Wharton Again Tops U.S. News Ranking

Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School held onto its first place ranking in U.S. News annual ranking of the best business colleges in the U.S. Not far behind was MIT’s tiny undergraduate business program in second place, with UC-Berkeley’s Haas School and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business both tied for third place.

U.S. News’ system of ranking undergraduate business programs resulted in numerous ties up and down the list of ranked schools.  Two schools—NYU’s Stern School of Business and the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business—were locked in fifth place.  Another four schools—Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Virginia—were all tied for seventh place. A remarkable 32 schools were tied for the rank of 151st, while 23 programs were tied at 128th.

Unlike Poets&Quants’ more comprehensive rankings of undergraduate business programs, the U.S. News rankings is based solely on surveys of business school deans and senior faculty. They are asked to rate the quality of business programs with which they are familiar on a scale of one (marginal) and five (distinguished). Wharton received an overall grade of 4.8, while MIT came in at 4.6, and Berkeley and Michigan were at 4.5.


The U.S. News methodology does not factor into its rankings far more critical elements of a program’s excellence such as the quality of the incoming students, alumni opinions of the academic and extracurricular experience, nor career outcomes, all basic components of the Poets&Quants’ ranking which will be published this December. As a result, the U.S. News’ approach often reinforces existing beliefs among the administrators who actually fill out the surveys. Asking deans to rate other schools is less a measure of a school’s reputation than it is a collection of prejudices partly based on the self-fulfilling prophecy of U.S. News’ own rankings.

Over the years, numerous critics have attacked the U.S. News rankings as little more than popularity ratings. Asking deans to rate other schools is less a measure of a school’s reputation than it is a collection of prejudices partly based on the self-fulfilling prophecy of U.S. News’ own rankings. That’s because most deans and faculty have little knowledge or direct experience with rival programs, anyway.

Still, more students and parents consult U.S. News rankings than any other so the lists carry significant influence in the marketplace. Just how close one school is to another is evidenced by the large number of programs with the same peer assessment scores. Indiana University, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Southern California, all ranked 11th, achieved a score of 4.1. A half dozen schools, all tied for 15th place, received a score of 3.8. All told, some 191 undergraduate programs in business received a ranking from U.S. News this year, with nine different schools in a last-place tie, placing at a rank of 183rd.


Among the top 50 schools, four big winners emerged this year, each climbing 18 places to finish in a tie for 45th place, up from 63rd a year ago: the undergraduate business programs at the University of Alabama, Villanova, Florida State, and the University of Kansas. Case Western Reserve University and the University of Pittsburgh both moved up seven places to 31st on the list, up from 38th last year. Ohio State and the University of Wisconsin at Madison inched up four spots to rank 15th, better than their 19th place finish a year earlier.

Most schools made small one- or two-place moves, either up or down the list. A dozen schools gained three places among the top 50, including No. 24 Arizona State, No. 45 Southern Methodist University, and No. 45 Temple University in Philadelphia.

Schools have found themselves falling behind in U.S. News‘ peer assessment-based ranking included Texas A&M and George Washington University. A&M fell to 31st place from 27th, while GW dropped to 42nd from 38th. Among schools that still held onto Top 50 status, those four-point declines represented the biggest drops.


As is always the case with rankings, the further down the list one goes, the bigger the up-and-down movements from year to year. Three schools–Clemson, Texas Christian and Missouri–all fell 15 places to rank 78th, from 63rd a year ago. Another three business schools–Bentley, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Oregon–slipped 14 spots to 64th place from 48th last year.

On the more positive side, a trio of New York schools–CUNY Baruch, Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, and the Rochester Institute of Technology–climbed 13 places to rank 64th this year, up from 77th a year earlier.

There are, not surprisingly, wide variances in the U.S. News ranking when compared with Poets&Quants. Taking into account more relevant indicators of program quality, Poets&Quants named Washington University’s Olin Business School the best school in the U.S. to major in business. U.S. News, merely on the basis of completed peer surveys, ranks Olin 14th. Notre Dame’s Mendoza School is ranked second by Poets&Quants but 11th by U.S. News. Poets&Quants’ ranks Wharton third rather than first.


U.S. News also publishes the top five schools in each of eight specialties, such as international business, accounting and entrepreneurship. UT-Austin took first place honors in the accounting specialty, followed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Brigham Young University, Wharton, and Michigan. In entrepreneurship studies, Babson College once again topped all other schools, with MIT, Indiana, Berkeley, and Wharton bringing up the rear.

Not surprisingly, Wharton captured first in finance, with NYU, MIT, Michigan, and UT-Texas in Austin next. Wharton also came in first in marketing, just ahead of Michigan, NYU, UT-Texas-Austin, and Berkeley. In international business, the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School won top honors again, followed by Wharton, NYU, Georgetown, and Berkeley. University of Michigan placed first in management, ahead of Wharton, Berkeley, UNC, and Virginia. And in information management systems, MIT came out ahead of Carnegie Mellon, the University of Arizona, the University of Minnesota, and UT-Texas in Austin.

In supply chain management and logistics, an increasingly hot business specialty, Michigan State came out on top, followed by No. 2 MIT, No. 3 the University of Tennessee, No 4. Arizona State University and Penn State.

(see rankings on following pages)

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