U.S. News’ Big Rankings Goof

U.S. News & World Report, which published its new undergraduate rankings yesterday, admitted it goofed. Learn more about US News MBA rankings mistakesOops.

U.S. News & World Report, which published its new undergraduate rankings yesterday, admitted it goofed in publishing incorrect rankings in a trio of key business specialties: accounting, entrepreneurship, and finance.

The errors were particularly egregious because they were so glaringly obvious. The top listed schools in entrepreneurship failed to include long-recognized Babson College as one of the leading schools for entrepreneurs. Prior to this year, Babson’s undergraduate business program has been ranked first in entrepreneurship for an unprecedented 17 consecutive times. With the new correction, the school has now made that 18 in a row.

Even more embarrassing for U.S. News, perhaps, was the fact that the top of the specialty rankings for finance failed to include either the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which has for decades been considered the best business school in that area. Nor did it include New York University’s Stern School of Business, another prominent school known for its superb finance faculty. The University of Texas’ McCombs School, meantime, also long recognized for the quality of its accounting department, went completely missing from the ranking of the best schools in accounting.


U.S. News’ specialty rankings are based entirely on the magazine’s survey of business school deans and senior faculty, many of whom vote on the basis of a program’s reputation. U.S. News surveys two officials from each school accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

In the spring of 2014, participants were asked for nominations of the 10 best programs in business specialty areas such as accounting, marketing and finance. Programs receiving the most mentions in each area are ranked in descending order. A school or program had to receive seven or more nominations in a specific specialty area to be listed which makes these specialty rankings easily manipulated by administrators at some schools who can simply agree to vote for each other. That kind of collusive behavior may explain the rather odd results that often occur toward the end of these rankings where the data tends to get thin. This year, U.S. News said some 38 percent of those surveyed responded, a two percentage point improvement over last year in the response rate.

But something went wrong with the way U.S. News’ calculated those peer scores. “In three specialties in the Best Undergraduate Business rankings – accounting, entrepreneurship and finance, which are based solely on peer reputation – we incorrectly loaded peer reputation scores,” said Robert Morse, chief data strategist for the rankings, in an email to the schools. “U.S. News has now loaded the correct data for these three specialties and recalculated the rankings.”


The top five schools in accounting are now No. 1 University of Texas at Austin, No. 2 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, No. 3 Brigham Young University, No. 4 University of Notre Dame, with Wharton and the University of Southern California tied for fifth place. The earlier released incorrect list failed to have UT-Austin in the top slot but rather Illinois in a list of 36 ranked schools.

The top five schools for startup types are now No. 1 Babson College, No. 2 MIT, No. 3 University of Southern California, and two schools tied for fourth, Indiana University and Wharton. Previously, U.S. News reported that MIT had won top honors in this category among the 25 schools given a numerical rank.

The top five schools in finance are now No. 1 Wharton, No. 2 NYU Stern, No. 3 University of Michigan, No. 4 MIT, and No. 5 UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Initially, U.S. News failed to include both Wharton and NYU at the top, instead listing Michigan in the lead. Wharton had been sixth on a list featuring 29 ranked schools.


U.S. News said the recalculated rankings in these three areas have been updated online, but it would not be able to correct the print guidebook of the rankings because it has already been published.

This is not the first time a major ranking organization has made a mistake on its list. Two years ago, Bloomberg BusinessWeek incorrectly calculated some statistics that lead to numerous changes in its MBA program rankings. In that case, the correction did not appear until nearly a year after the rankings were published. To its credit, U.S. News made the fix by 4 p.m. on the same day it issued the rankings yesterday (Sept. 9).

Schools take these rankings seriously because they greatly impact reputation, application volume, alumni donations, and even the ability of an institution to attract the best faculty. “Babson’s continued recognition as the leader in entrepreneurship education and top-30 ranking in a list dominated by large, national universities reinforces the College’s leadership position in business education,” said Scott Moore, dean of Babson’s undergraduate school, in a statement.

(See the following page for U.S. News’ specialty rankings)

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.