Wharton, Chicago, NYU Best For Finance

If you want proof that rankings of business schools should be taken with one big grain of salt, look no further than U.S. News & World Report’s specialty rankings for various B-school disciplines from finance to marketing.

The specialty rankings–released last week along with the magazine’s overall ratings of the best business schools–is based entirely on a highly flawed opinion poll of deans and MBA program directors. U.S. News asks B-school administrators to name and rank the finance departments of the schools, even though they are likely to have no direct knowledge of these programs. Respondents then are largely selecting schools on the basis of their overall reputations in a given field–and they will likely name their own schools on the survey even if they don’t deserve to be there.

This flaw was highlighted last year by New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell in a scathing critique of the U.S. News methodology for its overall ranking of colleges. Yet, Gladwell missed the bigger problem. On the specialty rankings, this issue is compounded because that is all these specialty rankings are based on.


Consider U.S. News’ ranking of the best finance programs this year. A familiar and credible list of schools is at the top: No. 1 Wharton, No. 2 Chicago, No. 3 New York University, and No. 4 Columbia Business School. The first three business schools were in the exact same positions for at least the past three years in a row. Columbia moved up a notch from a rank of fifth place last year.

But as soon as you get past the top ten, suspicions abound. Is Boston College’s Carroll School of Managment, ranked 13th for finance this year by U.S. News, really better than Dartmouth College’s Tuck School, which had been 14th last year but completely disappeared from this year’s list?


We don’t think so. Some 29% of Tuck’s Class of 2011 went into financial services, drawing average base salaries of $114,000 a year, with one MBA reporting a maximum base of $315,000 to start at a private equity firm. Those are mightly impressive numbers that rival those at Wharton or Chicago Booth. Yet, Tuck doesn’t even make this year’s U.S. News’ list of the best business schools for finance. Neither does the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, one of the very best business schools in the world where 29% of the latest class also went into financial services.

It gets worse. Who in their right mind would go to Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, over Cornell’s Johnson School just because Creighton is ranked 19th and Cornell is ranked 23rd on this list? Hopefully, no one. Truth is, the lower you go on a ranking like this, the less credible the result. Creighton’s finance faculty could not hold a candle to the finance profs at Washington University or Yale, which is ranked at exactly the same 19th place as Creighton.

How does this happen? The only likely answer is a rather damning indictment of U.S. News’ methodology. Our educated guess is that ehe administrators at Creighton filled out this survey and made sure to rank their finance group highly. The sample size was so small that it allowed a business school like Creighton to be ranked more highly than Cornell or Dartmouth, whose finance faculties are without question superior to what is largely an unranked, unknown business school.


Nonetheless, the U.S. News poll is something of a proxy for the general reputation and image of a school in a core teaching area and worth some bragging rights. And of all the disciplines taught at graduate business schools, finance usually reigns supreme. It’s where most schools put the single largest chunk of their resources, from faculty to the courses in the catalog. After all, finance is the language of business, and so even this flawed ranking of the best finance departments at U.S. business schools is worth a look.

So, for those keeping count, three schools had big gains in finance this year, each rising seven places. Boston College went to 13th from 20th last year; the University of Texas at Austin jumped to 14th from 21st, and St. Joseph’s Haub School of Business in Philadelphia moved up to 17th from 24th. We’re so suspicious of these results that we’re writing these sentences with a knowing smile.

The biggest fall? It has to be Dartmouth’s Tuck School, one of six schools to fall entirely off the list of the best finance departments. The others to disappear this year are Loyola Marymount, the University of Southern California’s Marshall School, Indiana Univeristy’s Kelley School, Seattle University, and the University of Florida. The latter three schools were all tied at a rank of 24th last year.

Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School dropped the most while staying on the list, falling five places to a rank of 18th from 13th last year.

(see next page for complete rankings and year-over-year comparisons).

  • Hamed Poursharafoddin

    I just read the following post on the Creighton University website:

    “The 2016 Best Graduate Schools by U.S. News & World Report
    rankings list Creighton University Heider College of Business graduate
    programs – Finance Program, No. 14 and Master of Business Administration
    (Part-time), No. 103, in its annual rankings. The rankings evaluate
    more than 1,200 programs in business, law, medicine, engineering, and
    education – including specialties within each discipline.

    The Finance program was up from last year’s ranking of No. 22, and
    the MBA (part-time) moved up two spots from No. 105 in the 2015

    “These rankings are a great example of the quality and value of a
    Creighton education,” said Anthony R. Hendrickson, Ph.D., dean of the
    Heider College of Business. “I am please that our faculty continue to
    ensure a top-tiered education for all our students.”

    Ranking methodologies vary by discipline, but admissions selectivity
    and expert opinions on program quality are part of the equation for most
    programs. Job-placement statistics were also used to gauge the
    effectiveness of business schools and law schools, and salary data
    factored into the business school rankings.”

    Hamed Poursharafoddin
    MSAPM Class of 2016

  • Don

    What about rankings of part time programs ?

  • Kathleen

    If you look at the majority of the unheralded and instantly ranked programs there is one large trend, that being they are Catholic universities. I highly suspect collusion amongst them. When I see Fairfield at 24 not knowing that they even had an MBA program I cringe, ditto Creighton, St. Joseph’s and to a lesser extent Loyola. The pattern is just too irregular and beyond suspicious. Previously Seattle University made it as did Loyola Marymount, both never ranked or really heard of. Nothing against Catholic programs like BC and Fordham which are strong in finance but something seriously is amiss here. As stated beyond 10 things get real fishy and small Catholic programs included here do not add up whatsoever.

