Chat Transcript: Best Undergraduate B-School Ranking

For the third consecutive year, the Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business took the top spot for its undergraduate business program on Bloomberg Businessweek’s latest list of best business schools. In a live online chat event, editors Louis Lavelle (LouisBW) and Geoff Gloeckler (GeoffBW) counted down the top 50 programs and fielded questions from the audience about everything from methodology to the surprises they uncovered. What follows is an edited transcript of the chat. For more information on the schools mentioned in this transcript, please visit our Rankings & Profiles page.

adaver : Why Notre Dame?

GeoffBW: Notre Dame, once again, is firing on all cylinders. Top marks in the student survey, top three in the employer survey, very strong academic-quality numbers. Three years in a row.

Echidna10: Why did Southern Methodist drop from 26 to 30?

GeoffBW: SMU took a hit in the employer ranking. We use three years of data, so it lost a strong year in 2009 and replaced it with this year’s number, which wasn’t as strong.

financedad: What are the most important criteria (heavily weighed factors) used in the rankings?

LouisBW: The ranking is based on student and recruiter surveys, which along with academic quality contribute the most toward the final ranking.

texman: How many total schools were ranked this year?

GeoffBW: One hundred twenty-four schools ended up being ranked this year. I think we lost 18 because of insufficient response rates. Pretty good.

tomgallagher: Why did Villanova fall from seven to 13?

GeoffBW: Villanova took a big hit in the employer rank this year. Last year was very strong and this year was not as good.

hopslike: I heard the University of Virginia’s program isn’t very good. Why is it always ranked so high?

GeoffBW: Because it’s a very strong school, at or near the top in each of the factors at which we look for the ranking.

LKline: Which schools did well in the student survey and also which schools did well with the employer survey?

GeoffBW: Top 10 in the student survey: 1. Notre Dame; 2. Virginia; 3. Cornell; 4. Emory; 5. Richmond; 6. Texas Christian; 7. North Carolina; 8. MIT; 9. Texas-Austin; 10. Southern Methodist.

Top 10 in the employer survey: 1. Elon; 2. Penn State; 3. Notre Dame; 4. Purdue; 5. Indiana; 6. Michigan; 7. Emory; 8. Cornell; 9. Virginia; 10. Wharton.

spartanhoops : What made Michigan State (Broad) fall out of the top 50?

GeoffBW: Broad is actually number 51. Last year was a very strong employer survey year and this year was not as good. Add that to the fact that a few new schools were added, and it was enough to push the school down one.

minmin1210: Why the big jump for Boston University?

GeoffBW: Strong showing in all of the rankings factors, especially the student survey.

financedad: There is a significant difference in the Bloomberg Businessweek and U.S. News rankings. How do you believe the methodology differs and which do you believe provides a better ranking?

GeoffBW: We’re slightly biased, but the U.S. News undergraduate business schools ranking is based on a survey of deans. Ours uses a more in-depth methodology, surveying students [and] employers and looking at data points that matter to prospective students (and their parents).

jpmatychak: So how does the three-year employer average work for a new school coming into the rankings? Do they have to wait three years?

GeoffBW: For the “missing” two years, new schools are given a number equal to the minimum scoring school for that year.

emine: Is there a significant change in the top 50′s mean SAT, class size, percentage of jobs, and salary?

GeoffBW: Average salary numbers went up a bit, from about $48,000 to $50,000. SAT numbers were about the same.

rrm86: Does having new facilities (buildings and classrooms) factor into the rankings?

GeoffBW: It’s not a specific question on the ranking, but I have observed over the years that new buildings really help to improve student satisfaction. (And for the class that graduates before the new building opens, dissatisfaction for missing out.)

Rmstover: What factor causes the most variability in the rankings each year?

LouisBW: Probably the recruiter survey. It really depends on which recruiters answer the survey in any given year.

minmin1210: Why did Boston College jump back into the top 10?

GeoffBW: Strong salary numbers, high academic quality, and a lot of feedback from employers.

LouG: Who is new to the list this year, and who fell off?

LouisBW: No new schools are in the top 50, although there are a few below that: University of Miami, University of Connecticut, Seattle, John Carroll, Rochester Institute of Technology, Chapman, Texas-Dallas, Florida State, Loyola Marymount, Bradley, St. Louis, Auburn, St. Thomas, Florida International, Hofstra, and Utah.

bschooladvisor: Elon is ranked No. 1 by employers but only No. 43 overall? What was the employer response rate and how do you explain Elon’s meteoric rise?

