Ranking outlets evaluate online MBA programs based on quality, affordability and other factors. Understand the criteria and see how CSU stacks up
What Features Are You Looking for in a Top-Ranked Online MBA Program?
The number of online MBA programs has exploded in recent years. Rankings make it easier for busy professionals to research and compare hundreds of graduate programs.
Each ranking body has unique criteria and calculates what they consider to be the “best” schools. Before you put too much stock in rankings, decide which program features are most important to you.
For most working professionals, high-quality and affordable online MBA programs top the list. For others, maybe it’s flexibility, course content or tuition support. Figure out what you need to be successful at school and in your career. Then, look for online MBA rankings that measure what matters to you.
Online MBA Program Rankings: How Much Do They Matter?
Rankings help you sort through potential schools and narrow down your choices. When you understand the ranking criteria, you can quickly see how programs compare to one another.
Rankings tend to be specialized, so make sure the criteria and methodology are relevant and important to you. Different ranking lists may draw attention to criteria you hadn’t considered yet.
- U.S. News and World Report scores institutions based on five criteria: engagement, expert opinion, faculty credentials, student excellence and student services.
- Military Times looks at accreditation status, enrollment data, retention and graduation rates, tuition assistance and GI Bill gap coverage.
- QS Quacquarelli Symonds measures academic and employer reputation, faculty-to-student ratios, faculty research, and international student and faculty ratios.
Online MBA rankings give you an independent perspective on programs and schools. Some lists are statewide or regional, while others rank the best online MBA programs nationally or even globally. Since most rankings are issued annually, you can see how a program compares to others over time.
In a crowded job market, name recognition for your program and institution can go a long way. Keep in mind that employers are more likely to judge a program based on accreditations than rankings. Third-party evaluations are just one measure of the quality of an online MBA program.
Common Criteria for Online MBA Rankings
Ranking bodies publish their criteria and methodology so you know what’s measured and how. For some ranking bodies, “online” means 70% or more of the curriculum is delivered at a distance. Other rankings follow a narrower definition.
Make sure you understand ranking criteria and scoring methodologies and confirm that criteria are applied equally across programs.
Common ranking criteria
These factors are commonly used to rank online MBA programs:
- Accreditation — Similar to an audit, accreditation institutions validate the quality of a program, its curriculum and faculty through site visits. Accreditation status can affect whether an institution is able to offer federal financial aid or veteran's benefits. Likewise, some employers only reimburse tuition from accredited schools. Online MBA programs are accredited regionally and programmatically, and AACSB accreditation is the highest recognition a business school can receive.
How does CSU measure up? Our Online MBA program is AACSB-accredited—a standard only achieved by the top 5% of the world’s more than 16,000 business schools. Our program earned this accreditation thanks to our high-caliber faculty research, above average student experience and high graduation rates.
- Faculty Expertise — Ranking bodies look at faculty credentials, particularly for those who lead classes, and they compare the faculty standards for online and campus-based programs. They also look at the resources and trainings that are available to help faculty teach distance learners.
How does CSU measure up? Our online MBA program is taught by the same expert faculty who lead our on-campus classes. Our faculty are respected, active researchers who add relevant professional experiences to the academic material.
- Student Engagement — Interaction strengthens learning and student outcomes, so some ranking bodies look at how online students engage with faculty, support staff and peers. They measure class size, participation requirements, and how responsive and accessible faculty are to students.
How does CSU measure up? Online MBA students become part of a supportive and engaged Ram community. It’s one reason why the retention rate at the College of Business is 8% higher than the national average.
- Student Achievement — Some ranking bodies evaluate the student body to judge the strength of a program. They look at admission standards, academic rigor, average time to graduation and graduation rates. Some ranking bodies also measure salary or job title changes before and after graduation.
How does CSU measure up? Within three years of graduation, CSU’s Online MBA students report an average 30% bump in salary. Thanks to resources like our Career Management Center, our students are better able to find a new career that fits their interests and skills.
