A Missouri college has been named best in the nation.  The Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis took the top spot in a new ranking of U.S. undergraduate programs.

Olin School of Business Dean Mark Taylor - