Rankings Chat Highlights

BusinessWeek editors field questions on this year's Best Undergraduate Business Schools ranking

Amid the financial crisis, undergraduate business students wanted their schools to step up to the plate and help them find jobs. And the schools that gave their students a hand in weathering the storm scored big in the 2009 BusinessWeek ranking of undergraduate business programs. For the first time ever, the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce knocked out the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, which ultimately came in third place, to top the list of best programs.

Recently, at an online chat event, BusinessWeek editors Louis Lavelle (LouisBW) and Geoff Gloeckler (GeoffBW) counted down the top programs and answered questions from the audience and BusinessWeek reporter Francesca Di Meglio (FrancescaBW) about everything from why certain schools dropped to how recruiters ranked the programs. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Shanna: How many schools participated in the rankings in 2009?

GeoffBW: This year, 137 schools took part. Of those, 36 schools were eliminated because of low response rates, which left us with 101.

Steve720: Were there any major shifts in the ranks from 2008 to 2009?

LouisBW: Well, the big shift was at the very top, where the University of Virginia and Notre Dame overtook Wharton. That was mainly because of gains by those two schools, particularly in student satisfaction; they came in one and two respectively on that measure.

aan253: How did NYU drop from 8 to 15?

GeoffBW: NYU had the largest drop in student satisfaction of any school in the ranking. A lot of it had to do with the job search. In years past, students were pretty much assured to be coming back to campus for their senior year fresh off a finance internship on Wall Street with a job offer. This year, things weren't so smooth. Not everyone got the job offer, and of those who did, many are seeing their start dates pushed back. Some are even seeing offers rescinded. Obviously, there isn't much the school can do about this, but it sours some student opinions.

GoldenGoose31: Are there any changes in the ranking methodology from 2008 to 2009?

LouisBW: There were no changes in the methodology. We continue to rank the schools based on nine measures of satisfaction, post-graduation outcomes, and academic quality.

latz41: Is the quality of education you will receive at any of the schools in the top 10 really better than what you would get at [the schools ranked] 90 to 100? Or do those schools just look much better on a résumé?

GeoffBW: This is a question we get a lot. I think you're partially right about top schools looking better on a résumé, but a lot of it has to do with the kinds of jobs students get when they graduate. If you want to work in finance on Wall Street, you'll want to go to one of the top-ranked programs. If you're more interested in working regionally, you might consider other schools. That isn't to say that students at schools outside of the top 10 don't get jobs on Wall Street. They just aren't as easy to come by.

NDBusiness: When will the magazine be on newsstands?

LouisBW: The magazine will be on newsstands starting on Friday [Feb. 27, 2009], but you'll find a lot more information on the Web site.

jelee: How was the response rate from the recruiter survey? Was it affected by the [financial] crisis?

GeoffBW: We did see fewer recruiter responses this year, and not as many responses from the big Wall Street firms. I would say that the economic crisis is the reason. Because of this, we used three years of recruiter data in 2009 to calculate the ranking.

tsbuzz1: Is there any correlation between the undergraduate and MBA rankings? For example, if a school has a strong undergrad ranking, will it have a higher MBA ranking?

LouisBW: There really isn't any correlation between the two, although quality programs (MBA and undergraduate) are sometime found in pairs. We do measure how many students from each program go on to attend top-ranked programs—an MBA "feeder school" measure—but that's it.

JHURLEY: To what do you attribute the large gains made by some schools, such as Ohio State and the University of San Diego?

GeoffBW: For Ohio State, I think it had to do with the fact that it has focused recruiting on companies in its region, such as Procter & Gamble and Limited Brands, companies that aren't in the banking sector. For San Diego, it sends a lot of grads into accounting positions, one area that hasn't been hurt by the economic crisis. Because of this, students were happy with their job chances, and it showed in their ranking.

drwithe: How did Emory drop to nine?

GeoffBW: Rank-wise, yes Emory dropped four spots, but if you look at the index numbers that will be available in the online package shortly, you will see that the top nine schools are very close together in terms of their rankings and scores. After the top nine, there is a large drop. Emory ranked number 4 in the student survey and 24 in the recruiter survey.

tsbuzz1: When will you release the 2009 full-time MBA rankings?

GeoffBW: We rank full-time MBA programs in even years. The next one will be in 2010.

mao36: Is there a factor that is weighted more heavily than others when ranking a school?

LouisBW: Student satisfaction and academic quality are the two factors that are weighted most heavily in our ranking—each accounts for 30% of the final ranking. Student satisfaction is determined by our student survey. Academic quality is based on five equally weighted measures including SAT scores, class size, faculty-student ratio, and other factors.

jcf0123: What caused Miami University of Ohio to make the Top 20?

GeoffBW: Miami rises in the ranking thanks to its recruiter score. True, they may not send a large percentage of grads to the coasts, but in its region (Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati) it can't be beat. The school has fantastic relationships with the companies in the area, and it shows in the way recruiters rave about the program. Students also seem to like Oxford, for some reason.

pittcbacldc: How do you decide which employer locations to survey?

