If this question were prompted by almost anyone in the state of Illinois, most people would probably say education or business, as this school has been prominent in both of those fields. This is apparent through the support from insurance companies in Bloomington-Normal, as well as through the number of business vendors at job and internship fairs hosted by the University.
However, recent findings might give off the impression that ISU’s College of Business (COB) is not as prestigious as many believe. Forbes compiled its annual list of the Best Business Schools. Although Stanford tops it, I expected ISU would at least be somewhere on the list, but it wasn’t.
According to the criteria mentioned, Forbes determines the best schools based off of their M.B.A. programs through surveyed alumni. The surveys conducted compared results regarding “total compensation, including salary, bonuses and exercised stock options.” The comparison between the schools also addressed the “opportunity cost,” or the tuition, required fees and two years of forgone compensation, since the schools listed in the United States were strictly schools with two-year full-time M.B.A. programs.
At first, a lot of this went over my head since I’m not the best at understanding business and financial languages. However, I spoke with both the director and associate director of the M.B.A. program here, and they broke down a few reasons why this might be. Director S.J. Chang explained that schools get ranked on their return on investment. Essentially, this means that schools are ranked based off of how quickly graduates’ salaries grow and how high they are post-graduation. He went on to say that ISU’s market is relatively small compared to cities such as New York, and therefore “schools that do not necessarily place their graduates in big market jobs such as Wall Street firms are disadvantaged in this kind of ranking.” He also said that the school does not even try to make it onto the Forbes list because ISU does not fit the target and it would be a large amount of time and resources for the program to expend.
Associate Director BJ Newmister agreed, adding that many of the students in the M.B.A. program at ISU work for companies like State Farm and Country Financial before pursuing the program and then return to their jobs instead of seeking new ones post-graduation.
“The students come here to get knowledge and to get a degree. They don’t expect their salaries to rise substantially immediately following graduation,” Chang explained.
That being said, it is really important to emphasize that different rankings stress different criteria. For instance, Newmister and Chang explained that Bloomberg BusinessWeek focuses on student satisfaction, whereas others are peer-evaluated and ranked according to other colleges’ thoughts. As Chang put it, “It’s all perspective and all subjective.” They also mentioned that the Princeton Review looks at multiple aspects, including academics, and Newmister described it as “probably the most exhaustive list.” ISU’s COB actually has been ranked two years in a row among the Top 10 Best Administered M.B.A. Programs by the Princeton Review, which is a huge accomplishment.
Newmister explained that part of the program is really based on the accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). He described it as “the benchmark” since less than 15 percent of M.B.A. programs are AACSB-accredited. Additionally, the program does really strive to improve itself through different efforts such as restructuring the curriculum to offer more online and hybrid courses, as well as expanding the program. This year, ISU’s M.B.A. program actually added a Chicago branch, which will ultimately help the program in the Chicago market.
Ultimately, the Forbes list of the top 70 business schools is not concrete, and it is important for people to realize that this is a very fuzzy area since different lists have different focuses. Even though I do believe that ISU’s M.B.A. program is good based off what I know of it, I personally think that part of that is due to the fact that the department seeks to improve itself, which is something everyone should do.
Grace Johnson is a senior publishing major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding her column can be sent to email@example.com.