Ivy And Innovation: B Schools That Try Harder

The heady days are over for business schools. Applications are dropping, fewer companies are recruiting on campus, and potential students are questioning the value of the MBA.

Is the degree losing its luster? Not so fast. As competition for the best corporate jobs increases, an MBA will retain the stature it gained in the 1980s. Even though graduates can no longer expect high-paying jobs to be handed to them on silver platters, "students who go to good schools with good programs are still going to do well in the long run," says David H. Blake, dean of Southern Methodist University's B-school in Dallas.

"SOFT SKILLS." All the soul-searching under way at many business schools is fueling massive change and experimentation for the better. In an effort to make the MBA more relevant, schools are developing closer links with companies, placing greater emphasis on international business, and adding courses in "soft" skills now considered critical to success in the corporate world.

Many of the institutions leading these efforts lack the prominence of Northwestern's Kellogg School. "It's the schools that are lingering on the edge of the top 20 that are changing their curriculums more," says Robert E. Witt, dean of the B-school at the University of Texas at Austin. "They are the ones seeking to become permanently established as national players."

As part of the recently published A Business Week Guide: The Best Business Schools (McGraw-Hill; $14.95), the magazine assembled a list of 20 runners-up to its 1992 Top 20 list (BW--Oct. 26). This next-best bunch, which is not ranked, was selected based on a survey of leading corporate recruiters. The accompanying table provides a snapshot of each. You'll find out the odds of getting through their doors and how much it will cost. You'll also discover how much financial aid each school has to offer (measured on a per capita

basis), and how last year's graduates fared in the job market.

CREATIVE TOUCHES. Most of these schools offer top-notch training, as good as the institutions that garner more acclaim due to their larger endowments and alumni con- nections. Some have been in and out of Top 20 rankings, including the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Rochester, and Yale University. Others are newcomers, such as the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) in Glendale, Ariz., and the B-schools at Georgetown in Washington, D.C. and Tulane in New Orleans.

What sets these schools apart is their ability to develop strengths in niche areas and to offer creative touches to the traditional MBA. At the University of Rochester, a student-led initiative is forging links with PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Xerox so that managers will lead classroom sessions on team building and leadership. Yale offers a degree that covers both public- and private-sector management.

B-schools at Emory in Atlanta and Texas at Austin are pioneering some of the more innovative approaches to management education. They have developed unusual programs with Procter & Gamble to bring fresh ideas to marketing. Emory's "customer business development track" features a summer internship directly tied to the curriculum. The program puts students shoulder-to-shoulder with P&G managers on customer development teams. They are working with P&G customers to write new rules for customer relationships. The program has been so successful that Motorola and Coca-Cola have signed up. Texas, which offers an MBA at a third of Emory's cost, has added Motorola and 3M to its program.

Once the internship is completed, MBA candidates run through a series of seminars with faculty, corporate officials, and students to round out the experience. "In a sense, it's a situation where everyone wins," says Ronald E. Frank, dean of Emory University's School of Business. "Students are presented with complex problems and hands-on experience, we benefit from an improved curriculum and placement, and companies get better-prepared future employees."

To turn out better students, Southern Methodist University--which recently scrapped a one-year MBA program in favor of the more typical two-year experience--and Case Western Reserve in Cleveland are assessing the strengths and weaknesses of incoming students. Then, the two schools customize the education to address each student's needs.

WORLDLY OUTLOOK. Almost everyone is getting more assignments in global business. One B-school after another is scrambling to increase the international content of the MBA. But Thunderbird has been doing this for 47 years. The school has graduated more than 25,000 students, who now work in 150 countries. Thunderbird's program consists of a three-part curriculum focusing on business, culture, and language. All students must graduate fluent in a foreign tongue.

Georgetown, which also emphasizes international business, adopts a different approach. It draws upon the international community of ambassadors, corporate leaders, and government officials to add a global dimension to its program. International aspects of business are debated in virtually every course. In addition, Georgetown offers formal exchange programs with eight schools in other countries.

The bottom line? Although it may take longer to recoup your investment in these tough times, the MBA is becoming more relevant than ever.

      Schools/                       Average Appli- Ann- Scholar- With 
                                             cant   ual  ship     job
      Characteristics                 GMAT  accep- tui-  money   by      start-
                                      score ted    tion  per    grad-    ing
                                                         MBA    uation   pay
      AGSIM (THUNDERBIRD)             565  46%  $14,500  $1,269  55%*   $43,000**
      Culture often compared with U.N. 
      because of its global bent; MBAs leave fluent in foreign language
      CASE WESTERN (WEATHERHEAD)      587  55  15,900  2,082  66  44,280
      Offers customized curriculum 
      tailored to student's strengths and weaknesses; boasts executive mentors  
      EMORY                           615  38  17,120  4,509  69  48,560
      Grads rate teachers highly in this 
      general management program; launched part-time MBA program last year  
      GEORGETOWN                      608  40  17,769  2,373  77  49,900
      Washington (D.C.) locale provides 
      window on business-government relationship in globally flavored program  
      MICHIGAN STATE (BROAD)          588  25  10,783  1,211  60*  38,428**
      Using $20 million gift, largest to a 
      public B-school, to attract top faculty and students  
      PENN STATE (SMEAL)              580*  28  10,176  1,953  53  44,590
      Program known for strengths in 
      business logistics and business-to-business marketing
      PURDUE (KRANNERT)               609  29  8,192  2,063  74  49,490
      Heavy workload, with emphasis 
      on technical and analytical training; grads take home a Master of Science  
      SMU (COX)                       610  58  15,892  3,808  N/A  N/A
      Recent program overhaul makes 
      this school one of the most creative, featuring student assessments and mentors 
      TULANE (FREEMAN)                604  50  18,185  6,160  61*  42,900**
      Recruiters single out school as one of 
      best in South; hands out most scholarship funds per student  
      UNIV. OF ILLINOIS AT            590  50  10,520  1,220  72  41,190
      Open to younger applicants direct 
      from undergrad schools; boasts one of nation's top-rated accounting programs  
      UNIV. OF IOWA                   593  39  8,100  420  57  40,900
      Plans to move into a new $36 million 
      building this fall; kicks off program with riverboat cruise on Mississippi  
      UNIV. OF MINNESOTA (CARLSON)    602  48  13,760  1,211  68  41,910
      Strong school with new aggressive 
      dean, seeking greater corporate support and students outside the Midwest  
      UNIV. OF NOTRE DAME             580  54  15,240  1,133  42*  41,500**
      Small size provides family-like 
      atmosphere; ethics and community service are critical elements in culture  
      UNIV. OF PITTSBURGH (KATZ)      603  45  20,916  2,227  69  43,790
      Only first-rate MBA in U.S. packed 
      into 11 months; average student boasts 4.5 years of work experience  
      UNIV. OF ROCHESTER (SIMON)      620  36  17,860  3,566  76  53,400
      Extremely strong finance staff; 
      intimate environment; largest international student group  
      UNIV. OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA    622  35  15,730  4,706  72  52,890
      Has first-rate entrepreneurship 
      program; 8% of grads start their own companies; strong in organizational 
      UNIV. OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN        643  25  5,432  719  75  48,900
      Savvy dean is reinventing MBA, 
      developing program links with such companies as P&G, Motorola, 3M  
      UNIV. OF WASHINGTON             623  31  8,850  690  59  43,730
      Offers environmental management 
      and global business programs; students do consulting with local companies  
      UNIV. OF WISCONSIN AT MADISON   602  42  10,625  1,066  61  44,070
      To improve quality, school reduced 
      MBA students by 25% since 1988; average GMATs now surpass the 600 mark  
      YALE                            657  34  19,840  3,571  87  66,690
      Ivy league MBA draws exceptional
      students with highest GMATs of any B-school; blends public and private sectors
        For out-of-state residents  
      *BUSINESS WEEK estimate  
      **Data provided by school
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