Almost 20 years ago, when I was applying to MBA programs, the conventional wisdom was that unless you could get into a top-10 program, you probably shouldn’t go. The tuition at a high-ranking program was steep (I would eventually graduate with nearly $100,000 in debt), but if you managed to get in, recruiters for six-figure jobs would swarm onto campus and practically beg you to work for them.
The tuition at lower-level schools was also very steep, but students had to frantically labor to secure a job afterwards. Some found jobs that were no better than the jobs they’d left to go to business school. The lower the ranking of the school, the less value the graduates got out of their degree, until you got down to programs that seemed to mostly be run for the benefit of the university that was collecting the tuition check.
Business schools, like law schools, are cheap to operate. No expensive labs, no distant fieldwork. Just a room, a blackboard, some chairs and a professor. And for this, students were willing to pay very handsomely. So these programs became cash cows for the universities.