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When Ezra Staley finished his MBA at the University at Buffalo, he was recruited along with graduates of big-name business schools into M&T’s exclusive executive development program. He found their training and ability to be comparable to his, but their debt burdens were considerably heavier.

“They came in with a lot more student loan debt, but we all got similar starting salaries and the same opportunity to grow,” said Staley, who graduated four years ago and is now CFO of the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Project, a nonprofit education foundation run by M&T.

Staley’s success, and that of other UB School of Management graduates, has been recognized by Forbes magazine in its list of the nation’s best business schools. UB’s business school is in the top 10 percent of schools that give graduates more bang for their buck.

The school climbed eight spots and is now ranked No. 40 among the 680 graduate business programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. It is the only business school in the Buffalo Niagara region to make the list. The Simon School at the University at Rochester was number 38 on the list.

“Our reputation with rankings organizations has a big impact on our ability to recruit talented students to our full-time MBA program,” said Katherine Ferguson, associate dean of academic programs at the School of Management. “It affects all the degree programs offered by the school because our faculty teaches across programs.”

The ranking’s methodology was based on the best return on investment. Forbes compared the associated cost of attaining an MBA and salaries upon graduation and five years after.

“I think it’s well deserved,” said Staley, who completed the program in 2009. The 31-year-old’s salary more than tripled immediately after completing a dual JD/MBA degree.

Ferguson said it’s a unique and meaningful ranking because it looked at concrete factors to determine the return on the investment, unlike other lists based more on opinions. She added that President Obama chose UB for his recent visit to the area because it provides great education at a value, and she said the School of Management is the embodiment of that.

“Students are well placed and very successful after graduation as a result of a program that was a great value,” she said.

About 100 students graduate from the full-time program at the School of Management each year.

The school has fared well on lists in other publications, as well. Last month, U.S. News and World Report ranked the school’s undergraduate business program at No. 86, putting it in the top 15 percent of AACSB-accredited schools. Its MBA program was ranked No. 75 by the magazine. Bloomberg Businessweek named it one of the nation’s “Top Undergraduate Business Programs,” and its full-time MBA program ranked No. 57 in the country. The school’s Executive MBA program has been hailed as one of the world’s best by the Financial Times, which placed it at No. 28 in the country, 91st in the world and 21st for salary growth in the nation.

Ferguson said rankings are important for marketing the school.

“We try to highlight the success of ranking in all materials,” she said, adding that it is also a deciding factor for students who generally research rankings on their own when considering schools.

email: esapong@buffnews.com