Kaplan Survey: Most Business Schools Plan to Skip Some MBA Rankings This Year, Amid Coronavirus Admissions Impact

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Press Contact: Russell Schaffer, russell.schaffer@kaplan.com, 917.822.8190

Twitter: @KaplanEdNews

New York, NY (January 21, 2021) — The coronavirus pandemic is causing major disruptions to the MBA landscape, including in one traditionally controversial area, according to a new Kaplan survey of business schools across the United States*. Of the programs surveyed, 10 percent say they don’t plan to participate in any of the business school rankings, long a mainstay of the MBA admissions process; 62 percent say they plan to participate in only some of the rankings; and 28 percent say they plan to participate in all the rankings**.

“The majority of business schools have made their admissions process more flexible, including making the GMAT® or GRE® optional, so many schools are lacking in test score data this year. Another major data point that goes into the rankings is job placement rate, and with the economy struggling as it is, it’s likely that it wasn’t as easy for Class of 2020 graduates to find employment as it was for Class of 2019 graduates. While many business schools are still reporting this data point for transparency, it’s also likely that others are reluctant to publicize it,” said Brian Carlidge, vice president of admissions, Kaplan. 

“Absent reliable GMAT or GRE test scores and other complete pandemic-impacted data points, most business schools are opting out of full participation in this year’s rankings. One bright spot for business schools: most top MBA programs are reporting year-over-year growth in starting salaries, another key rankings data point.”

Kaplan’s survey comes on the heels of many top business schools (Chicago Booth, Stanford, Columbia, Harvard, MIT Sloan, Northwestern Kellogg, and UPenn Wharton) already publicly stating their non-participation in at least one global rankings list and after the Graduate Management Admission Council called for a pause in all MBA rankings because of a lack of complete data.

An admissions officer at one school that still plans to participate in some of the rankings shared, “We still believe that rankings give students some information to compare different schools. It is hoped that rankings organizations will take into consideration the issues schools have faced during the Covid pandemic and adjust their metrics.” But another admissions officer whose school says it won’t participate in any of the rankings stated, “The challenges associated with test centers closing and admissions processes changing to accommodate this made for a less quantitative decision making model. It does not easily translate to the criteria forced by the ranking methodology.” And another admissions officer observed, “Everyone is in the same boat, although some are in more serious financial straits than others. I see no reason not to report.”

Carlidge adds, “We understand both sides of the rankings debate. Where a school places in the rankings is an important recruitment tool for prospective students, and publicizing a high ranking can help boost alumni giving. But at the same time, with so much tumult, it’s hard to get a clear picture of where each business school lands. With so many top MBA programs not participating this year, it may make the rankings released in 2021 feel much less potent and relevant for aspiring business school students than in years past. We plan to ask this question again later this year to see whether this is a temporary situation or if the pandemic has instigated a longer-term trend.”

For more information about Kaplan’s survey, contact Russell Schaffer at russell.schaffer@kaplan.com or 917.822.8190.

*Admissions officers from 90 full-time business schools across the United States were polled by e-mail in October 2020. Among those polled are 14 of the top 50 programs as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Percentages are rounded up to the nearest whole number. 

**Exact wording of the question: About a dozen top business schools have announced that they will not participate in any MBA rankings this academic year due to the historic nature of the admissions cycle. Which of the following best describes your school’s plan?

  • We plan to participate in all MBA rankings: 28%
  • We plan to participate in some MBA rankings 62%%
  • We do not plan to participate in any MBA rankings: 10%

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Kaplan is a global educational services company that provides individuals, universities, and businesses with a diverse array of services, including higher and professional education, test preparation, language training, corporate and leadership training, and student recruitment, online enablement and other university support services. With operations in nearly 30 countries, Kaplan serves nearly 1.1 million students each year and has partnerships with 2,000-plus universities, colleges, and schools/school districts, and more than 4,000 businesses globally. Kaplan is a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC). For more information, please visit www.kaptest.com.  

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