Is There a Jesuit Business School Conspiracy?

Saint Joseph's University Haub School of Business in Philadelphia

Saint Joseph’s University Haub School of Business in Philadelphia beats Tuck, Johnson

Jesuit colleges are popping up in surprising places – that is, surprising places in the U.S. News & World Report MBA specialty rankings.

Take Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and its Erivan K. Haub School of Business. Haub, according to the U.S. News, is 16th-best in America for marketing, beating out Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and Cornell’s Johnson School of Management, both tied at 17th. Yet, Haub is nowhere to be found on the U.S. News’ ranking of the top 100 business schools, while Tuck ranks 9th and Johnson ranks 17th.

COOK SCHOOL IN ST. LOUIS BEATS HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL

Now consider Saint Louis University’s Cook School of Business, the self-proclaimed “Oldest Business School West of the Mississippi.” U.S. News anoints Cook 13th best for supply chain/logistics, ahead of Harvard Business School at 15th. Cook also comes out tied at 14th in the entrepreneurship specialty with the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, and above Columbia Business School and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, both tied at 17th. Notably, Cook is also absent from the U.S. News top 100 business schools list, while Harvard holds the No. 1 spot, Darden sits at No. 11, and UNC Chapel Hill comes in at No. 19.

Or look at Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics, 14th in U.S. News’ specialty ranking for accounting. That puts Albers tied on an equal footing with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and U.C. Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Unsurprisingly, Albers makes no appearance in the U.S. News overall top 100, while Kellogg ranks 6th and Haas 7th.

Just three Jesuit schools make the top 100 list: Georgetown at 23rd, Boston College at 45th and Fordham University at 92nd. Oddly, those three schools hold only five spots between them in the specialty rankings, where they’re often rated below Jesuit schools that don’t appear in the overall rankings. In accounting, for example, Boston College sits at 21st, beneath Seattle University’s Albers at 14th, Loyola Marymount at 19th, and Loyola University Maryland at 20th. Remarkably, 15 Jesuit colleges – out of 28 in the U.S. – hold a total of 29 spots in U.S. News’ specialty rankings.

NO “NEFARIOUS ACTIVITY OF ANY SORT”

Those peculiar results have led to widespread rumors that the schools are consciously gaming U.S. News’ rankings, especially because they are baed solely on a survey of business school officials.  But school officials claim the results are less likely a sign of collusion than they are a consequence of familiarity. “I don’t believe that there’s any . . . nefarious activity of any sort here, but I do think that when you’re asking for kind of what I call a beauty-contest vote you’re more likely to vote for the schools that you’re most familiar with and that you have an affinity with,” says Joe Fox, who started a network of Jesuit MBA programs 30 years ago and is now associate dean and MBA programs director at non-Jesuit Washington University’s Olin School of Business. “They’re not trying to rig it, it just works in their favor that way.”

After all, the reason these marginal schools place so highly in the specialty rankings while appearing much lower overall comes down to the U.S. News’ methodology. While the overall rankings are based on numerous metrics, including GMAT scores, employment rates and starting salaries, the specialty rankings derive solely from nominations by business school deans, directors of accredited masters programs, and senior faculty in the schools surveyed. Each respondent can nominate up to 10 programs in each of the specialties. The ranking is based on the number of nominations received by each school, and any school receiving at least seven nominations makes the list. It’s to be expected that the schools ranked near the top of the overall list would feature prominently atop the specialty rankings, and they do. It’s also to be expected that toward the bottom of the specialty lists, where it takes a mere seven mentions to get on, an outlier or two might appear.

But 14 outliers? A conspiracy theorist might envision a gathering of black-robed Jesuit deans in a dark, candle-lit cellar, murmuring quietly among themselves before uttering solemn promises to support the brotherhood. Perhaps a bit more realistically, and minus the dramatic atmosphere, the theorist’s scenario might feature Jesuit deans in black bespoke suits sitting in their offices on a conference call that ends with much gleeful rubbing together of hands by the participants as they confirm their plot to game the system. So, what does the dean of Albers say, when asked whether his school is appropriately placed in the U.S. news accounting specialty ranking on an equal footing with Kellogg and Haas?

  • David M

    I came across this and thought wow the gall to pull something like this and then lie about it. I am an MBA/lawyer and decided to check the US News law specialty rankings. Sure enough there are the Jesuit schools in the top 15, Georgetown is now the #1 part time program for example among many #1’s it has. It turns out the dean of Georgetown Law came from Fordham which has a huge part-time program, prior to this Georgetown was not ranked for part-time. Loyola is in the specialty rankings, Seattle University, St Louis University, Loyola Marymount, Marquette, Catholic, Loyola Chicago, Santa Clara. Well this group seems to kick Harvard, Yale and Stanford etc’s butt in the specialty law rankings. Georgetown is suspiciously ranked high in almost EVERY single specialty category, this while ranking overall 13th. Harvard and Yale rarely even appear in a specialty ranking !!

  • Helmut

    It is what it is and I have to say that it is embarrassing and sadly a sign of the times. Desperate times leads to desperate acts and these programs acted accordingly, it does not reflect well on the Georgetown’s etc, frankly it brings their brand down into the mud. Obviously many of these also rans were having problems attracting students and devised this epic whopper. The dean of Seattle University should get an oscar for his circular reasoning type answer.

