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Behind the BusinessWeek Rankings


To find top undergraduate business programs, we used student surveys, starting salaries, and a variety of other measures

To identify the top undergraduate business programs, BusinessWeek uses a methodology that includes nine measures of student satisfaction, post-graduation outcomes, and academic quality.

This year, we started with 137 programs that were eligible for ranking, including virtually all of the schools from our 2008 ranking plus 10 new schools that met our eligibility requirements. In November, with the help of Cambria Consulting in Boston, we asked more than 85,000 graduating seniors at those schools to complete a 50-question survey on everything from the quality of teaching to recreational facilities. Overall, 23,756 students responded to the survey, a response rate of 27%.

The results of the 2009 student survey are then combined with the results of two previous student surveys—from 2008 and 2007—to arrive at a student survey score for each school. The 2009 survey supplies 50% of the score; the two previous surveys supply 25% each.

Corporate Recruiters

In addition to surveying students, BusinessWeek polled 580 corporate recruiters for companies that hire thousands of business majors each year. We asked them to tell us which programs turn out the best graduates, and which schools have the most innovative curriculums and most effective career services. In the end, 194 recruiters responded, a response rate of about 33%.

The results of the 2009 recruiter survey are then combined with the results of two previous recruiter surveys—from 2008 and 2007—to calculate a recruiter survey score for each school. The 2009 survey supplies 50% of the score; the two previous surveys supply 25% each.

To learn which schools' students land the best-paying jobs, we asked each institution to tell us the median starting salary for their most recent graduating class. In addition, we drew on our 2004, 2006, and 2008 MBA surveys to create a "feeder school" measure showing which schools send the most grads to the 35 top MBA programs identified in previous BusinessWeek rankings.

Finally, we created an academic quality gauge of five equally weighted measures. From the schools themselves, we obtained average SAT scores, the ratio of full-time faculty to students, and average class size. The student survey supplied the percentage of business majors with internships and the hours students spend every week on school work.

Response Rate Counts

Before determining the final ranking, we first had to review each school's response rates on the student and recruiter surveys. Of the 137 programs that were eligible for ranking, a total of 36 were eliminated. Thirteen were eliminated for low response rates in the student survey: Auburn University, Florida State University, Howard University, Loyola College Maryland, Mercer University, Rochester Institute of Technology, State University of New York (SUNY) Buffalo, University of Alabama, University of Central Florida, University of Georgia, University of Hawaii, University of the Pacific, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

A further 17 were cut for low response rates in the recruiter survey: Butler University, Clarkson University, Creighton University, East Tennessee State University, Illinois State University, Ohio Northern University, Seattle University, Seton Hall University, SUNY Geneseo, St. Louis University, The College of New Jersey, Tulane University, University of Denver, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, University of Vermont, and West Virginia University. An additional six schools were eliminated because of low response rates on both surveys: California Lutheran University, Elon University, Iona College, Pacific Lutheran University, University of Tulsa, and University of Utah.

For the 101 schools remaining, the student survey score counts for 30% of the final ranking, with the recruiter survey score contributing 20%. Starting salaries and the MBA feeder school measure contribute 10% each. The academic quality measure supplies the remaining 30%.

Lavelle is an associate editor at BusinessWeek.

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