Let me tell you how I think (while keeping in mind that I applied to neither Kelley nor Mays, and so this is all based on what facts I know of and have heard, from sources both on and off Edulix). I'll also try to hazard a guess of what coolguru is trying to explain, without stepping on his shoes.
All that shouting about placements, rankings and class strengths (or for that matter, # of Indian/international students in a program) is bunk. Let's get that out of the way first and foremost. That said, I am NOT saying that the school has no hand in getting you that internship or a job - nope, I wouldn't go so far as to say that. But, getting a job in not merely a function of your univ of degree. To a greater extent, it is a function of you, your past work-ex, transferable skills and efforts. On what basis am I saying this? My own experience. You don't realize these things until you come here and start applying for full-time jobs. Not internships, mind you, am not talking about them, because they've comparatively easier to get as compared to full-time roles and almost everyone ends up getting one.
About full-time jobs: imagine this scenario, and I'll try to make it as close to home as possible, so it's better to understand. Consider an IIT-B grad, a grad from MU/PU , one from an NIT, say VNIT. All 3 have completed their bachelors' degrees in the same duration, have similar skills, no work-ex, etc. Meaning, apart from the tag they have of being from a particular school, everything else they have is more-or-less the same. Now, who do you think is gonna get hired first, and why? Of course, first the IIT fella (probably right out of campus, in the third year), then the VNIT fella and then the MU/PU guy, probably (though this mightn't always be the case). Why so? Because, in absence of prior, relevant, work-ex, the distinguishing factor is the school name; the more selective your school is, the better you're considered to be, because the school did a part of your potential employer's work by vetting you out a long time ago. Now, hold that thought in your head.
Go a year into the future. Our heroes have now started working with the jolly band of boys, slaving away till the wee hours of morning for a client. All 3 of them work equally hard, are equally dedicated to their work, everything about their work-ethic is similar. What's the difference? The job responsibilities and payscale. Which, inherently means, that more your job responsibilities, greater the chances of you ascending the ladder quicker, as compared to someone who joined the hierarchy somewhere beneath you (be it in terms of role, designation, salary or what not). So, what enabled this nitro boost (so to speak)? Their univ tag. Yes, that's it. That's what gave different people different sort of a leg-up (assuming their have equivalent skills, projects and talent).
Flash-forward 5 years into the future. Suppose the IIT and VNIT fellas screw up badly, for whatever reason (just for example's sake), and the guy from MU/PU doesn't. Do you think, if the chance arises, would the MU/PU guy get promoted over the other two? Yes! Goes straight as an arrow, no mistakes, nothing. At that stage, the school you graduated from, is just an interesting footnote. But would it matter a whole lot and would it have much impact on your promotions or whatever? Probably not - and it really shouldn't, either, because your appraisals should depend solely on the work you're putting in, not on what you did prior to joining that org. Keep that thought in your mind as well.
Same thing applies here. Keep a few things in mind, that I won't bother explaining again:
1) Unless you're from the top 20-30 schools in the US (overall, not specific to any particular field/major), it's all more-or-less the same. Seriously.
2) The companies in your niche field know which school are good and are a cut above the rest. In this case, those would be the ones like Deloitte, E&Y, PWC, etc. Meaning, they'd go first to the schools they have hired from in the past, or have a good ongoing relationship with, and then go to the rest of the campuses as per time and convenience constraints (here is where the location of the school matters too), if at all they are interesting in going there.
