VSB standing falls nine spots

Kelsey Ruane

 Rankings aren’t everything, according to Dean James Danko in reaction to the Villanova School of Business’ new No. 20 spot, down nine from last year, in the Bloomberg BusinessWeek 2010 ranking of undergraduate business programs.”It’s not what it’s all about,” Danko said. “We don’t adapt our strategy according to the rankings.”

All the same, VSB has taken a close look at the breakdown of BusinessWeek’s ranking system in the wake of its unseating from the No. 11 spot. 

Specifically, Danko noted that the only dramatic decrease that could account for VSB’s lower ranking this year is its 22 spot drop in the recruiter survey category, which makes up 20 percent of the overall ranking. 

In this year’s survey, BusinessWeek polled 718 corporate recruiters on which programs they considered the nation’s best and received responses from 236. 

One reason for the drop from 26 to 48 in VSB’s composite recruiter ranking score may be a decreased presence of companies who are well-acquainted with VSB in the survey.

“Many recruiters who knew the quality of our students and filled out the survey in our favor didn’t receive surveys this year,” Danko said, naming Merril Lynch and Lehman Brothers, big recruiters of VSB graduates that no longer exist as independent entities. Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in Sept. 2008, and Bank of America bought out Merril Lynch a few days later.

Danko also disagreed with the fact that BusinessWeek’s ranking system does not factor placement results more significantly.

“When you dig under the recruiter survey rankings, you find that they are not correlated to job placement,” Danko said. “My big point is, you’ve got to put a heavier weight on job placement. To me, that’s the number one thing.”

VSB’s job placement rate is 82 percent, compared with a 56 percent rate at Seattle University, which earned the top spot in the recruiter category.

“I’ll take a lower ranking in exchange for a high placement rate for our students,” Danko said. “I’d rather have placement results through the ceiling than place higher in the rankings.”

Danko speculated that the recruiter surveys might have included more popular West Coast firms, such as Nordstrom and Starbucks, giving smaller schools in the Northeast, like Villanova, a disadvantage when combined with the Wall Street meltdown. In addition, he noted the financial resources of VSB versus that of its competitors.

“Given our financial resources relative to other top 25 schools, VSB does remarkably well,” Danko said. “Notre Dame has a $6 billion endowment.”

Other components of the ranking system are a student survey of graduating seniors, which makes up 30 percent, and an academic quality gauge also worth 30 percent that includes assessment of average SAT scores, the ratio of full-time faculty to students, average class size, the percentage of business majors with internships and the hours students spend every week on schoolwork.

VSB’s ranking remained virtually the same in all other categories, according to Danko. The student satisfaction composite score increased from eight to seven this year.

“The senior student survey has consistently held in the top 10, which indicates that students are happy here,” Danko said.

BusinessWeek began ranking undergraduate business programs in 2006 after prodding from Danko, himself, who talked to three different ranking agencies to make the case for undergraduate rankings. Danko now plans to meet with the BusinessWeek editors again, this time to discuss VSB’s performance this year.

“I guessed we’d be somewhere between 10 and 30, so I guess I hit the nail on the head,” Danko said. “Was I disappointed? Very much so.”

Despite assuring that rankings aren’t the whole story, Danko remains in favor of them, viewing them as an opportunity for improvement regardless of where VSB lands on them.

“We marketed the school aggressively as a No. 11 business school,” Danko said. “Now at No. 20, we will refer to the weakness in the recruiter ranking to work aggressively at expanding opportunities for our students. We will ask our recruiting friends to help us by hiring more Villanova students.”

As Danko prepares for his meeting with BusinessWeek, VSB awaits the delivery of the new No. 20 banner it ordered on Tuesday.

Daina Amorosano contributed reporting to this article.