GeoffBW: The employers are submitted to us by the schools themselves. Each [school] gives us a list of 25 companies that recruit heavily on its campus. We attempt to survey each of those companies. We made sure that we were able to reach at least 12 companies from each school.

jlv2k: With University of Virginia ahead of Wharton, what does this mean for McIntire students and their reputation?

ouisBW: For UVA, in all honesty, it will probably mean a lot more out-of-state applications and perhaps an increase in selectivity. I think UVA had a fine reputation long before our ranking came along, so for students it might mean they'll have a little easier time in the job market — recruiters tend to flock to the highest-ranked schools.

glam13: Could you tell us a little more about the student satisfaction ratings. How about the Top 10 schools in student satisfaction?

GeoffBW: Sure.

1. UVA

2. Notre Dame

3. Cornell

4. Emory

5. MIT

6. Brigham Young

7. Southern Methodist

8. Villanova

9. Texas Christian

10. American University

kfallon: Were the ranking criteria changed at all in light of the economic crisis? For example; is return on investment weighed more?

LouisBW: As I said earlier, the ranking criteria did not change, but if you're interested in ROI, we'll have a report coming out on that very subject shortly based on information we collected as we conducted our research for the rankings.

p89sean16: Honestly, how badly did Fordham do in the categories—to fall 14 places?

GeoffBW: Fordham was ranked 64th in the student ranking. That was a killer.

marscup: When you say "'three years' for recruiters", do you mean 25% from 2008 and 25% from 2007 added to 50% from 2009? Please clarify.

GeoffBW: I believe so, yes.

JHURLEY: In regard to the prior question on "quality of education", I think we need to be careful about using this phrase. For example, I'm not sure the BWeek Survey effectively ranks the quality of education at the various schools.

LouisBW: The measures we use to determine academic quality are all pretty good markers of academic quality. We look at things like faculty-student ratios and class sizes, as well as how much time students spend on class work each week, and how many students get internships.

phanson: How much weight is given to difficulty of obtaining a degree such as the number of credits needed to graduate?

GeoffBW: No weight is given to those data points. They are not included in our methodology.

jcf0123: What caused the University of Georgia to move out of the Top 50 spots this year?

GeoffBW: Georgia did not have enough student response rates to be ranked this year. It is not one of the 101 ranked programs. This goes to show how important student participation is.

NovaWildcat826: How many schools were ranked last year, but did not rank this year?

LouisBW: I'm not sure of the exact number, but there are always a handful. Sometimes schools choose not to participate, or they participate and get eliminated for poor response rates.

jared8605: Can you explain how your Top 10 and U.S. News & World Report's Top 10 are so different?

GeoffBW: Because the methodologies are so different. We survey recruiters and students, and we factor in academic quality. U.S. News doesn't do that in its ranking of undergraduate business programs.

spartanhoops: Can you tell us why Michigan State dropped out of the Top 50? Where is it ranked?

LouisBW: It didn't drop too far. It's ranked 52. But it did fall precipitously. While the school fared very well in the recruiter survey, it did poorly in the student satisfaction survey and had fairly low starting salaries.

RMF: Which schools were eliminated because of low survey response?

GeoffBW: There are 36 of them. If you want to shoot me an e-mail after the chat, I'll let you know.

KateMcConnell: When surveying employers, do you contact the regional recruiters or just the central headquarters?

GeoffBW: Hi Kate. For this ranking, we survey regional recruiters, because we learned (the hard way) that many of the recruiters at central headquarters aren't involved in the hiring process at most schools. For the MBA ranking, we use central recruiters. This means for the undergraduate ranking, we may be surveying 5 to 10 recruiters at each company.

blutions: What caused Babson to join the Top 25 schools?

LouisBW: Academic quality. Of all 101 schools in the ranking, Babson's ranked No. 12.

bkshelto: What schools made the biggest moves outside the Top 50?

LouisBW: George Washington University in St. Louis fell from 51 to 65. Marquette went from 53 to 64. Those seem to be the biggest changes but don't hold me to it.

tennisgirl: Will you tell us the list of schools by recruiter rankings?

GeoffBW: O.K., top 10…

1. Brigham Young

2. University of California at Berkeley

3. University of Texas at Austin

4. Miami University of Ohio

5. University of Southern California

6. Michigan State

7. University of Illinois

8. University of Michigan

9. Penn State

10. Washington University in St. Louis

tjones : How did both University of Tennessee at Knoxville and UT-Chattanooga drop out this year?

GeoffBW: Knoxville chose not to participate. Chattanooga is ranked 82nd.

aan253: When a school falls seven places in one year, doesn't that say something about your ranking methodology? Can a school really get that much worse in one year?

LouisBW: Yes, it can, relative to 100 other schools. What people forget sometimes is that every school is ranked relative to every other school. If School A doesn't change and Schools B, C, and D get a lot better, School A will not fare well in the ranking.

alqoh: How close is Michigan to an elite program, possibly taking the No. 1 ranking in years to come?

GeoffBW: It's close. Check out the index numbers on the table, and you'll see.

Hugg4: In 2009, the recruiter survey accounts for 30%, instead of 20%, as in years past, right?

GeoffBW: The weights haven't changed.

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