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Canadian students may be too optimistic about their future

Flickr/Florian Pilz Is an MBA that costs two years of your life and $150,000 really worth it? With increasing global competition and a tough job market, business school may hold the key to getting ahead — if you go to the right one. For our fifth annual survey of the World’s Best Business Schools, we asked thousands of professionals from around the world who have experience hiring MBAs to determine the best business school. They came back with a clear favorite: Harvard University. Survey participants rated the reputation of the graduates from top business schools around the world on a scale of poor to excellent (1 to 5), with excellent ratings used as a tiebreaker. We included responses only from professionals who said they had experience hiring MBAs at least half the time, as well as other filters to optimize our survey pool. Click here to see a full analysis of the survey results > Click here to see a map showing the top 25 schools > In addition to the usual top American schools, international institutions like the London School of Economics (#8), London Business School (#9), Oxford (#13), and INSEAD (#15) placed in the top 15. #50 George Washington University (School of Business) Rated 2.44 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Washington, D.C. Tuition and fees: $101,450 (cost of whole degree) The D.C.-based school took a tumble from its 22nd place on our list last year. U.S. News, Businessweek, and The Financial Times ranked the school 65th, 54th, and 99th in the world, respectively. While only 2% of survey participants rated the school as excellent, over 400 people ranked the school’s reputation. #49 Thunderbird School of Global Management Rated 2.44 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Glendale, Arizona Tuition and fees: $79,027 (cost of whole degree) More than 40,000 people around the world call themselves T-Birds, as Thunderbird School of Global Management graduates refer to their own. Although the school dropped in the rankings from No. 41 this year, it continues to rank highly for the internationalism of its alumni network. #48 The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK Business School) Rated 2.45 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Hong Kong Tuition and fees: $73,575 CUHK Business School launched its MBA program in 1966, becoming the first of its kind in Asia. This school is a newcomer to our list, even though it was ranked No. 27 globally by The Financial Times. Nearly one in 10 survey participants who rated CUHK Business School marked it as very good. #47 Indian School of Business Rated 2.46 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Hyderabad, Telangana, India Tuition and fees: $41,630 The Indian School of Business partners with Northwestern, UPenn, and the London School of Business to ensure that the curriculum maintains its intensity and practical relevance. #46 Boston University (School of Management) Rated 2.49 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Boston Tuition and fees: $64,676 The School of Management encourages students to form professional and personal bonds with peers by assigning them to a cohort, a group of 50 to 55 students who take classes together and work together on assignments. After rising 16 spots on our list last year, BU returned to the bottom half. #45 Michigan State University (Eli Broad College of Business) Rated 2.5 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: East Lansing, Michigan Tuition and fees: $63,200 The Eli Broad College of Business earned top-10 spots on numerous B-school rankings, including Forbes’ education satisfaction survey of MBA grads and Businessweek’s list of schools most suited for teamwork. Last year, it was No. 34 on our list. #44 Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad Rated 2.51 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India Tuition and fees: $20,500 Another newcomer to the list, the Indian Institute of Management does joint-programming with Harvard Business School — offering training for officials in the public sector and tax workers. Business Today, part of the India Today news network, named it the No. 1 business school in India. #43 University of Washington (Foster School of Business) Rated 2.52 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Seattle Tuition and fees: $117,561 Located in the city that’s home to Amazon, Microsoft, Nordstrom, and Starbucks, The Michael G. Foster School of Business boasts an international job placement rate of 100%. While it slipped in our annual ranking, it performed better on other lists, placing No. 58 on The Financial Times and No. 25 on U.S. News & World Report. #42 University of Manchester (Manchester Business School) Rated 2.52 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Manchester, England Tuition and fees: $93,945 With dedicated centers in Manchester, UAE, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Miami, and Rio de Janeiro, Manchester Business School can deliver a top-ranked MBA on a global scale. Ranked No. 42 by The Financial Times, Manchester makes its debut on our list this year.  #41 The University of Warwick (Warwick Business School) Rated 2.52 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Coventry and London, England Tuition and fees: $83,190 Tumbling seven spots down our list this year, Warwick Business School enrolls more than 2,000 students from over 100 countries — fostering a culturally rich community. It did inch forward on The Financial Times’ annual ranking, from No. 27 to No. 25.  #40 Purdue University (Krannert School of Management) Rated 2.53 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: West Lafayette, Indiana Tuition and fees: $42,174 (’13-’14 cost; 14-’15 N/A) Krannert is home to a number of professional and social clubs that connect students beyond the classroom. MBAs take advantage of meeting their peers with like interests at entrepreneurship club, finance club, Krannert wine club, or golf club, to name a few. #39 Indiana University (Kelley School of Business) Rated 2.56 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Bloomington, Indiana Tuition and fees: $71,412 The Kelley School of Business maintains the largest business school alumni network in the world, according to the school’s website. It slid two spots down our list while earning the No. 21 spot on U.S. News & World Report. #38 The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST Business School) Rated 2.58 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Hong Kong Tuition and fees: $93,500 Named the best MBA program in Asia by Businessweek in 2012, HKUST Business School is largely considered one of the best business schools on the continent. A newbie on our list, HKUST draws its faculty from the leadership of major corporations around the world. #37 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Rated 2.59 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Champaign, Illinois Tuition and fees: $58,632 With the world’s largest alumni network, according to its website, UIUC makes making business connections easy. The Financial Times ranked the business school at UIUC No. 3 among Big Ten schools. #36 University of Navarra (IESE Business School) Rated 2.6 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Barcelona, Spain Tuition and fees: $52,632 The IESE Business School is based in Barcelona but has “module” locations in New York City, Sao Paolo, Nairobi, and Shanghai. The 19-month MBA degree was ranked No. 3 in Europe by The Financial Times. #35 University of Toronto (Rotman School of Management) Rated 2.63 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Toronto, Canada Tuition and fees: $85,166 New to our list this year, Rotman is a great school for international students, as MBA students are eligible for a three-year Canadian work permit when they graduate. Rotman was ranked No. 51 by The Financial Times. #34 Washington University — St. Louis (John M. Olin School of Business) Rated 2.63 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: St. Louis Tuition and fees: $52,535 Olin at Wash U stays steady on our list. To ensure that all students are prepared for the two-year, full-time program, students complete an online, pre-term course before arriving that gets them mentally ready for the rigor of the degree. #33 International Institute for Management Development Rated 2.63 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Lausanne, Switzerland Tuition and fees: $135,091 This year, The Financial Times ranked IMD No. 1 in executive education and open programs worldwide. The “real-world, real-learning“-focused school is making its debut on our list. IMD tied with the University of Toronto and Washington University, but its high tuition pushed it furthest down the list. #32 Instituto de Empresa (IE Business School) Rated 2.68 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Madrid Tuition and fees: $80,995 (cost of entire degree) New to our list, IE Business School at Madrid’s Instituto de Empresa ranks No. 13 on The Financial Times’ list. MBA degree programs are offered in English, Spanish, or bilingual. #31 Vanderbilt University (Owen Graduate School of Business) Rated 2.75 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Nashville, Tennessee Tuition and fees: $52,125 (’13-’14 cost; 14-’15 N/A) Every student from Owen’s class of 2014 graduated with an internship offer, and 96% of the class of 2013 was employed full time within three months of graduating. Owen ranked No. 25 on the U.S. News list of the best business schools. While only 3% of survey participants rated Owen as excellent, more than 21% gave it a very good score. #30 Escuela Superior de Administración y Dirección de Empresas (ESADE Business School) Rated 2.76 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Barcelona, Spain Tuition and fees: $80,723 ESADE offers classes of intimate size within the structure of a large university, providing the best of both worlds. It’s a newbie on our list but received the No. 22 spot on The Financial Times’ list of best global MBA programs. #29 Emory University (Goizueta Business School) Rated 2.77 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Atlanta Tuition and fees: $68,922 No. 39 on our list last year, Goizueta makes a repeat appearance on this year’s list 10 spots higher. Goizueta partners with more than 20 international business schools so that students can study abroad in places like Rio de Janeiro, Copenhagen, and Vienna. #28 University of Southern California (USC Marshall School of Business) Rated 2.86 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Los Angeles Tuition and fees: $88,361 (’13-’14 cost; ’14-’15 N/A) Marshall grants MBA students access to a wide network of current and former Trojans — more than 70,000 worldwide — who now adopt the school’s “Trojans hiring Trojans” motto. Marshall is No. 27 on U.S. News’ list of the best business schools. #27 University of Notre Dame (Mendoza College of Business) Rated 2.87 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Notre Dame, Indiana Tuition and fees: $66,860 Mendoza fell 10 places from last year’s list, but the school ranked No. 23 on U.S. News’ list, tying with Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. Mendoza also offers a highly selective one-year program; the most recent one-year MBA class consisted of just 64 students. #26 Georgetown University (McDonough School of Business) Rated 2.9 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Washington, D.C. Tuition and fees: $83,510 Companies