Updated: April 6, 2020 at 2:02 p.m.
Several of the business school’s graduate programs have made leaps in rankings even as enrollment in those programs continues to drop.
The full-time master’s of business administration and part-time MBA program rose several spots on the U.S. News and World Report’s list of best graduate business programs to No. 53 and No. 66 nationwide, respectively, while the school’s graduate international program offerings ranked No. 8. Officials said the rise in rankings is a result of the school’s continued ability to attract strong student talent by providing prospective students with more flexibility in completing their degree.
“GWSB is committed to refining its academic programs to keep pace with – and in anticipation of – the demands of the continually evolving business world,” Dean Anuj Mehrotra said in an email. “We do so through constant feedback from various stakeholders.”
Mehrotra said business school officials make changes to the school’s curriculum in response to student interest and a “shifting” global business environment. He said business school faculty have made several “market-driven enhancements” to the MBA program to provide students with “increased flexibility and additional benefits.”
During Mehrotra’s tenure, officials made graduate certificates “stackable” – students are able to combine two certificates with the 12 core classes in the MBA program to earn a full MBA. Officials also expanded the number of MBA formats available to students to five and now offer 12 specialized master’s degrees in specific business topics.
The business school enrolled slightly fewer graduate students this academic year for the seventh consecutive year despite an increase in applications to programs.
“While the positive trend in our rankings is welcome news for GWSB, the annual college rankings issued by news, business and higher education publications often don’t tell the whole story,” he said. “We remain focused on our goal of providing the best business education available anywhere.”
The rankings are each based on about a half-dozen categories like job placement success, average GRE scores and post-graduation employment rate. The school’s online MBA program rose to No. 22 in a U.S. News and World Report analysis of online programs throughout the country released earlier this year.
Liesl Riddle, the associate dean for graduate programs at the business school, said GW’s graduate students have continually been shown to outperform their peers pursuing similar degrees at other schools in their careers.
“In the case of our full-time programs, our graduates are landing in higher-paying jobs more quickly,” Riddle said in an email. “For example, 20 percent more of our full-time MBA students were employed at graduation and earned 17 percent more on average in those new positions.”
Riddle said the part-time MBA program has enabled the school to enroll working professionals interested in taking classes to expand their skill set. Those working professionals, in turn, have enhanced classroom conversations and students’ professional networks, she added.
Riddle said officials will introduce upgrades to the MBA program in the upcoming fall semester, including expanded “student-engagement experiences” and career services, new experiential learning courses and a shorter timeline for obtaining a degree.
“These changes, along with our new specialized master’s programs and innovative, stackable graduate certificate offerings will further enhance the readiness of our graduates in the shifting business environment,” Riddle said.
Mehrotra and Riddle declined to say if they think the rankings will help reverse the trend of declining graduate enrollment.
Susan Kulp, the director of the MBA program at the business school, said the rankings are an acknowledgment of the hard work of the faculty, staff and students involved in these programs.
“In addition to rigorous classroom experiences, we ensure that the courses and programs that we offer students reflect the business environment and prepare students for career success,” she said in an email.
Amid a nationwide decline in interest in MBA programs, Kulp said the improvements will ensure that the school continues to have a strong applicant pool, allowing for better classroom experiences and improved job placements.
“We hope that the increase in our rankings, along with our curriculum change, will highlight the many strengths of our programs,” she said.
Robert Weiner, a professor of international business, said fewer people are opting to pursue an MBA as a result of the cost and time associated with the degree, and many may turn to alternative shorter, cheaper programs like GW’s.
Weiner said GW’s highly ranked international business program will attract many students to the school in light of the way globalization has transformed the marketplace.
“People ought to be thinking about the wide world, and Washington is a great place to come to if you want to come to a school whose specialty and strength is international which is not necessarily the strength of our competitors,” he said.
Philippe Delquié, an associate professor of decision sciences, said GW’s unique programming in courses that combine scholarly approaches, policymaking and “world-class” speakers is a draw for students but cautioned against investing too much in rankings.
“In short, we should pay attention to these rankings but certainly not live and die by them,” Delquié said. “We should keep focusing on excellence and innovation in all that we do, which is what has been set in motion here at GW.”
This post has been updated to reflect the following correction:
An earlier version of this post stated that the business school’s master’s program in international business ranked No. 8 among international programs. The ranking is a qualitative assessment of the business school’s international offerings as a whole. We regret this error.