While working towards an MBA is almost always a good bet in boosting one’s future financial security, salaries may vary considerably depending on which school one attends, especially when the ROI is taken into consideration. It’s advised to put serious thought into choosing the right program – beginning with undergrad. While Harvard or Wharton might be out of reach at the moment, there are still plenty of schools with lofty reputations and more realistic tuition costs.

To make the choice a bit easier, we’ve compiled the definitive ranking of the best business schools in the United States based on seven variables:

  1. Proportion of business students to the general student population
  2. Graduation rate
  3. Student-to-faculty ratio
  4. In-state tuition
  5. Out-of-state tuition
  6. Number of business programs available
  7. Enrollment figures

Excellent business schools are located all across the country, with all major regions accounted for within the top 20 of this ranking. The top ten best business schools are not clustered in one particular region of the country, but rather spread all across the nation, with four in the east, three in the south, and three in the Midwest. No West Coast schools made it to the top ten, but the region is better represented in the #11-#20 brackets, which features one California and one Washington state school.

Ultimately, one must take into account personal preferences and considerations, such as state of residency, budget, and preference of small vs. large campuses, but this ranking should provide a good jumping off point towards earning a degree and advancing one’s career in the business world.

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#1. Fox School of Business, Temple University (Philadelphia, PA)

Placing #1 is Temple University’s The Fox School of Business of Philadelphia, PA. A “state-related” school (a private school that receives state financial appropriations so that the school may offer discounts for state residents) founded in 1918 that is the largest business school in the state. For a school of its size, Fox offers a very good student-to-faculty ratio and high graduation rate of 0.71. Tuition at the school (around $21K for in-state students, $36K for out-of-state) is not among the cheapest, but it is not prohibitively expensive compared to other options.

#2. Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland (College Park, MD)

The Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland comes in second place. With around half the students of #1 Fox, Robert H. Smith boasts an excellent student-to-faculty ratio of 16.43 and a very affordable in-state tuition cost of about $10K.

#3. The Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, CUNY (New York City, NY)

Baruch College is one of the ten senior colleges of The City University of New York, the largest public university in any American urban environment. Fittingly, Baruch is the largest school on this list. Nevertheless, the school does not suffer because of its large number of students and is widely recognized as an excellent school, particularly for its diverse student populace, and excellent value: a rarity for schools in Manhattan.

#4. Graduate School of Business, Bentley University (Waltham, Massachusetts)

The highest ranking fully private university on the list  (and the only in the top ten) is Bentley University (#4) of Waltham, Massachusetts. With one-year tuition costs of $48K for both in-state and out-of-state students, Bentley is not cheap, but the school’s great reputation, excellent student-to-faculty ratio and graduation rate of 91% indicate that attending the school is well worth the price of admission.

#5. J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University (Atlanta, GA)

Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business is another state school with over 100 years of history. Mack Robinson offers a great student-to-faculty ratio and is affordable for out-of-staters as well as in-state residents, with one-year out-of-state tuition costs of about $24K a year for the former group.

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What do the best business schools on our list have in common?

Since we used tuition costs as a variable in our ranking, it’s no surprise that the overwhelming majority of schools higher up on the list are public, rather than private schools, as tuition costs of private institutions dwarf those of their public counterparts. In fact, of the top 25 in the list, only two are private schools. While one may consider this an unnecessary slight against some of the most heralded business schools in the nation, the reality is that the vast majority of business school hopefuls cannot afford these schools.

What are the most important factors in choosing a business school?

Obviously, the reputation of a school should be a serious consideration when choosing a school, but beyond that, the location should play into everyone’s minds when they send their application letters. For one, receiving a degree from a school in the proximity of the area that one wishes to establish their career will grant a higher chance of local businesses recognizing the program. What’s more, in-state tuition costs are dramatically lower than tuition for out-of-state students. A quick look at the list shows that this difference is often $10,000 or even $20,000 in some cases. Therefore, unless living in a business desert, it’s best to opt for an in-state school.


Three public data sources were used:

  • Carnegie classification: The dataset lists 4,322 universities/colleges.
  • AACSB: Profiles of 533 AACSB accredited colleges were downloaded from the website of AACSB International using a custom script. Of the 519 universities, 518 were matched with universities in the Carnegie list.
  • National Center for Education Statistics: Data sets for each state and every territory were collected. The criterion used: a 4-year degree-granting university that has one or more of the 94 business majors/programs. The resulting list provided 2,022 entries, of these, 1,994 were matched with entries in the Carnegie list.  

After merging the three datasets above, 503 records remained. It was then decided to include the number of programs each AACSB University offers in the Business field. Another script was written to read the 540+ web pages and count the number of programs (undergraduate, graduate, doctoral programs; full time or part time; traditional or online program). A total of 12,570 programs were found among the 443 AACSB colleges. We then selected only those records that had no missing values. We also eliminated schools that did not have data on any of the below variables. The resulting recordset contained 403 universities.  

The resulting list of variables used in our ranking:

  1. Business students proportion in student population
  2. Graduation rate
  3. Student to faculty ratio
  4. Tuition – out of state
  5. Tuition – in state
  6. Number of business programs
  7. Enrollment figures