know the caliber of MBA students at McDonough — 73% of students from the class of 2013 had received offers for full-time employment even before graduating. McDonough tied with Mendoza Business School at the University of Notre Dame for 23rd on U.S. News’ ranking of the best business schools. #25 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler Business School) Rated 2.92 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina Tuition and fees: $80,466 The Kenan-Flagler Business School fell just one spot from last year’s list. It’s known for giving great financial aid packages and for producing the third-highest-paid investment bankers — a solid combination. #24 University of Texas at Austin (McCombs School of Business) Rated 2.95 out of 5 for graduate reputation. Location: Austin, Texas Tuition and fees: $68,632 MBA candidates can choose from over 20 areas of concentration at the McCombs School of Business, in addition to dual-degree options. The Longhorns hooked the No. 15 spot on U.S. News & World Report and No. 19 on Businessweek. Forty percent of survey participants gave it a rating of good — more than any other school. #23 HEC Paris (École des Hautes Études Commerciales) Rated 3.01 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Jouy-en-Josas, France Tuition and fees: $87,888 École des Hautes Études Commerciales is a 21st-century school, offering an annual series of online conferences and master classes for MBA candidates. This is the first time HEC has appeared on our list. #22 Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper School of Business) Rated 3.13 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Tuition and fees: $80,004 Businessweek named the Tepper School of Business a top-five school in its geniuses and beggars-can’t-be-choosers categories. It’s down from No. 15 on our list last year. #21 University of Virginia (Darden School of Business) Rated 3.14 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Charlottesville, Virginia Tuition and fees: $85,361 Up from No. 30 on last year’s list, Darden School of Business challenges students to study more than 500 real-life business cases during their two years there. Darden pulled higher rankings at U.S. News & World Report and Businessweek, landing in 11th and 10th, respectively. #20 University of California, Los Angeles (Anderson School of Management) Rated 3.16 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Los Angeles, California Tuition and fees: $40,643 Anderson School of Management produces the highest-paid investment bankers of any business school, according to Businessweek. It’s up from No. 28 on our list last year and lands at No. 16 on U.S. News & World Report. #19 Cambridge University (Judge Business School) Rated 3.2 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Cambridge, England Tuition and fees: $89,554 Missing from both U.S. News & World Report and Businessweek’s lists, the Judge School of Business dropped 11 spots from last year. It did land on one tongue-in-cheek Businessweek ranking — No. 4 on “Schools For People Who Like To Sleep In Class.” #18 University of Michigan (Stephen M. Ross School of Business) Rated 3.3 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan Tuition and fees: $79,550 Leaping forward nine spots on our list, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business offers a variety of concentrations so the MBA is suited to each student’s passion. It appeared eighth on Businessweek’s list of best full-time MBA programs. #17 Cornell University (Johnson Graduate School of Management) Rated 3.42 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Ithaca, New York Tuition and fees: $81,892 The immersive, multifaceted program at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management has produced notable graduates including the chief executive officers of Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Sliding down the list from No. 6, it offers an accelerated one-year MBA as well. #16 New York University (Stern School of Business) Rated 3.44 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: New York, New York Tuition and fees: $101,938 Stern rose six places on our list of the world’s best business schools. Its students are renowned for both high IQs and EQs, and Stern is a firm believer in playing to both in its two-year MBA program. Stern’s most recent incoming class was represented by a large number of women — nearly 40%. Stern tied with the Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires, but placed lower on the list because INSEAD received a better excellent rating. #15 Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires (INSEAD) Rated 3.44 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Fontainebleau, France Tuition and fees: $85,593 (cost of the whole degree) Incoming MBA candidates at INSEAD range in age from 23 to 37, about a third of whom are women. Known as the “Business school for the world,” INSEAD has campuses in Europe, Asia, and Abu Dhabi. It was No. 42 on last year’s list. Twenty-two percent of survey participants gave it a rating of excellent. #14 Duke University (Fuqua School of Business) Rated 3.46 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Durham, North Carolina Tuition and fees: $58,000 U.S. News ranks Fuqua comparably on their list of business schools (No. 14) to our ranking this year, but the North Carolina school dropped nine places from last year’s list. Fuqua offers a number of joint MBA programs, including MBA/JD, MBA/MD, and MBA/MPP. #13 Oxford University (Saïd Business School) Rated 3.53 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Oxford, England Tuition and fees: $103,825 One in three students at Saïd are women, adding to the school’s lineage of female trailblazers. Former prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, former prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, and, of course, former prime minister of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher, all attended. Oxford ranked fifth on Businessweek’s list of the best full-time MBA programs. #12 University of California, Berkeley (Haas School of Business) Rated 3.57 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Berkeley, California Tuition and fees: $82,763 The second-oldest business school in the U.S., Haas is home to award-winning faculty and an alumni network of more than 40,000 graduates. Haas took the 16th spot on our list last year; this year it ranks No. 7 on U.S. News’ list. #11 Yale University (School Of Management) Rated 3.58 out of 5 for graduate reputation. Location: New Haven, Connecticut Tuition and fees: $85,875 After skyrocketing to the No. 2 spot on our list last year, Yale dropped down to No. 11 this year. U.S. News & World Report ranked it the 13th-best business school in America, and it’s ranked No. 21 by Businessweek. Still, Yale’s MBA program stands out for its integrated curriculum, emphasizing analysis of a wide array of materials such as stock charts and articles, beyond the standard case study. #10 Dartmouth College (Tuck School of Business) Rated 3.61 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Hanover, New Hampshire Tuition and fees: $93,550 Tuck jumped three spots on our business school rankings and placed at No. 9 on U.S. News. Graduates of the New England business school report average starting salaries of over $115,000, with signing bonuses of almost $30,000. #9 London Business School Rated 3.7 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: London, England Tuition and fees: $109,567 (cost of the whole degree) The London Business School moved up from No. 29 last year. LBS is also No. 3 on The Financial Times’ list of the world’s best business schools. #8 London School of Economics and Political Science Rated 3.77 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: London, England Tuition and fees: $80,247 (cost of the whole degree) The London School of Economics MBA program (known at LSE as a master’s in management) sees 28% of its graduates moving into industries of banking and finance after their degrees, which makes sense, given that London is a hub for finance. Michael Lewis and George Soros are alumni. #7 Northwestern University (Kellogg School of Management) Rated 3.79 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Evanston, Illinois Tuition and fees: $88,807 A global program, Kellogg has five international locations — Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Vallendar/Koblenz, and Beijing — which 85% of the student body takes advantage of during coursework. Kellogg also offers a one-year accelerated MBA degree. #6 Columbia University (Columbia Business School) Rated 3.83 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: New York, New York Tuition and fees: $96,468 Columbia may have slipped two places on this year’s list, but it stays steady at No. 8 on U.S. News. Columbia operates around an entrepreneurial philosophy and offers a number of resources for budding entrepreneurs, from mentors to discount memberships at coworking spaces around New York. #5 University of Chicago (Booth School of Business) Rated 3.94 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Chicago, Illinois Tuition and fees: $94,933 Fourth place on U.S. News’s list, Booth jumped up an impressive 20 places from last year’s list of the best business schools. Booth offers four different MBA programs: full-time, evening, weekend, and executive. #4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan School of Management) Rated 4.09 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts Tuition and fees: $92,827 (’13-’14 cost; ’14-’15 N/A) More than 92% of Sloan MBA recipients received job offers within three months of graduating, the school reports, including from notable companies like Amazon, McKinsey & Co., and JPMorgan. Sloan ranked No. 7 on our list last year. #3 University of Pennsylvania (The Wharton School) Rated 4.15 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Tuition and fees: $97,542 Known for its exemplary undergrad business program — one of the most selective in the U.S. — Wharton jumped up nine spots from last year’s list. Students also benefit from the largest global alumni network — almost 100,000 graduates strong.  Only 2% of survey participants rated Wharton as a poor-quality school. #2 Stanford University (Stanford Graduate School of Business) Rated 4.33 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Palo Alto, California Tuition and fees: $99,435 Stanford swiped the top spot from Harvard in 2012 but fell short of No. 1 for the second year in a row. Still, nearly one-third of survey participants rated Stanford as very good, while only 24% awarded that rating to Harvard. And the Cardinals remain more selective than the Crimson, admitting 6.8% of applicants in 2013, compared to Harvard’s acceptance rate of 11.3%. #1 Harvard University (Harvard Business School) Rated 4.34 out of 5 for graduate reputation.  Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts Tuition and fees: $95,100 U.S. News & World Report ranked Harvard and Stanford as ties on their 2015 ranking of the best business schools in the U.S. But our readers declared a definitive best, giving the title to last year’s No. 1: Harvard Business School. It was close, with Harvard beating Stanford by a margin of .04. Nearly 60% of survey participants rated Harvard as excellent, helping it to hold on to the top spot. Now see the best places to work after business school. The 50 Best Employers In America > Read more stories on Business Insider, Malaysian edition of the world’s fastest-growing business and technology news website.