- Support Services and Technology — Strong support structures, like learning assistance and career guidance, affect student achievement and graduation. That’s why ranking bodies look at the breadth and depth of services and compare them to on-campus offerings. Online MBA rankings also evaluate how technology is used to support the distance learning experience.
How does CSU measure up? Online students have access to the same student services as our on-campus students, including lifetime support from the Career Management Center. Lectures are professionally produced and Online MBA classes have dedicated staff, resources and technology to strengthen the experience.
- Research — Research rankings calculate the number of times faculty are published in recognized journals.
How does CSU measure up? College of Business faculty are active researchers in their fields who have added new thinking and solutions to the world of business throughout our 50-year history.
- Tuition and Fees — Online MBA programs are typically charged by credit hour rather than by semester or term. Some online MBA programs offer different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students, as well as for corporate partners and military veterans. In addition, some schools add distance learning fees to their online program costs or require travel to meet in-person requirements. Online MBA ranking outlets tally all of the potential costs so it’s easier for prospective students to compare programs.
How does CSU measure up? CSU’s College of Business is an affordable option compared to other online MBA programs in Colorado. We offer transparent in-state tuition rates to every Online MBA student, no matter where they live. The College of Business is dedicated to making tuition for our Online MBA programs more affordable. Thanks to our tuition benefits, we can offer accessible tuition rates to CSU and Semester at Sea alumni, military and corporate partners.
- Expert Evaluation — The opinions of high-ranking academic officials also weigh into some rankings, accounting for intangible factors like esteem.
Turning these criteria into a “top 10” list is a multi-step process. Most outlets use a combination of surveys, questionnaires, mathematical scoring and data analyses. Surveys may be completed by the schools, alumni or peer institutions. Publicly reported data can be incorporated into the evaluations too.
By establishing and weighting the criteria, ranking bodies hold schools accountable and draw attention to standards that matter to students.
Is a Top-Rated Online MBA Worth the Cost?
Top-ranked Online MBA programs don’t necessarily command top dollar. When you’re adding up the costs, keep these factors in mind:
Per credit hour, the cost of an online MBA can range from a few hundred dollars to $2,000 or more. In addition, some programs may tack on distance education fees or require out-of-pocket travel.
The College of Business makes tuition and fees clear. We offer the same tuition rate whether you live and study in Colorado or anywhere else in the world.
Your cost per semester may vary based on the number of credits you’re enrolled in; classes range from one to four credit hours. The online MBA program requires 42 total credit hours, which come from a set of 24 core credits and 18 elective credits.
Online students can pursue their MBAs as part-time or full-time students, which can help spread out the investment.
Unfortunately, scholarships and grants are limited for graduate business students. Instead, many students rely on financial aid or corporate reimbursements to help pay for their MBAs. Keep in mind, many companies don’t reimburse tuition costs until after your grades have posted, and financial aid is only available to students at accredited institutions.
The College of Business is fully accredited and has corporate partnerships to help reduce tuition costs. If you are CSU or Semester at Sea alumni, or your company is a corporate partner, you could receive 10% off tuition of our online programs. We also discount tuition for military members, veterans and their dependents.
Books are important, but they’re not everything. Students who complete the Online MBA program at the College of Business also learn how to think critically, create meaningful connections, apply theories and lead with confidence.
Our Online MBA mirrors the on-campus experience in terms of faculty, content and engagement, but it comes with more options and flexibility. You earn a Master of Business Administration degree—but you get to do it on your terms.
You also gain a network of faculty, educational staff, peers and alumni that you keep for life. With CSU’s College of Business, you study online but you’re never alone. You engage with world-class faculty and peers throughout the program, adding depth and value to the degree.
When you earn an MBA, you should get more than what you pay for. The benefits accumulate over your career—and they start adding up way before you graduate. At the CSU College of Business, Online MBA courses are engaging and relevant to your work, so you can put the curriculum into practice immediately.
Depending on where you stand in your career, an MBA could open new doors within your current organization or take you on an entirely new path.