3) When I say "companies would go to a school", they wouldn't necessarily go to them to hire. No, that is NOT how it works anywhere outside India. The concept of "placements" is only present in some parts of the world. In most cases, you are not offered the job on a silver platter, you have to go and grab it. To give you an analogy, suppose that you're hungry and are waiting for dinner. If you're in India, the dinner would be served on your plate in many cases, and in some ones, it'll even be forced down your throat. Here, some schools would make you go find the ingredients on your own and do everything from there yourself (those are the schools you should avoid going to), some would get the ingredients but leave the cooking and serving up to you (meaning, they'd have a career portal with job listings, and help you get a base platform to start your search from, but that's about it), some would cook it up for you, but you'd need to carry it out to the dining hall yourself and help yourself if you need more servings (meaning, they'd have a career portal, would arrange career fairs - I'll come to that point later on - but from that point on, you're on your own), while others would set up a nice little buffet for you wherein it'll all be laid out for you on a table, you just have to serve yourselves and carry it out to your seat (meaning, the school would arrange for career fairs, have employment portals and would go ahead and arrange for companies to hold recruitment sessions on-campus, but from that point on, only your skills, profile and background would get you the job).
4) Now, come back to point #1 above. When I said the top 20 schools, I meant in an overall sense. Schools that everyone would know of, as being awesome, and would've heard about (and by "everyone", I do NOT mean someone who's in your field or has hired in the past). That list would include schools like Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, UMich, UNC Chapel Hill, etc. The biggies, which may or may not have programs in your major/field (in this case, MIS), but if you're up against someone from one of those schools who isn't from your major, still there is some sort of an inherent bias (obviously) if the position you're aiming for is an entry- to mid-level role. Meaning, if you're up against someone from Berkeley iSchool or the UMich SI, would they get a leg-up because of their univ tag? Probably, yes, just like an IITan would get. In this scenario, would it make a lot of difference if you're from a Univ of Cincinnati or a Texas A&M or an IUB? Probably not. Which brings me to point #5.
5) So, if everything depends on the overall reputation of a school, what do we keep hearing on about the school rep, and on what basis are seniors on Edulix and elsewhere ranking schools as per their rep? The answer is, here is where the departmental rep, contacts and networking efforts pay off. Especially for B-schools. If the school (not the univ, but the B-school in specific) has made an awesome name for itself through its program quality or networking through alumni and/or potential employers, this is where it'd matter. And this is what we mean when we say school A is better than a school B, and when we rank Kelley, Mays, CMU, Eller, etc. (among others) as per their reputation. That, is also why, coolguru in another of his excellent posts, made a very important comparison between the Smith School of Business at UMCP and UA's Eller. In the niche field and in terms of interviews (past the stage where you've gotten the call), there are better chances that employers would know about the minutae and the specific strengths of specific schools (like UC is good in SAP/ERP, etc.). But, that's only after my resume has been shortlisted for an interview call in the first place. So, what gets me past the initial culling? My work-ex, primarily, projects worked on in academia and industry, and the overall rep of the school (not necessarily the department rep, mind you, because this initial shortlisting is mostly done by HR folks who mostly wouldn't know the specific strengths of specific schools). I need to get beyond that stage somehow in order to get an interview call - be it through internal referral, submission for an online job posting, or if I get to interact with the employer directly at a career fair, either on-campus or off it. That brings me to my next point.
6) If I'm a prospective employer, and I'm looking to hire, would I go first to a school I know about or to an unheard-of school? It's exactly like going out to a restaurant for dinner, in some ways. If you're like most people, and aren't a bit of the adventurous sort, would you rather go to a new place that you've never been to (looking at reviews from say, Urbanspoon, Chowhound or Yelp), or would you go to a place where you've eaten from in the past and have found the food to be good? All it comes down to, at the end of the day, is RISK. All of it comes down to how much risk you're willing to undertake. For big firms, they do not need to take a lot of risk (because unlike small firms or startups, they never face a shortage of good job applicants), in many cases, or aren't willing to, for whatever reason. So to minimize the risk, they'd go to a place they've hired from before, since they already have some sort of an idea as to the worth or quality of the bunch there, and in part, because the school has done part of their work for them by being selective and vetting out most of the candidates. This is what I personally like to think of, as the "street cred" of a school. Even though a school might not be in the top-10 or 20 or whatever, it might have such a good relationship with an employer, that the firm might go there to recruit ahead of some other better schools. All this brings me on to my next point.