GeoffBW: We heard from about 250 employers, overall, for a 34 percent response rate. Elon’s “meteoric” rise was based on a very positive employer response. Academic quality and overall student satisfaction brings Elon down a bit.

emine: Will you rank international undergraduate programs (for example, Canadian)?

GeoffBW: We don’t at the moment. It’s hard because not as many high school students look to other countries for a college. Also, when you bring European programs into the mix, the format is quite different.

LizJ: Who was ranked No. 1 for internships?

LouisBW: Northeastern, with Butler not far behind.

Clovallo: How many undergraduate recruiters and graduating seniors were surveyed?

GeoffBW: We heard from about 28,000 students and 250 employers. The response rate from both was about 32-34 percent.

Scribe: How did student sentiment about the economy come across in the rankings?

GeoffBW: I’m not sure if it came through in the rankings themselves, but I’ve read through many student comments over the past few weeks and the student sentiment is much more positive and optimistic than it has been in the past few years. That helps with student satisfaction, no doubt. Also, the number of students who had received a job offer is up.

LizJ: What accounted for Northeastern’s improved ranking, from 38 to 27?

LouisBW: It did very well on the student survey (No. 29) and ridiculously well on academic quality (No. 12).

BschoolUG801_2: If you only have a 34 percent response rate, don’t you think that is a poor response rate for the employer survey?

GeoffBW: It has been a challenge over the past few years to get employers to divulge their hiring practices. With that in mind, I feel good about the 34 percent and the fact that we received 250 responses.

Jpmatychak: Which 18 schools were left off this year?

GeoffBW: Ball State University, East Tennessee State University, Salisbury University, Worcester Polytech Institute, Belmont University, Clarkson University, Ohio Northern University, Samford University, University of South Florida, University of Vermont, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Creighton, Iona College, SUNY-Geneseo, University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Massachusetts-Boston, University of Michigan-Flint, University of the Pacific.

LJS: What is the minimum response rate from students to qualify for the rankings?

GeoffBW: It’s a moving target based on the size of the school, but the cutoff is usually the overall average. This year, that was 32 percent.

sgreenwfu: Who was ranked No. 1 in academics this year?

GeoffBW: Wake Forest.

DRPJD: What editorial criteria do you use for including student comments in the profiles?

GeoffBW: I read through them all and then choose the ones that mention things that come up a lot. I try to go back and forth between positive and negative.

financedad: How do you define academic quality?

LouisBW: SAT scores, student/faculty ratio, class size, internships, hours spent on classwork each week.

kelleyphd: Is there any judgment exercised on the part of Bloomberg Businessweek staff with any of the ranking or is it solely based on the quantitative scores of the surveys?

GeoffBW: Solely the quantitative scores.

rvrvrvrv: What employment metrics do you use? Percentage of graduating class with job offers?

GeoffBW: We use starting salaries and percentage of students with internships and then the employer survey, of course.

crivas88: Which one has the lowest tuition or best [return on  investment]?

LouisBW: We didn’t conduct an ROI calculation, but the lowest tuition is UMass Amherst: $1,714. That’s misleading though. UMass charges huge fees compared to most other schools, so actual out-of-pocket costs are much higher than that.

ahershat: Are the lists above for the top 10 schools for student satisfaction and recruiter surveys based on just the 2012 rankings or the three year average rankings?

GeoffBW: Those are for the three-year numbers.

mobball7: Can you share the top 10 for internship rankings?

LouisBW: 1. Northeastern; 2. Butler; 3. Washington U.-St. Louis (Olin); 4. Pennsylvania (Wharton); 5. Elon (Love); 6. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper); 7. MIT (Sloan); 8. Wake Forest; 9. North Carolina-Chapel Hill (Kenan Flagler); 10. NYU (Stern).

blakek: From doing these rankings, what have you seen about the evolution of business schools over the past seven years?

GeoffBW: They have become much more focused on outcomes. When we started doing these rankings, it was rare to find a school that required internships and there wasn’t a lot of career training (interviews, resumes, etc). Now it seems like nearly every school offers these kinds of things, and from what I’ve heard, employers are noticing.

blakek: What is something you’ve been hoping to measure that you have not been able to do?

LouisBW: Actual competency. Do students learn anything? Which schools do the best job of imparting actual skills? I’m not sure this can be done.

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