B Schools: Don't Overlook These Up And Comers

When Carlos Barrionuevo picked an MBA program, he had some very specific standards. He wanted to find a quality school with a strong finance department, a close-knit community, and a large international population. For those reasons, he passed up a chance to attend Indiana University, a BUSINESS WEEK Top 20 B-school, and chose the University of Rochester's William E. Simon School instead.

He has no regrets. In fact, the second-year MBA candidate has gotten more out of Simon than he bargained for. Thanks to an innovative program, Barrionuevo and 13 other students got the chance to shape and manage a portion of the program. "The nice thing about a small school is that you have the opportunity to make a difference," he says.

There are plenty of other reasons applicants might want to look beyond the Top 20. As part of the recently published

Business Week Guide to the Best Business Schools (McGraw-Hill, $14.95), the magazine compiled a list of 20 runners-up to its 1994 Top 20 list (BW--Oct. 24). This next-best bunch, which is not ranked, was based on a survey of leading corporate recruiters. You can also find significant information on each of these schools on BUSINESS WEEK Online, which is available to subscribers of the America Online network.

Entry to the up-and-comers as a group is likely to be easier than in the top tier. The average Graduate Management Admission Test score for these schools is 604, compared with 637 for the Top 20. On average, the runners-up group admits 44% of students who apply, compared with 27% for the first tier.

PAYBACK. These schools have another lure: They're generally cheaper. Top 20 schools charge 7% more for tuition, on average. And if you're a high-caliber candidate, these schools are apt to be more generous with scholarships. Eager to lure top students through its doors, Washington University's Olin School in St. Louis doles out $1.3 million to 63% of its students. Emory University's B-school in Atlanta is wooing hot prospects with $1.6 million in aid.

You are likely to receive an excellent basic business education at these schools and, in some cases, be privy to creative approaches to management training. B-schools are forging closer ties with corporations, placing greater emphasis on "soft" aspects of management such as diversity, ethics, and communications, and beefing up global business opportunities. And some of these innovations started with the up-and-comer schools, which are hungrier and more willing to experiment. "We're a little more sensitive to how our customers feel about eur program, and maybe that's because we're trying to break into the top tier," says Randolph Westerfield, dean of USC's Graduate School of Business in Los Angeles.

The B-schools at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland pioneered a customized approach to management education that is still one of the most innovative around. MBA candidates go through a battery of self-assessment tests when they arrive on campus. The programs are then tailored to individual needs.

NICHES. A group of Rochester MBAs manages the Vision Program, a new leadership component of the program. Barrionuevo is on the committee responsible for overseeing a $150,000 budget, developing a series of seminars, which address the "soft" skills, and attracting corporate participants. The committee works extensively with Citicorp, Procter & Gamble, Reebok, and several other corporate sponsors. "The students have become partners and equity holders in their education," says Charles Plosser, dean of Rochester's B-school. "It has also provided them with valuable management experience and corporate contacts."

Another good reason to attend a runners-up is the school's close ties to the community--which come in handy if you want to live and work in that region. Many have carved out niches that are linked to their location or draw on strengths of other parts of the university. If you know you want to work in the entertainment industry, for instance, consider USC's B-school. It recently developed an "entertainment management concentration" that capitalizes on its proximity to Hollywood--by bringing in industry executives--as well as the strength of USC's School of Cinema Television. The B-school also boasts mne of the premier entrepreneurship programs in the country.

Corporate recruiters consider the American Graduate School of International Management in Glendale, Ariz., a leader in global business. While Thunderbird has focused on this for close to 50 years, many other B-schools are adding international content to their programs. At Washington's Georgetown University, each course, whether it's accounting, marketing, or production, is taught from a global perspective. As the worldwide business community becomes more intertwined, international perspective will be a staple of B-school education.

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