The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has been named the number one undergraduate business program in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 best college rankings, which were released on Sept. 10. Based in Philadelphia, The Wharton School was the nation's first collegiate business school and was founded in 1881. It has nearly 5,000 students across 10 academic departments, including 2,559 undergrad students in 2018-19.

The other schools that made it into the top five this year are:

  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management and the University of California–Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, tied for second place.
  • The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in fourth (there's no third because of the second-place tie).
  • New York University’s Stern School of Business in fifth.

U.S. News Top 5 Undergraduate Business Programs


Business Program Ranking

Overall University Ranking

Overall Graduation Rate

Overall Student-Faculty Ratio

Overall Selectivity Ranking

University of Pennsylvania Wharton School 1 8 96% 6/1 5

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management

2 (tie) 3 94% 3/1 1

University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business

2 (tie) 22 91% 18/1 19
University of Michigan Ross School of Business 4 27 92% 15/1 39
New York University Stern School of Business 5 30 84% 9/1 32

Source: U.S. News & World Report 2019 Best Colleges

Remarkable Consistency Among Business Programs

If the list seems familiar, it may be because the five highest-listed schools were also in last year’s top five and in much the same order, although Berkeley was tied for third, rather than second. The only significant change to the top five this year is that the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, which was tied for fifth last year, slipped down a notch, to sixth place. 

Ranking Methodology at Issue

Unlike the publication’s overall best colleges rankings, which take into account an assortment of factors, including graduation rates, faculty resources, student test scores and alumni giving, its undergrad business ratings are “based solely on surveys of B-school deans and senior faculty,” U.S. News says. Survey respondents are asked to rank programs they’re familiar with on a scale of one to five.

The overall U.S. News rankings also have an “expert opinion” component – drawing on college presidents, provosts and admissions deans, as well as high school counselors – but it accounts for only 20% of the school’s total score. This subjective element of the U.S. News rankings has been a source of considerable criticism over the years. 

To cite one example, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni argues in his 2015 book “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania,” that “most of these people, when surveyed, aren’t likely to be weighing in with deep and continuously updated knowledge of the entire higher-education landscape. They haven’t been in the classrooms of the colleges they’re grading. They’ve met only a few, if any, of most colleges’ current students and recent graduates.”  What’s more, he continues, “Those who dutifully check the boxes and size up their peer institutions are often going by reputation. And because one of the principal engines of reputation is, well, the U.S. News rankings, there’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at work. Schools are rated highly because they’ve been rated highly before.” 

U.S. News, on the other hand, maintains that, “Academic reputation matters because it factors things that cannot easily be captured elsewhere. For example, an institution known for having innovative approaches to teaching may perform especially well on this indicator, whereas a school struggling to keep its accreditation will likely perform poorly."

Specialty Areas Also Ranked

Using the same methodology, U.S. News also asked the business school deans and faculty members it surveyed to list the 10 best undergraduate business programs in a number of specialty areas. The top five also appeared on many of those lists, but some other schools rated highly as well. Babson College, for example, ranked number one for entrepreneurship; the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business was first for international business; and Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business was on top for supply chain management/logistics. Other specialty areas covered in this year’s rankings include accounting (the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs ranked number one), finance (the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton came in first), management (Michigan’s Ross led the way) and management information systems (MIT’s Sloan was on top). 

How Do the Universities as a Whole Rate Nationally?

All five of the universities with top undergraduate business schools in the estimation of U.S. News also fared well in its overall rankings of best national universities. MIT tied for third place, the University of Pennsylvania tied for eighth, UC Berkeley tied for 22nd, the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor was tied for 27th and NYU tied for 30th. The national universities category encompasses 311 public, private and for-profit colleges. In all, the U.S. News rankings cover more than 1,800 four-year colleges and universities.

The top five national universities overall (six in total, because of ties) were Princeton (first), Harvard (second) and Columbia, MIT, the University of Chicago and Yale (all tied for third).

Other Lists to Consult

U.S. News is the best known and most influential of the college raters. But if you’re shopping for a strong undergraduate business program – or want to see how your own school rates – it’s worth checking out these other lists, too:

The Bottom Line

If you are shopping around for a great undergraduate business program, U.S. News & World Report’s prestigious rankings are worth checking. The publication increases its utility by ranking schools in specialty areas, not just business in general. And it’s reassuring to know that the schools that top the business program list also do pretty well on the list of best universities overall.

Nevertheless, students without the grades, scores, luck or family connections to get into one of these schools should know that there are other options. U.S. News rated a total of 457 undergraduate business programs this year, and there are additional lists to consider as you go about choosing a school that is right for you. (For more, see 4 of Today's Finance Undergraduates Share Their Experiences and Advice.)