Is Michigan State Really Better than Yale?

Ann McClure's picture
Thursday, August 9, 2012

During the M.B.A. gold rush of the past three decades, the Yale School of Management accomplished the unthinkable. As the number of prospective business-school candidates shot up to more than 750,000 a year and tuition payments cleared $100,000, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Chicago and other schools hired star faculty members, built gleaming buildings, established themselves as global brands and brought in tens (and sometimes hundreds) of millions in profits to their universities each year. Meanwhile, Yale somehow lost money.

Specifically, Yale “lost $15 to $20 million over the last 15 years,” says Edward Snyder, the new dean of the Yale School of Management. It remained small (400 students), maintained an unusually low student-to-faculty ratio of 8 to 1 (most top schools are closer to 20 to 1) and offered only limited versions of some of its industry’s most lucrative products (like part-time and executive M.B.A.’s). Most significantly it developed a reputation as a bastion of socially minded do-gooders who were less focused on maximizing profit. According to Bloomberg Businessweek’s latest rankings of the top M.B.A. programs, Yale placed 21st, right behind Michigan State.

Snyder has become the top hired gun in the business of business schools. An academic economist by trade, he built his reputation through successful stints as a deputy dean at the University of Michigan and dean at the University of Virginia. Snyder then turned the University of Chicago business school into the top-rated program in the country. In 2008, he reeled in a $300 million donation from David Booth, a hedge-fund manager and alumnus. It was the school’s largest gift ever and enough to change the name to Chicago Booth. Now he’s hoping to pull off a similar turnaround at Yale. That will almost certainly require shedding its do-gooder reputation.

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