Wharton Tops U.S. News Best Undergrad Business Programs

Wharton’s acceptance rate was the second-lowest in the U.S. in 2017, at 7%

New year, same methodology and same result. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School today (Sept. 10) topped the U.S. News ranking of best undergraduate business programs again. Also, similar to last year, the small undergraduate program at MIT’s Sloan School of Management placed second. This year, however, MIT Sloan shared the second spot with the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, which moved up one spot from last year’s ranking. While UC-Berkeley went up one spot, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business slipped from a third place tie with UC-Berkeley last year to fourth this year. New York University’s Stern School of Business rounded out the top five.

The nature of U.S. News’ methodology for ranking undergraduate programs naturally lends itself to many ties. Besides the tie for second place, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and the University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business both tied for sixth place. Another tie followed at eighth place with the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce. Cornell University’s Dyson School slipped three spots to share 10th place with Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, and the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. Indiana, Notre Dame, and USC all gained one spot to enter the top 10.

U.S. News ranks undergraduate business programs on a single metric: A peer assessment survey of  deans and senior faculty members who are asked to rate schools on a one-to-five scale, with five (distinguished) the best score and one (marginal) the worst. Those scores are then totaled and averaged. But the ranking is highly dependent on response rates and the simple methodology makes it hard for the ranking to differentiate programs. Wharton’s score was a 4.8. MIT and UC-Berkeley both notched a 4.6. Overall, the top 14 schools had an average of 4.0 or higher.


Unlike Poets&Quantsranking of undergraduate business programs, which factors in hard admissions and outcomes data with alumni surveys, the U.S. News list can be little more than a popularity contest. Critics say survey respondents often take out the year’s earlier ranking and fill out the survey based on earlier results and their own prejudices. That tends to keep  the same schools at the top of the list. The only big change in the top 25 was Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business, which jumped 10 spots to tie for 21st place with eight, yes eight, other schools. Georgia State University’s Robinson School — also based in Atlanta — and the University of Oregon were the other big winners in this year’s ranking, surging 20 places each to an 18-school tie for 44th place. Schools losing the most ground were Miami University (Ohio), Temple University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Kansas, and the University of Tennessee, all of which lost 17 places.

The difference in methodologies between P&Q and the U.S. News creates some major differences in the respective rankings. Wharton places first in both rankings, but Washington University’s Olin School places second in the P&Q version and 14th in the U.S. News version, despite having some of the most impressive admissions standards and career outcomes.

All told, 456 business programs were ranked this year by U.S. News. Some 53 schools tied for 405th place with a score of 2.0. Another 55 schools notched a 2.1 for 350th place. U.S. News also released the top five schools for specific business areas. The University of Texas McCombs School placed first in accounting, followed by Brigham Young University, the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania respectively. For entrepreneurship Babson College placed first, followed by MIT. Indiana University followed in third and UC-Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and the University of North Carolina all tied for fourth place. In finance, the University of Pennsylvania finished first followed New York University, MIT, Michigan, and Texas respectively.


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