In retrospect, Mark Groleau and wife Naomi Orvis admit they were a little delusional about their mutual decision to go back to university and, in particular, the time and grueling effort it would take to pay back the whopping student debt they incurred to do so.

“It has been a crazy treadmill,” said Groleau, 35, an ordained minister at The Meeting Place in Richmond Hill, Ont., since graduating three years ago with a master’s degree from Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto.

Orvis, 34, also attended Tyndale and now operates her own business as a registered marriage and family therapist.

Between them, they racked up about $70,000 in bank loans. They’ve been scrambling since the doors of the school shut behind them to get out from under that enormous debt burden.

“We love our jobs,” said Groleau. “But we feel we’ve paid for the privilege of that.”

The real-life experience of Groleau and Orvis challenges some of the key findings of a new survey measuring student attitudes towards job prospects and the ability to repay students loans published by D+H Canada.

The average student debt in Canada hovers around $27,000, according to The Canadian Federation of Students. Students studying in Ontario and the Maritimes have the highest debt loads, averaging more than $28,000. A 2012 Simon Fraser University survey reported the national average around $24,600.

Yet, according to the D+H index, the outlook among students remains wildly rosy when asked about monetary issues. More than 80 per cent of respondents who funded all or part of their post-secondary education with a student loan are optimistic they will pay back money they owe within two to five years of graduation, the study found.

The reality? Canadian borrowers take at least 10 years, on average, to repay their loans, according to the Canada Student Loan Program, as reported in the Globe and Mail newspaper.

The outlook was similarly optimistic when it comes to joining the workforce.

When it comes to a starting salary, the majority of students expect to earn around $49,000, with just 26 per cent projecting less than $30,000.

Most students expect their salaries to increase as they gain experience, especially men. The majority of men surveyed (54 per cent) expect that in 10 years they will earn more than $80,000. Among women, the figure was closer to 33 per cent.

According to Statistics Canada, unemployment among young people is about double the national average. In June, employment among youths aged 15 to 24 years dropped by 44,000. The unemployment rate among our youngest workers remained at 13.4 per cent. The national average in June was 7.1 per cent.

A report published last year by the Council of Ontario Universities found the average salary for university graduates working full-time was $49,277 two years after graduation, up from the average $42,668 earned six months after graduation.

Ralph De Jong, vice president and head of student lending with D+H Canada said student optimism, especially as it relates to student loan repayment timelines, is not unrealistic.

“It is totally possible,” De Jong said.

The key to repayment is not taking on any more debt than absolutely necessary, and ensuring the funds you do borrow are used wisely (Hint: not in the bar or at the latest trendy restaurant). De Jong said there are tools available to calculate exactly how much a student will owe every month post-graduation, depending on the repayment schedule.

Groleau and Orvis suggest students also do some legwork to find out if there are any hidden costs to their education beyond the tuition. In their case, they only found out after they had graduated that Orvis needed another two years of supervised work hours before she could be certified, costing the couple an unexpected $20,000 on top of student loans.

With a two-year-old daughter and a second baby on the way, the pair has sought the services of a financial planner. They’ve adopted an austerity budget that has them living month to month on a strict cash diet.

Three months ago, they held a modest celebration to mark the final payment on Groleau’s school-related debt. They estimate it will take another three to four years to eliminate the balance owed.

In the meantime, money to save for a house or for an education fund for their children is out of the question.

“We are always talking about the choices that need to be made. The debt is always in the conversation,” Groleau said.