After falling in a recent business school ranking, the McDonough School of Business has taken steps to address relatively low student satisfaction rates by forming student focus groups commissioned to pinpoint the problems.

The MSB dropped eight spots this year in BusinessWeek’s ranking of the top 100 undergraduate business programs in the country from last year’s 11th place to this year’s 19th place ranking.

Two MSB officials said the school is beginning to evaluate a major cause of the drop, a significantly lower ranking among surveyed seniors. The school’s survey rank plummeted 24 spots from 15th place last year to 39th this year.

The calculation of the overall quality of an undergraduate business program is based on an “index number” of 1 to 100 that is derived from sources of both quantitative and qualitative data. The MSB scored a 75.4 for its index number.

The student survey ranking makes up 30 percent of the index score.

The MSB scored highly in certain quantitative categories, ranking second for the mean starting salary value for graduates and fourth as an MBA feeder school. Yet for academic quality, judged by average of SAT and ACT scores of students, faculty-student ratios, class size, the percentage of students with internships and the average number of hours that students spend on class work each week, Georgetown ranked 23rd.

Qualitative data was compiled from surveys of both recruiters and graduating seniors. Georgetown received an A+ for teaching quality, a B for job placement and a C for facilities and service.

But the MSB does provide its students with several perks not available to other students at Georgetown, including 1,000 free page prints per semester, an e-mail system separate from the rest of the university with greater storage capacity and a technology lab offering daily walk-in hours for computer assistance.

J. Michael Schaub, executive director of the MBNA Career Center, also said in an interview in November that most job opportunities through the center tend to be business-related.

After statisticians compiled the 50-question surveys administered to graduating seniors, BusinessWeek staff editor Geoff Gloeckler said in an e-mail that it was a dip in student satisfaction that mostly accounted for the ranking drop.

“In terms of why Georgetown dropped eight spots, it’s a combination of two things. First, student satisfaction declined. In 2007, Georgetown ranked 15th overall in the student survey. This year it was 39th,” he said.

He said that Georgetown was still close in a number of categories to schools right above it.

“The other factor is the other schools ranked around Georgetown doing slightly better or worse in one category or another. If you look at the index numbers for the schools ranked around Georgetown, there are 14 within five points,” he said.

SB Associate Dean Janet Richert confirmed that BusinessWeek informed the university that low student satisfaction contributed most to the decline.

“The student survey ranking is where we saw the decline,” she said. “The only thing [BusinessWeek] has told us is that the decline in student satisfaction was related to facilities and services and job placement.”

Raymond Cooper, MSB associate dean of marketing, communication and strategic initiatives, said that the school will seek to first identify and then address the issues raised in the student surveys.

“We will take a closer look at the data. We don’t know what the source is, but there does appear to be a level of dissatisfaction with something other than facilities,” he said. “So we will initiate an effort to understand the `other’ category and what are the sources that result in these student numbers. . There are no solutions until we know the problem.”

Gloeckler said the survey’s “other” category does not factor into a school’s ranking but merely serves as a place to provide comments on the school. The comments are not released to the public.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School ranked number one this year for the second consecutive year, followed by the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce and University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

Richert said the dean’s office is planning to form student focus groups in order to investigate the cause of the student dissatisfaction in the survey.

“We don’t get much information from BusinessWeek regarding what goes into the ranking,” she said. “So we are creating focus groups with students to understand the issues. We will let the students facilitate these groups.”

The first focus group met on Tuesday evening, Richert said. She said a survey system will be implemented after the focus groups complete their work in order to make the school more responsive to student concerns.

University Provost James O’Donnell said he believes the business school will soon move up in the rankings because of a new curricular working group and the construction of the new business school building, which is slated to be completed next year.

“The school is on a good track and has just appointed a working group to review the undergraduate curriculum,” he said. “A new building will open in a year or so, and I think that you’ll see a lot of energy and optimism, and people will fairly recognize that MSB is indeed the premier program we’ve always known it to be.”

Richert said she also believes the new business school building will offer more opportunities for students as well as have a positive effect on its ranking.

“The new building will add a great deal of value to the educational experience of our undergrads. As you know, there are many factors that go into the rankings, but we hope that student opinion will be high,” she said.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.