  • Likenoother

    INSEAD sends more to MBB (top strategy consulting firms) than any other

  • Kylejwillner

    Kellogg is quite Strong for Strategy…I believe they or HBS place the most candidates at McKinsey which is a strong indicator of a schools Strategy prowess

  • Charterpromoter

    Lets see how many of those finance faculty members at those “elite” schools you refer to Mr. Bryne have spent years in investment banking, pension/endowment/foundation asset management, private client wealth and asset valuation for a living where they receive a paycheck.  Finance is a practitioner based business discipline.  To be truly good at what you teach you must first do.  Our faculty do that at Creighton.  They are also top notch researchers.  Consider digging a bit deeper, you might uncover a  true education “value’ opportunity in the field of finance.

  • Mamo_sen

    “Wharton, Chicago, NYU Best For Finance”, Whats best for Strategy?

  • Natasha_hareera

    @JohnAByrne:disqus What is the best school for Strategy and Consulting roles?

  • Samsonite

    “Creighton’s finance faculty could not hold a candle to the finance profs at Washington University or Yale, which is ranked at exactly the same 19th place as Creighton.”So you’ve taken courses at all of these institutions and can truly have an educated opinion that adds value to the debate? I’m certain there are great professors in all of these finance programs, but what basis do you make these judgments on?
    (full disclosure: I’m a current student in the MSAPM program at Creighton)
    The CFA Charter is by no means an “end-all” measurement of a finance professional’s knowledge (or lack thereof), but it certainly is a designation that stands alone, atop other certifications when it comes to the asset management industry. With just a few minutes you can peruse these 3 schools websites and find out how many of these professors hold the CFA designation.

    I’ll save you the time…
    Washington University = 0
    Yale = 0
    Creighton = 5 (will be 6 at the start of the fall 2012 term)

  • Paramia

    Hi John,

    Finally you admitted that not only FT ranking is the flawed, here is the US NEWS is flawed too. !!

  • Wetfeet_008

    MIT Sloan is going to gain in future finance ranking. It hired finance professors away from HBS, Kellogg and other places. After all it is the birth place of modern finance, Paul Samuelson, Modialiani, Robert Merton, John Cox, Steven Ross and the famosu FIsher-Black-Merton model took shape at MIT. Its new program on finance has been a runaway success.

  • NTT60c0m0

    I did my MS at Fordham and am currently finishing the finance MBA. The finance faculty is legitimately great, out of the 4 professors I’ve had so far 3 are Wharton grads and all taught really well. 

    The problem is the faculty in the rest of the MBA program, especially the required courses- they range from mediocre to just plain awful. I had to slog through these poorly taught required classes (mostly management and marketing) before I got to the far better finance classes. Taken by itself, the finance area could probably compete with some of the other top schools, but overall the MBA program needs improvement.

  • Guest

    Reputation in any subject area is not only research that makes it. Professors should be fantastic as well

  • Aaron Foster

    How can you know that the Finance Profs. from Creighton can’t, as you say, “hold a candle,” to profs in Yale and Wash. U? You must have performed a lot of due diligence and investigated thoroughly to make such a bold and damning statement. 

    I know that without a doubt Creighton prepared me to have been able to land an job as an Investment Analyst out of college, and helped me earn my CFA Charter before I was 26. I didn’t even need to study much for the first level of the exam because Creighton teaches the material so well. 

  • McGannon Thomas

    Thanks for singling out my alma mater. How do you know anything about unknown Creighton? I mean, if you’re going to call them out then you must know something about their faculty, the students they turn out and the job opportunities present in Omaha, right?

    I have an undergrad degree from Creighton. I earned a CFA charter with the toolset they gave me. I got a job working for a buyside firm where I am now a partner. I run circles around Ivy-league MBA’s daily because they think their education endows them with some unique insight into the workings of the world – a view which people such as yourself do a very nice job fostering.

  • Just Me

    Hmm I thought Fordham was known for finance and a bit down from NYU , am I wrong ?

  • JohnAByrne

    No, it shouldn’t. 

  • Oh Please

    How does Fordham measure, should it be there ? I have always wondered about that program.

  • JohnAByrne

    That would certainly explain why this specialty rankings by U.S. News rarely make much sense beyond the obvious top ten or so schools.

  • Shauna Cutini

    Yes, please do. That would be very helpful.

  • Oh Please

    John I cannot prove it beyond a reasonable doubt but I am 99% sure that all these ” Jesuit ” schools voted maximum scores for each other hence their rankings entry in the likes of finance. Essentially they collectively worked the system to garner specialty rankings. It is pretty clear as programs like Seattle U etc have been ranked in the past, Fairfield was the ultimate fix. Not sure why Notre Dame and Georgetown got omitted in this boondoggle, guessing they bowed out of the ranking fix.

  • Matty

    Still, the top 10 makes pretty good sense when you’re focusing purely on finance.

  • Xilcilus

    I do not think US News ranks specialties based on placement. Rather it relies on noted reputation among schools to rank schools.

    For example, a school can have fantastic finance research professors but not place too many people in finance industries.

    While I am certain that Dartmouth professors are fantastic, they may not be fantastic researchers.

  • Arjen Robben

    Boston College, Fordham and Ohio State are nice schools, but seriously, Dartmouth job opportunities in Finance (PE, IB, Corp Fin, Assets Mgmt) is by far higher than these schools. 

  • highwyre237

    Thank you for writing an article on this, the whole specialty thing bugs me too.  This is the exact angle and focus I was looking for as well.  Hopefully one day we’ll have a specialty ranking that carries a bit more truth.  

  • Thanks! Will you be also publishing/doing an article on the other specializations (i.e. marketing, strategy, etc.)?