Top Online MBAs in the US: Kelley School & University of Florida

The Kelley School of Business and the University of Florida stand at number three and number four in the QS Distance Online MBA Rankings 2017.

US business schools put in a strong showing in the QS Distance Online MBA Rankings 2017 - and none more so than Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and the University of Florida’s Hough Graduate School of Business, which rose one place and 11 places to reach number three and number four in the table, respectively.


The results suggest a strengthening of the US online MBA market, which has traditionally played second-fiddle to online MBA degrees in Europe, according to the QS ranking, at least. IE Business School of Spain and Warwick Business School of the UK have placed number one or number two in the QS Distance Online MBA Rankings for the past three consecutive years.

The rise of Hough Graduate School of Business is particularly impressive. In 2016, the Florida-based business school was ranked number 15. In 2015, it was ranked number 20. So, what has prompted the rise of the University of Florida’s online MBA program?

6 categories measured by QS’s online MBA rankings

The QS Distance Online MBA Rankings rate online MBA programs based on six categories: Employability (30%); student quality (15%); how established a program is in the online MBA market (15%); faculty and teaching (15%); class experience (15%); diversity (10%).

The University of Florida’s online MBA program scored well in the employability category, where marks are based on reputation among recruiters, and improved on its performance last year. Overall, graduates of the course enjoy a 31% increase in their annual salary to US$124,500, according to John Gresley, director of MBA programs, which suggests they are seeing strong career progression in terms of promotion (most online MBA students are already in full-time employment).

UF’s online MBA program: Employers “know the quality is there”

The University of Florida (UF) “A lot of folks are getting promoted and moving up the leadership chain,” said Gresley. “Employers are less concerned about the fact that the MBA was delivered online, because they know the quality is there.”

The University of Florida (UF) has nearly 400 students enrolled in its online MBA and the business school is accredited by AACSB — both of which contribute to its standing in the rankings. As does the school’s commitment to teaching quality, for which it scored more highly this year compared to last.

“We haven’t hired more faculty, but we have invested in three ‘instructional designers’, who help faculty develop their online courses to stay relevant,” said Gresley. “We have great faculty already and instead of hiring more, we have invested in making those faculty better.”

Established in 1999, the UF course at Hough was one of the first to be fully accredited. The program can be completed in 27 months or 16 months and tuition is US$58,000 dollars and US$48,000, respectively, said Gresley.

Comparing the programs at UF and the Kelley School of Business

When comparing UF’s online MBA with that of the Kelley School of Business, one key difference is the flexibility. On the Kelley Direct online MBA program, students can complete the program in a minimum of two years and a maximum of five years. The average is three and half years. The Kelley School program also costs slightly more in fees, at US$67,000.

For the Kelley School of Business, the rise to the top three of QS’s 2017 rankings is a vindication of its efforts to raise the quality of its teaching in the online format, with the business school making great gains in this department year-over-year.

Ramesh Venkataraman, chair of the Kelley Direct online MBA program, puts this down to the fact that the business school does not recruit separately for online staff. “We continue to invest in top quality faculty across the school,” he said.

Kelley School not falling prey to “the lure of lowering entry requirements”

Indiana UniversityThe Kelley School of Business has also scored more highly for the quality of its students in this year’s ranking, year-over-year. Venkataraman said the school has, “not fallen prey to the lure of lowering entry requirements”. 

“There are a lot of business schools that don’t require the GMAT score or GRE score for admission into their online MBAs, but we have chosen not to go down that path,” he adds. “We waiver very few of our entry requirements.”

The Kelley School also scored well in the program or ‘Class Experience’ category, which suggests that its online MBA program is facilitating interaction between students and faculty — a key goal among online MBA programs.


Venkataraman said the school has focused on delivering one live lecture to its online MBA students each week, and there is also the opportunity for them to meet in-person on campus twice during the program. “We believe it gives us a competitive advantage,” he added.

Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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