Howard University: The nation’s most underrated full-time MBA program

BY Sydney LakeJuly 12, 2021, 10:00 pm
Getty Images

Howard University’s full-time MBA program is small but mighty. Even with an enrollment of only 50 students in total, graduates of this historically Black institution prove the program stacks up with some of the other top schools. And that’s why Fortune is deeming it the most underrated MBA program when compared with other business school rankings. 

The largest component of Fortune’s full-time MBA rankings is the outcomes score, which takes into account starting salaries and job placement rates. In 2020, the average Howard MBA graduate made a $115,500 base salary, and more than 84% of job seekers had accepted a position within three months post-graduation. By comparison, about 80% of MBA grads across all full-time U.S. MBA programs found jobs in 2020, according to the 2021 corporate recruiters survey published by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

And because salary, school brand, and leadership trajectory are the core to our methodology, Fortune ranks Howard No. 30 out of 69 on our first-ever list of full-time MBA programs. Howard’s MBA program falls lower on other lists like Bloomberg Businessweek, where it ranks No. 45, and U.S. News and World Report, where it comes in at No. 64.

What makes Howard shine

Howard’s MBA program became accredited in 1980, making it one of only 153 schools at the time to do so—and the first school in Washington, D.C., to be accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

The school’s relatively small enrollment also makes for a strong three-to-one student-faculty ratio, and its location allows students access to a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. Together, Howard’s business school and the SBA host the Washington, D.C., Small Business Development Center, which is part of a national network of business management and technical assistance programs for small businesses.

Howard also hosts one of few financial markets trading-room simulations in the U.S., which have proved to prepare MBA students for careers in finance post-grad, according to findings published in the Journal of Financial Education.

Finally, the school also offers dual-degree options including a JD/MBA program, an MD/MBA program, a PharmD/MBA program, as well as options with the schools of social work, divinity, and engineering, architecture, and computer science.

How Howard compares

Employment outcomes (including salary and job placement) make up 65% of Fortune’s full-time MBA ranking. The $115,500 base salary Howard reported for last year’s class places it above the average of the mean salaries—about $105,000—from the full-time MBA programs Fortune ranked this year. Howard’s average salary nearly touches average salaries for Fortune’s top 20. Indiana University (Kelley), which is ranked in spot No. 21, reports an average salary of $119,000.

Howard also has a lower acceptance rate (making it more competitive to earn acceptance) than some of the top 20 MBA programs. Only slightly more than one-third of candidates who apply to Howard are granted admission, whereas No. 12 Cornell University (Johnson) has a 40% acceptance rate and No. 17 University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler) has a 51% acceptance rate.

Average test scores are where Howard shows a discrepancy from other top programs. The school’s average GMAT score last year, at 513, falls below its neighboring rankings (University of Florida with an average GMAT score of 667 and Michigan State University with a 672 average). But the program still shines elsewhere.

The attitudinal equity score produced by Ipsos for Fortune’s brand study shows “how much a group of people want to recruit from the university.” Howard’s brand score was higher than half of the business schools we ranked this year.

Future of business

Fortune’s full-time MBA ranking also looks at how the programs develop future business leaders.

While there aren’t any Howard MBA alum who helm Fortune 1000 companies, according to our research, the school continues to work on developing executives. In July 2020, Howard grew its business school by launching an online part-time MBA program and online executive MBA program.

“What sets us apart is our commitment to ensure that our graduates are prepared to be global business leaders and social servants locally and worldwide,” Verna Supel, director of Howard’s MBA graduate programs, said at the time of the announcement of the launch of its online programs.