The Best Undergraduate Business Programs

by John A. Byrne on

The University of Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame

For the fifth straight year, the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business won the top spot on Bloomberg  Businessweek’s ninth annual ranking of the best U.S. undergraduate business schools.

The University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce ranked second, also for the fifth consecutive year, and Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management ranked third, for the third year running. Boston College’s Carroll School of Management and Olin Business School at Washington University, St. Louis rounded out the top five.

The bigger news, perhaps, was that Indiana University’s Kelley School broke into the top ten this year, climbing to No.  8 from 13th. Kelley’s move was fueled by scoring a first place ranking on the magazine’s employer survey. A total of 132 U.S. undergraduate business programs are included in the 2014 Businessweek ranking which was released today (April 4) on Businessweek.com at businessweek.com/2014undergradrankings.

WHERE’S HARVARD AND STANFORD?

Undergraduate rankings of business programs differ substantially from those of full-time MBA offerings largely because some of the the biggest players, such as Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business, do not offer undergraduates a business major. That said, the biggest perennial surprise in the BW ranking is Wharton’s showing which this year slid to seventh place from fifth, although Wharton is often considered as having the best undergraduate business program in the world.

In fact, U.S. News & World Report, which ranks undergraduate business schools based on a survey of deans and senior faculty at each undergraduate business program, puts Wharton first, followed by MIT, UC-Berkeley and Michigan, all tied for second place. New York University is in fifth place. Yet, none of those schools even make the Top 5 on the BusinessWeek list.

In many cases, there is a wide divergence in the two rankings, which can largely be attributed to the differing methodologies used to compile the lists. In contrast to U.S. News’ survey of deans and faculty, BusinessWeek’s ranking is based on five components: student assessment (30%), academic quality metrics (30%), employer opinion (20%), median starting salary (10%), and a “feeder school” score (10%), which reflects how many students undergrad programs send to top MBA programs. The academic quality metrics include average SAT score, average class size, student/faculty ratio, percentage of students with business-related internships, and average number of hours students spend on coursework per week.

Those metrics understandably result in often dramatic differences between the two rankings. BusinessWeek‘s No. 4 school, Boston College, is ranked 22nd by U.S. News. The University of Richmond’s business school, which finished 17th on the BW list, is in 58th on the U.S. News ranking. And though Wake Forest University’s undergraduate business program comes in 11th, according to BW, it’s 34th when U.S. News assigns its numbers (see our table on the following page).

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  • Observer

    “That said, the biggest perennial surprise in the BW ranking is Wharton’s showing which this year slid to seventh place from fifth, although Wharton if often considered as having the best undergraduate business program in the world.”

    It’s not surprising how the BusinessWeek methodology penalizes Wharton, amongst a peer group of schools that may not attract the same recruiters that flock to schools that do not offer undergrad business programs. The fact that Wharton is ranked #30 in the employer survey, despite having the highest median salary for its undergrads, raises some credibility issues here. That said, the MBA placement results likely help the school, and the student ranking is a fair (enough) measure across all schools.

  • Orange1

    So let’s see, BW has never ranked Harvard or Stanford #1 or #2 for MBAs. Now for undergrad, Wharton #7, Michigan #12, NYU #14, Georgetown #18. Yeah, sure, their methodology reflects the real world.

  • Objectivity

    Frankly though, UVA’s McIntire School seems to have the highest consistent rank between the two rankings (#2 and #5). In pointing out the differences between the rankings, this little fact gets lost and might take away credit from this school which also has the highest starting median salary.

  • Joe Smith

    First, not all recruiters answer the survey (only 1/3rd of so) and some firms (PwC for example) have a policy of not answering. Second, BW methodology changed slightly to reward schools mentioned frequently than just schools mentioned highly, but not frequently. You can debate the quality versus quantity, but it is hard to dissect BW without knowing which companies. Third, the salary figures are very questionable without the accompanying details from the school – based on *how many* verified graduates out of the total pool. Sure, if you only count the top 20% who get the top jobs, your salary figures might be 70K. But unless you have the schools include their methodology (is it student reported, employer reported, or both) to include the sample size relative to the population (and is it just the Acct and Finance grads or the marketing grads)?

    and yes, USNews is solely based on peer survey — and while that has its omerits, let’s also realize that methodology is subject to limitations as well.

  • Jack93

    In reality, MBA placement is not a good metric. E.g. Wharton is penalized in that, just because the majority of graduates find easily job and don’t need actually an MBA.

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