7) Hiring is done, not on the basis of which school you've graduated from, but on the basis of your own skills, efforts, etc. Meaning, if you're a dud, and if you somehow managed to get into MIT and graduate from it (highly unlikely that you'd be a dud, but just for example's sake), you'd still be without a job. On the other hand, if you're from a not-so-well-known school, and have the skills the employers need, and are able to impress them in the interviews, you would get the job. And as you go down the line in terms of time, the farther away you go from the time you graduated, the lesser impact your school name and tag is gonna have. All that your brand name or tag is gonna do, is give you a push when it comes to getting interview calls, and that too only for entry- and mid-level positions. Nothing else. My own roomie at UNC Charlotte, a pretty unheard-of univ, got into Amazon for an internship and converted it to a full-time offer. Another got into MSFT. True, at lesser ranked or not too famous schools, the number of people who get into these top firms is less, I am not denying that. But, have you ever thought, if the fact that the people from top schools are in the top firms, is it because of the school, or because of them? Which brings me to my next point.
8) America is a meritocracy. If you're good, you'll get ahead. Simple as that. If you're not from a well-known or reputed school (one that doesn't have a whole lot of "street cred" to make use of), would it make you ineligible to apply to the top firms? Hell, no, not at all. Would job search be more of an uphill climb for a UNCC or UNO or a UTD grad as compared to someone from say, a CMU? Hell, yes, and I can attest to that from my personal experience. But, given a couple of years' time, for a fresher, if he/she works hard and has good projects and work-ex, would his/her profile be as competitive as that of a CMU guy with similar work-ex? Hell yeah. So what did the school brandname or tag help you to do, in the first place? Get that foot in the door, that initial push, the first break.
9) But, at the same time, I have always maintained that if you need to break the bank for any degree, no matter how good the RoI is (or rather, might seem when you start the program), it might not always be the best thing to do. Other folks disagree. Anyway, the priorities of every person are different, so what you should do - that is something which only you can decide and justify. Meaning, if you feel the risk is worth it, and you don't mind such a steep cost, a CMU or a Kelley is where you should go, the rest be damned. But, do keep in mind that circumstances change very very rapidly and you never know what's gonna happen in the future. You might end up getting a marginally higher salary too (say the difference would be $5k-15k), but in the long run, that's not too important. Because, the fact that potential employers would care about the most is your background, profile, work-ex, skills, etc. and how those measure up to the competition and what they're looking for in a candidate.
10) So, now in this specific case, it all comes down to what amount of risk are you willing to endure, and at what cost. Meaning, if you cannot afford going to Kelley at all, do you really honestly think it's worth taking out a huge loan (if any) for that reason? I don't know your financial situation, nobody except you does. So disregard all that you've heard here and from others, clear your head out, and make your own choice. Evaluate your risks yourself, risks that you'd face if you pick either of the two, and how you'd deal with it. Compromise, or rather, a trade-off is inevitable. But, only you can and should decide what factors to prioritize, what to consider as being the most important, what to base your decision on, and what can be thought of as not being too relevant. If the costs worry you, and/or the idea that you may not be able to pay back such a huge loan in time for whatever, or do not want that sword hanging over your head, pick the cheaper one, which in this case, would be Mays. If you do not care much about the costs and are ready to rough it out (in a manner of speaking) and take things as they come, are ready to deal with whatever life throws at you, go to Kelley, but then be prepared to deal with a loan and have backup options as to how you'd get rid of it if things don't go your way. Rest all, the teaching quality, placements, etc. is immaterial, more or less. That is what, I believe, coolguru
, was referring to, when he said that Mays is not too far behind Kelley.
Oh wow, this has turned out to be quite a long post, even by my own standards. Didn't start this off expecting it to become some sort of a "10 Commandments" type of thing - and don't want it to be any such thing either. Just what I think, because I see people here theorizing away to glory on the basis of hearsay and half-baked ideas (not pointing to anyone in specific here). But the truth is, you'd learn all of this only the hard way, by going through it yourselves, and the rest is all BS.