Author: David Dodson
Contact: Robert T. Sumichrast

Published

In BusinessWeek's newest ranking of undergraduate business programs, the Terry College of Business and UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School are the highest ranked public business schools in the Southeast.

Terry's high placement among publics wasn't the result of a narrow survey or niche category that just happened to fit one of the college's particular strengths. Rather it was a broad-based measure of student satisfaction, starting salaries, graduate school placement, reputation among corporate recruiters, and five measures of academic quality and rigor.

The BusinessWeek ranking, announced at the end of February, is the latest measure to quantify the often anecdotal picture that Terry College faculty paint of rising student quality. External perceptions, by their nature, are slower to change, with a school's national reputation being the last link to fall into place.

But Dean Robert Sumichrast said he's convinced the needle can be moved. He views Terry's regional preeminence as a door opening to wider national prominence. "We have reason to believe that we will achieve much higher collegewide rankings because we have already achieved such prominent rankings in a range of more specialized areas."

Just since the start of the year, the college has been alerted to Top 5 national rankings for research productivity, exam pass rates, and bang for the buck. To wit:

  • The management information systems faculty is ranked second nationally for scholarly productivity in its field. The ranking is based on a calculation of the number of professors a college has in an academic discipline like information systems, the number of books and research articles they have written, the number of times other scholars have cited them, and the awards, honors and grant dollars they have received. The ranking is part of the third annual Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index, which its developer claims to be the only objective measure of faculty productivity that assesses an institution's research strength without using reputational surveys.
  • Undergraduates in the Tull School of Accounting scored the fifth highest rate of passing the CPA exam on their first attempt, according to the most recent figures from the National Association of the State Boards of Accountancy. The Tull School's 72 percent pass rate for bachelor's degree graduates who sat for the exam narrowly trailed the University of Texas for the top pass rate, which was 77 percent. The national average for first-time pass rates is between 20 to 30 percent.
  • The Terry MBA program was judged by the Financial Times of London to have the third best "value for the money" of any U.S. business school. The Times, which released its 2008 Global MBA rankings in January, measured value by calculating the salary earned by alumni three years after graduation and comparing it against the overall cost to enroll, including tuition and fees and the "opportunity cost" of not working for the duration of the full-time program. Overall, the full-time Terry MBA program moved up in the Financial Times ranking and is again ranked a top 50 U.S. business school.

Then there's the college's fixed position as a Top 5 program in both Risk Management and Real Estate. Last year, U.S. News and World Report ranked both programs second in the country to the Wharton School. This year, Risk Management and Insurance repeated its second place ranking and Real Estate was third.

Mixed in with all of this, it's easy to be reminded that many business school deans would rather ignore the rankings altogether if they could. Others are quick to question their methodology. But not Sumichrast. He acknowledges their flaws, too, but believes the rankings and college guides generally serve a functional purpose in the education marketplace.

"Strictly speaking, our goal is not to be ranked high by one magazine or another," he said. "Our goal is to offer quality educational programs. But there is a correlation between the quality of your programs and your place in the rankings. You can use rankings to increase the quality of your programs. As you move up the rankings, it's easier to get funding and you can attract better students and faculty. In that way, rankings can be helpful."