People tend to associate the term “B-School” with MBA programs, especially those at prestigious universities. But it’s the qualitative distinctions among undergraduate B-Schools that are of more interest to high school students planning to pursue business as a major and career.
A Controversy in Business Education
B-Schools are not vocational schools. Some believe it is a mistake to fetishize job preparation for specific business fields. This orientation might demand more hours from students, but it doesn’t provide well-rounded educations, says Henry Mintzberg, a professor at McGill University who is a critic of the traditional approach to business education. He says it’s wrong to offer vocational subjects like finance and marketing to 18-year-olds. Instead, in support of a humanistic, multidisciplinary model of management education, he states that “The object of undergraduate business education is to educate people, not to give them a lot of functional business stuff.”
A report from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching praises 10 American undergraduate business schools as models for integrating the liberal arts and practical training. One of the institutions is Babson College in Massachusetts. Its president, Leonard A. Schlesinger, says that concrete business skills tend to expire in five years or so as technology changes. History and philosophy, in contrast, provide the kind of contextual knowledge and reasoning skills that are indispensable to success in business.
Since 2003, a prestigious business accreditor, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), has driven business departments to set learning objectives and adjust their curriculums to expose students to the liberal arts. AACSB’s goal is for its member B-School’s to provide what employers want. According to national surveys, they want to hire graduates who can write effectively, think creatively, and analyze problems logically, and they’re perfectly happy to hire English, philosophy, and history majors if that what it takes to satisfy their needs.
Rankings of Undergraduate Business Schools
Business and the related fields of finance, economics, accounting, and management are currently among the most popular areas of study among undergraduates, representing about 20% of enrolled students. Many colleges have developed excellent programs to compete for the best qualified B-School applicants.
As part of their research into which school fits them best, aspiring business majors should review the rankings of undergraduate B-Schools published by two sources: U.S. News and World Report (U.S. News) and Poets&Quants, a resource for business students. A comparison of these two sources is beneficial because their ranking methodologies differ significantly.
- U. S. News: “Best Undergraduate Business Programs”
The U.S. News ranking is based solely on the judgments of deans and senior faculty at peer institutions. They conduct a survey of the undergraduate business programs accredited by the AACSB. In 2022, they surveyed 842 schools and had a 47.7% response rate.
The survey’s respondents – two at each AACSB-accredited program – are asked to rate the quality of the business programs with which they’re familiar on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished). U.S. News then computes an average score for each program. Undergraduate business schools are ranked according to these scores.
- Poets&Quants: “Best Undergraduate Business Schools”
Poets&Quants analyzed 93 business schools this year. Their methodology is more data-driven than that of U.S. News. It assesses what Poets&Quants considers to be the three core components of a high quality undergraduate business education. These are:
- The quality and diversity of students enrolled in a program,
- A school’s ability to nurture and challenge students, and
- The response of top employers to a school’s graduates.
In summary, admissions standards, student experience, and career outcomes are the three aspects of a business school education that Poets & Quants measures.
Comparing the Outcomes of the Methodologies
The results of the U. S. News and Poets&Quants methodologies are compared in Table A, which lists the top 10 institutions under each approach. State universities listed refer to the main campuses. Three ties are indicated on the U.S. News list.
Table A: The Top 10 Undergraduate Business Schools in 2022
|U. S. News||Poets&Quants|
|1||University of Pennsylvania – Wharton||1||University of Pennsylvania – Wharton|
|2||Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Sloan||2||Georgetown University – McDonough|
|2||University of California at Berkeley – Haas||3||University of Southern California – Marshall|
|4||University of Michigan – Ross||4||Washington University of St. Louis – Olin|
|5||Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper||5||University of Virginia – McIntire|
|5||New York University – Stern||6||University of Michigan – Ross|
|7||University of Texas – McCombs||7||New York University – Stern|
|8||Cornell University – Dyson||8||University of Notre Dame – Mendoza|
|8||Indiana University – Kelley||9||Villanova University – VSB|
|10||University of North Carolina – Kenan-Flagler||10||Georgia Institute of Technology – Scheller|
A key factor in the ranking of business schools is admission rates. The rates for 2021-22 were extraordinary. Ten schools reported rates of less than 12%. The previous year, only three schools reported rates under 12% — UPenn’s Wharton with 7.6%, Cornell’s Dyson with 7.9%, and the UNC’s Kenan-Flagler with 11.5%. In 2021-22, Cornell’s rate dropped to 5.4%, Wharton’s fell to 6.0%, NYU’s Stern School had a rate of 7.2%, the Washington University Olin School’s rate was 8.4%, and USC’s Marshall School was 9.9%.
Another important metric is the percentage of students who find suitable employment within three months of graduation. The University of Richmond and Marian University both reported placing 100% of their 2021 graduates into full-time positions. The Miami University of Ohio’s Farmer School and the University of Miami’s Herbert College reported employment rates of 99%. The sky-high rates at these and other schools were boosted by full employment in the U.S. economy.
Starting salaries is also a key measure of a B-School’s efficacy. Wharton led in salaries at first jobs with an average for their graduates of $85,345. Georgetown reported an equally impressive $85,213, making it #2. NYU’s Stern School was #3 with average starting salaries of $81,669.
Finding a Major or Specialty
Students considering a bachelor’s degree in business must not only identify the right school for them, but the right major or specialization as well. The best business schools offer programs that build upon a comprehensive set of survey courses, including liberal arts, and then focus on majors in specific subject areas.
The University of Connecticut’s undergraduate business program, for example, includes majors in Accounting, Business Administration, Business Data Analytics, Management, Finance, Financial Management, Health Care Management, and Management for Engineering & Manufacturing. Other majors commonly available to B-School undergraduates include Marketing, Sales, Human Resources, International Business, Information Systems, Supply Chain Management, Entrepreneurship, Health Care Administration, and Project Management.
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