Who benefits from online master’s degree program rankings?

online master's degree program rankings
Just who benefits from online master’s degree research that ‘ranks’ online programs on characteristics like affordability?  Presumably, this ranking is valuable to prospective students who are looking for lower cost degrees.  A recently published Affordability Ranking of online Master of Accounting programs demonstrates that the value of this activity for prospective students has significant limitations.  Here’s the methodology published along with the rankings:

“College rankings for this article were compiled with data from NCES (National Center for Education Statistics), a bureau of the Dept. of Education (http://nces.ed.gov/). We queried for graduate institutions that grant degrees in Accounting on a distance basis, filtered out colleges that are based in U.S. protectorate nations, sorted by increasing out-of-state tuition, filtered out doctoral-only and certificate-only colleges, and filtered for active online master’s degree programs. This resulted in our list of the 25 most affordable master’s programs in accounting. Similar topical rankings will be published at (marketing portal website name) — a college search and rankings site with a focus on affordable colleges and programs — on a regular basis.”  

First, it’s great that they published their methodology — more often than not, marketing portal websites that publish rankings keep their methodology secret, as they consider it to be proprietary.

Second, we have some feedback on the list of programs that are published as the most affordable for prospective students of online Master of Accounting programs.  We have painstakingly collected the actual online Master of Accounting tuition data from university websites, found through Google searches, over the past 8 months.  Four of the universities promoted as offering affordable online Master of Accounting programs are actually online MBA degrees with Accounting concentrations, not Master of Accounting programs.  But more importantly, only 10 of the universities listed in this ranking are actually in the top 25 lowest out-of-state or online total tuition programs.

According to our data in the Online Degree Database, the average total tuition for the top twenty-five most affordable online Master of Accounting degrees is $15,905.  None of the top 25 in our database are priced at over $20,000.  Yet, two of the universities listed on the promoted list publish total tuition at over $27,000 on their websites.

Who benefits from online master’s degree program rankings like these?  Not prospective students.  The universities whose names get published on this list are the beneficiaries, as are the marketing firms that sell them student lead data.  Prospective students who use this ‘free’ list to start their search for an online program are unwittingly getting an inaccurate list that overlooks a significant share of great, truly affordable online master of accounting degrees.


Prospective students can develop an accurate, personalized list of online master’s degree programs using the criteria that are most important to them.  Visit OnlineDegreeDatabase.com for more information.

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