  • werther

    As a Chinese national who attended one of those programs I can attest to the fact that they heavily promoted that they were highly ranked in US News specialty ranking, especially when recruiting students from China. Many of us were suspicious when attending and brought it up to the dean and were simply ignored. It made no sense that we were in the top 25 for two specialities and ranked 92nd for our program without any doctoral program. Actually at the time we were ranked 79th and fell to 92nd after the dean made big talk about improving the ranking, then he just disappeared !! My understanding is that allot of the money spent on the program gets redirected to other programs and our new law school building.

    We also complained to the dean that we did not come to NYC to attend school to have a Chinese experience due to so many mainland students attending in NY. Many of us feel that they misrepresented themselves via these specialty rankings plus said it was an international program when in fact it is mainly chinese.

  • Karen

    As an administrator at an MBA program, I find this to be not only sad but irrational given the explanation, 14 outliers spells cheating in my opinion. If your program has no doctoral program and zero research in those fields how could it possibly be included ? I have observed this group bolt into the specialty rankings and knew immediately that they were collectively voting for each other in a thin sampling. What does that say about their schools and ethics is the bigger question ?

  • Vernon

    Brutally pathetic and emblematic as to what is wrong with the degree. It is all about posturing and sucking students in and handing them a worthless degree at the end. Tulane was caught fudging numbers and the guy was fired and they were sanctioned, here we have a whole religious order spinning falsehoods and manipulation as simply familiarity with each other, like they are a nunnery order or something.

    This whole thing wreaks of manipulation and whatever way you cut it outright fraud. About creating revenue to keep the doors open, pity anyone that actually thought they were getting a top specialty degree while the overall ranking was in nowhere land.

  • Cathy

    It is pretty sad when they supposedly only know each others programs, ridiculous and an insult to one’s intelligence ! The specialty rankings have been around for a long time and all of a sudden they start to vote for each other, umm for sure. From every conceivable angle this does not add up, nor their lame excuses, not knowing other programs would infer that they do no publishing or research etc. Do they travel, read, attend GMAC functions or just collectively choose to be ignorant ?

    They are blatantly gaming the system and misrepresenting their worth to potential students, obviously there was a problem that they had to do this. The reality is that all these programs are worthless degrees. Gee Harvard or St Louis University for operations. I like how ND stayed out of the mix . Running around boasting about ethics and societal values while misrepresenting and falsifying data to better position a program should have consequences. It also shows how lame the US News methodology is for specialty rankings and a huge fix needed.

  • Frank

    Holy Cow Batman Jesuits gaming the system ! This unique strategy was devised by the 92nd player, unfortunately the minion programs did not follow proper order and started adding other fellow minions within their voting. hence this ridiculousness. The strategy was to rescue a program that had been brutally exploited financially through a massive part-time program over the years which hit a wall in 2010. Big dean announcements were made about how great they were doing in US News in marketing and finance all the while seriously languishing in the overall MBA ranking. The discrepancy was beyond outlier quality and glaring, attendance in new MS programs among suddenly newly arrived chinese students ballooned. The strategy was to trim the full time MBA program and augment income with MS programs and create a surplus to hire new faculty etc and improve overall ranking plus boost moral. Meanwhile the part-time program got cherry picked by a competitor and could not attract employer subsidized students any longer. Of course the university just did what the university always did and took the surplus money away plus their usual massive economics of rent gauge of the program. Reality being the graduate school of business helps fund other areas of the university including a new law building.

    So the new dean disappeared (a common theme) only to be replaced by an acting undergrad dean who has gone into hiding apparently working on how to fix things (another common theme). Now the program is being vended in with the undergraduate program and will reappear sometime in the future, this while still fully operating and fully loaded with unsuspecting chinese students. A fellow student who called the Provost office was told that ”no one looks at the specialty rankings and it was more like a Facebook like vote thing”. Immediately afterward they started sanitizing away all their faux US News accomplishments ! Reality is they made allot of money off of this strategy and it was never deployed to improve the business school !

  • Yep

    But still continues to have at least 20% of its content relating to HBS. No biases there.

  • McShane

    ”Familiarity” LOL , are they that vacant that think we cannot see thru such an idiotic statement. Look they got their paws caught in the cookie jar big time, they show a lack of ethics, respect for decent programs and outright contempt for honestly. This while claiming to be socially responsible etc, usual RC oxymoron. Reality is those programs are gonna be killed off by MOOC sooner than later, gaming the whole specialty rankings in such a blatant manner is not only fraudulent but shows criminal intent. They advertised the heck out of those specialty rankings to get students. One became a degree mill and they were the one that concocted the scheme and now have 17 MS programs (within a four year period), in the end however their university skimmed all their profit away. Complete cynicism for students and the notion of fair play exhibited.

    Jason your statement should be, Wharton meet the crooks.

  • Ted

    This stuck out like a sore thumb, the intention was to entice applicants and work alumni to give. It was no coincidence rather a strategy, I mean they are familiar with each others programs so they vote for them, had they not heard of other programs or are they isolated within ?

  • Jason

    Wharton, meet the Jesuits. Jesuits, meet Wharton. You’re all now part of the “Poets and Quants hates you for no obvious reason” club.