as soon as i graduate. I am mainly looking for a university which gives me the best education- both theoretical and practical while also giving me industry connections. A year ago i was ready to fight tooth and nail for admission into Harvard despite my middle class financial constraints but now i am not so sure. I want to know that according to my priorities what should i do. Please advice.

  6. @Aman; Your graduation marks should not decide the country you want to study in. Your post MBA goals should. Yes, you will need either the GMAT or GRE as part of your application.

    @Jashanpreet: It will be too early to think about an international MBA. Finish your education and work for a few years. That will give you an idea of where you want to take your career. Then decide if you really need an MBA, and if so from where.

  7. Hi Sameer,
    I am thinking of pursuing MBA abroad, not sure what to stick with. 1 year or 2 year course, rather i am not even sure if i want to do MBA, I just like the idea of studying abroad (might sound childish) but that’s the whole point, also i have almost 2 years of work experience. Point being, MBA would cost so much now a days, i might as well get some returns on the investment, like getting a job there. Please guide me. I am absolutely clueless, have searched so many times, i end up with some xyz course in some xyz country. Help me.

  8. Hi Sameer,
    I must say the website is loaded with lots of helpful information, kudos to you. Need some help w.r.t my plans for MBA. My profile is as below:

    B.Sc. (computer applications) 2001-04, 71%
    2 years work ex as a recruitment consultant
    PGDM, IMT Ghaziabad 2006-08, 62%, Marketing Mgmt. & Ops. Mgmt.
    7 months as a Mgt. Trainee with HyperCity Retail
    Gap of 16 months, personal reasons (did teach at T.I.M.E but don’t have anything to show for the same)
    6 months at BATA India
    13 months at IDBI Bank Ltd.
    Currently working with SAIL since Apr’12. One promotion during this period

    To sum up a total of approx. 9 years work-ex (if 2 years between Bachelor’s and PGDM are to be considered), low %of marks, almost NIL etxra-curriculars, bits here and there, some certificates(event mgmt. team member, participation in games event).

    profile throughout has been sales/marketing with operations. however by virtue of changing jobs by way of exams, career progression (PSUs) has not been as per B-schools standards and i feel stagnated. I am planning for a 1 year MBA with CAREER CHANGE as one of the main objectives. I plan to apply to some colleges in UK/ASIA/Australia etc. (listed below)

    What do you think my chances are of getting into a good MBA ? Is the work ex-too much ? Are the marks in B.Sc./PGDM too low to be considered ? What effect the absence/almost absent extra-curricular would have on my candidacy at b-schools? Would 1 year MBA assist in career switch? Getting a fair amount of scholarship is also a priority ?

    Looking forward to your valuable advice.


    HEC Paris
    Rotterdam, Netherlands
    Cambridge Judge
    Oxford SAID
    Melbourne Bus. School
    ISB Hyderabad
    HKUST (not sure yet)

  9. Thanks Sameer for a very insightful article – surely, value is a critical factor when opportunity costs to the tune of $100,000+ are in question!

    On your point about how “your post MBA goals” should “decide the country you want to study in”, would it imply that for a person who would like to, say, return to India and work for high-impact in this country’s economy, it would not make much sense to pursue a costly Ivy degree?

    In fact, is it possible to convince the AdComs on a long-term “post MBA goal” of returning to India to apply one’s learning?

  10. @Nitya: Why not wait for 2 more years and continue building your profile? You’ll find out if it was just infatuation or true love for the degree 🙂

    @Anuranjan: For some of the programs you’ve listed, the work experience will be on the higher side. If your accomplishments have been strong, don’t worry so much about not having too many extra curriculars to show. Focus more on why you need a second MBA.

    @Akash: For the exposure and learning, an MBA abroad may still be beneficial (if you can afford it), since it is tough to get the same from Indian bschools. On the point about the value of an international MBA in India, see if this helps:

    • Thanks again Sameer! To convey my predicament better, some background –

      I’m interested in US/Europe MBA programs with significant Tech-focus (e.g., MIT’s integrated design and management, Kellogg’s MMM). My long-term intent is to bring that learning back to India, via a mass-product that I’ve piloted with my current employer in past. I would precede this with a short stint in consulting to round-up my business skills, and orient myself for the long-term.

      You’re right – exposure at B schools abroad is unmatched. However, how feasible would such a trajectory be, in the context of your advice?

      • If you can successfully manage that trajectory, it could add a phenomenal amount of value to your career.

        The very first hurdle that you’d have to cross would be during the application phase. Think about how you will justify the individual jumps from tech to MBA to consulting to tech in a word-constrained essay.

        And the second one is managing the funds. A high GMAT score should help in having a good shot at some free money (scholarships). But it may not be the game changer for the pedigree of programs you have in mind.

        We’d probably be able to help with the first one, but think about what it would mean to go with no financial aid to those programs and handle the situation that you may have to come back to India immediately after completing the course.

        • Many thanks, Sameer – your response hits the right aspects that I’ve been deliberating upon, and researching which brought me to your blog-post. What e-mail are you reachable on, preferably a direct one, as time is premium for me? 🙂


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