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As Schools Question the Rankings, GMAC® Continues Efforts to Provide a Better Alternative

The recent decisions by Harvard and Wharton to withhold student and alumni contact information from ranking organizations is a logical result of privacy concerns. But the schools’ actions also revealed a growing frustration with rankings that many schools feel.

Rankings information requests have steadily increased in recent years, overtaxing the staff of many schools and forcing some schools to hire new staff just to handle the requests. Beyond staffing decisions, some schools now gear their budgets to the pursuit of high rankings, leaving activities not highly valued in the rankings formulas underfunded and underemphasized. The phenomenon of “chasing rankings” has been a topic of discussion at many GMAC® conferences, with some business school professionals expressing the view that the goal of achieving high rankings and the goal of providing a superior education are often at odds. (See 2004 Directors Symposium in this issue.)

Further, the rankings are based on the unstated premise that public and private schools of different sizes and with different student bodies, locations, and specializations can be compared directly with one another through the use of a mathematical formula. Business school professionals know this comparison can be misleading to potential students, particularly in light of the proliferation of rankings yielding different results.

The best way to help people make good decisions about where to go to school is to provide them with complete and accurate information they can weigh against their individual interests and needs. GMAC® has been helping schools to provide this kind of information for more than a decade and has done so with an increasing sense of urgency.

What Is the GMAC® Role?

GMAC® has been involved in the standardization of business school data since 1993, when it released the first standards for reporting admissions statistics. It has since released updated reporting standards, the MBA Reporting Criteria, that have been adopted by 150 business schools, U.S. News & World Report, and Financial Times. The organization has also launched a school search tool, MBA Pathfinder, populated by school data submitted according to the GMAC® data standards and audited to ensure their accuracy.

GMAC® is now stepping up its ongoing efforts to aid business schools in providing an alternative to the rankings—a source of standardized, comparable, audited data that can be used by prospective students, corporate recruiters, and the press.

GMAC® will soon enhance its MBA Pathfinder school search tool. This searchable database allows students to look up schools that meet their individual criteria, compare schools, and save their search criteria for future use. It is currently used for more than 37,000 school searches per month and includes information about 686 programs and 237 business schools. Any business school that uses the GMAT® in admissions is eligible to participate in MBA Pathfinder® free of charge. Future versions of MBA Pathfinder® are intended to have more features and functions, as well as additional categories of searchable information, including employment data (for more on this, see “Employing the Employment Data,” below).

GMAC® is also working with business schools and other organizations to enhance the database that underlies MBA Pathfinder®, with the goal of developing a secure bank of information submitted, stored, and retrieved by schools and used by prospective students and members of the media.

Employing the Employment Data

Accuracy and accountability in schools’ reporting of their employment data has become an increasing concern over the past several years. In response, the MBA Career Services Council (MBA CSC) developed reporting standards for employment data that have since been broadly adopted by MBA career services professionals industry-wide. In 1998, GMAC® expanded its data collection to include employment data on MBA graduates for use by MBA program administrators; at that time, it adopted the MBA CSC reporting standards, which are now represented in the employment section of the GMAC® MBA Reporting Criteria.

In a recent meeting, the MBA CSC board of directors voted to partner with GMAC® to audit employment data reported by the CSC membership. GMAC® began practice audits of employment data in April 2004 as an instructional and developmental prelude to the actual audits scheduled to take place in 2005.

What’s Next?

With standard, audited data about business school programs’ offerings, admissions statistics, and placement—and with the continued help and support of the business school community—MBA Pathfinder® and the next-generation GMAC® database will represent a powerful and positive alternative to rankings. GMAC® is committed to balancing the interests of all stakeholders in graduate management education in its efforts to provide a resource that everyone from business schools to prospective students to the media can draw on for reliable, useful information.

Want to Get Involved or Learn More?

For more information about the MBA Reporting Criteria, MBA Pathfinder® school search database, or any other topic covered in this story, email or call 1-703-749-0131.

GMAC®, Graduate Management Admission Council®, GMAT®, and MBA Pathfinder® are registered trademarks of the Graduate Management Admission Council®. All rights reserved.
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