When U.S. News & World Report asked the deans and senior faculty at accredited business schools to rate the quality of undergraduate business programs, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School came out on top. Wharton was followed by MIT, UC-Berkeley, Michigan and New York University’s Stern School.
Compared to U.S. News’ overall ranking for national universities, its undergraduate business program list is a stripped-down, no frills version. It is 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–not its true quality. In the spring of 2013, participants were asked to rate the quality of all programs they were familiar with on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished). Some 36 percent of those surveyed responded.
The results of that survey vary greatly from both U.S. News’ overall ranking of national universities–which is based on a much wider set of criteria including SAT and ACT scores, high school rank of enrolled students, graduation rates and other factors. Indeed, the numerical ranks of schools also differ greatly from the only other authoritative ranking of undergraduate business programs published every year by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which started ranking undergraduate programs in 2006.
DIFFERENCES IN METHODOLOGY YIELD VASTLY DIFFERENT RESULTS
While U.S. News, for example, ranks the undergraduate program of the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame in a tenth-place tie with Cornell and Indiana, BusinessWeek gives the school it’s top rating. Mendoza, in fact, has finished first in each of the past four years of the BusinessWeek ranking from 2013 through 2010. BusinessWeek’s methodology is much more complicated and inclusive. It is based on surveys of students, employers and schools. The student portion of the survey alone includes 44 questions about teaching quality, access to faculty, school facilities, career services, and more. Overall, meantime, U.S. News ranks Notre Dame as the 18th best national university in the U.S.
If you’re considering majoring in business at Notre Dame, should you think of it as the No. 1 school, the No. 10 school, or the No. 18 university? That’s a legitimate question and that’s why it’s helpful to look at the U.S. News ranking in comparison with how the university fares in U.S. News overall ranking as well as how a given program is ranked by Bloomberg BusinessWeek (U.S. News releases its annual ranking every September, while BusinessWeek publishes its annual list early April). At the end of the day, we think that a university’s brand and reputation often matters more than a ranking of a program, so on many levels the overall rank of a university is even more important than the rank assigned its business program. That’s especially true because many universities, including Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, and Brown, don’t have an undergraduate business program. More often than not, a student can major in economics at these higher ranked schools and use that degree to get a prestige job in a business organization.
So what’s better? A degree from Harvard, Stanford, Yale, or Princeton with an economics major or a degree from one of the other top universities with a business major? If you can get into the Harvard, Stanford, Yale, or Princeton, we think that’s a far better bet than simply going to the best college with a highly ranked business major. Of course, those four schools are among the most selective in the world. Very few of the students who apply to those schools are able to gain admission.
That’s why, however flawed, these rankings can be helpful to both parents and would-be students. They give you at least some indication of which schools have the best business majors for undergraduates.
(See following page for our ranking tables)