Those investing in a Yale business education can look forward to receiving more bang for their buck, according to a biennial Forbes Magazine return-on-investment ranking, which placed the Yale School of Management fifth among the country’s best business schools.

In ranking nearly 100 M.B.A. programs, Forbes calculated the difference between graduates’ pre-M.B.A. salaries and their salaries three years after graduation, deducting the cost of tuition. The schools with the greatest differences scored the highest rankings. According to Forbes, graduates from Yale SOM paid back their $72,000 total tuition in an average of 2.8 years. In addition, three years after graduation, they earned an average annual salary of $134,000, about three times their pre-M.B.A. salary.

But after three years graduates from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, which ranked first in the Forbes list, make an average of $31,000 more than Yale SOM graduates, according to Forbes. The second-place school was the University of Pennsylvania, followed by the University of Chicago and Columbia University.

SOM Dean Joel Podolny said while he is pleased with Yale’s placement, he realizes that rankings are not flawless measures of schools’ values.

“I think rankings need to be taken as part of a picture of how a school is doing because it reflects key stakeholders but they are not defining,” Podolny said. “Ranking products, like a car, are complicated enough. The idea that you could devise an all-encompassing ranking of an educational experience, that last two years, defies possibility.”

Lesley Kump, who helped produce the Forbes ranking, said that the motive behind the list was to help students visualize their monetary future.

“This list allows you to look at what you’re putting in and what you’re getting back,” Kump said. “From a monetary standpoint, people do want to know what they’re getting back.”

Vipan Nikore SOM ’06 said that “return-on-investment” figures were not a major factor in his decision to apply to and matriculate at Yale. Instead, he said, it was the people on campus that led him to New Haven.

“Business is a lot about trust and a lot of people go to school for a network,” he said. “I wanted to go to a school with a group of people that would build a network I could trust.”

Nikore said he feared that Yale may have been at a disadvantage in the rankings because many SOM graduates work in the nonprofit sector, earning lower salaries than those in the corporate sector.

Podolny, who came to Yale this spring from a post at the Harvard Business School, said the ambitious nature of SOM’s students is what differentiates Yale from its competitors.

“I experienced Yale as uniquely different … the idea of people thinking hard about how they should lead in a way that reflects a broader sense of obligations than just maximizing shareholder value,” Podolny said.

He said the best way to measure Yale is the extent to which they hold true to its mission statement.

“Obviously we should be gratified to be ranked highly in any survey,” Podolny said. “But the real judge is how we live up to our mission of educating leaders for business and society.”

Tom Matlack SOM ’91, the founder of an investment firm and former chief financial officer of The Providence Journal Company, said he thinks Yale lives up to its mission.

“I went to Yale having no financial background; I literally didn’t know the difference between a stock and a bond,” Matlack said. “I came out of Yale to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 Company and started my own investment firm.”

The salaries reported in Forbes’ list were adjusted to account for the cost of living expenses in various cities. In addition, schools were excluded from the list if alumni feedback conflicted with the numbers the school officially released or if less than 15 percent of alumni responded.

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