Is Wharton An Undervalued Stock?

           WHERE WHARTON’S CLASS OF 2013 WENTTO WORK

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Source: Wharton Career Management

Bauer says his firm is actually seeing increased interest in Wharton from this year’s current crop of applicants. “Having seen a bump for Round 1 and expecting more of the same for Round 2, we’ve added consultants with Wharton backgrounds to our team at The MBA Exchange,” he says. “A Wharton MBA education is like a ‘blue-chip stock’ with a long history of growth. Yes, the market’s enthusiasm and demand for any investment will ebb and flow over time, but in this case, the long-term ROI is rock solid.”

WHARTON APPLICATIONS DOWN 17.2% IN PAST FIVE YEARS

Yet, the Journal isn’t talking trash about Wharton for nothing. In fact, the newspaper was being somewhat charitable to Wharton by reporting that MBA applications there have fallen by 12% in the past four years. The decline over the past five years has actually been a more severe 17.2%. And this past year’s fall in applicants–5.8%–occurred as rival Chicago Booth reported a 10% increase. Finance rival and powerhouse Columbia Business School had a 7% rise, and Harvard was also up, with a more modest 4% increase.

Some believe the latest decline at Wharton can be attributed to a new team-based discussion requirement which scared away candidates who speak English as a second language. That is a plausible explanation, though the decline of Wall Street has clearly had an impact on the school which is still considered by many to be number one in finance, along with a fair degree of turnover of leadership in the admissions office at Wharton. The school has had four different admission directors in the past ten years.

More worrisome than the application drop, perhaps, is Wharton’s fall in both the Bloomberg BusinessWeek and The Financial Times’ rankings in recent years. For years, the general impression–though rarely confirmed by independent rankings–has had H/S/W (Harvard, Stanford and Wharton) as the top three business schools in the world.

RANKINGS SHOW WHARTON IS NOW BEHIND CHICAGO

The No 1 showing by the University of Chicago’s Booth School in the BusinessWeek rankings since 2006, however, has clearly eroded that positioning. For each of the past three years, in fact, Poets&Quants–which publishes an annual composite rating of the five most influential MBA rankings–has placed Wharton fourth behind Harvard, Stanford and Chicago.

In truth, the differences between Chicago and Wharton are so slim as to be statistically insignificant. But the gap between Wharton and the top two schools–Harvard and Stanford–is more meaningful. The acceptance rates at both HBS and Stanford are about half of what they are at Wharton: Stanford’s 8% and Harvard’s 12% versus Wharton’s 22%. The yield–the percentage of accepted applicants who enroll at a school–also is significantly higher at both Harvard and Stanford. Roughly 90% of the applicants accepted at Harvard enroll, and about 85% of the applicants at Stanford take the school up on its offer of admission.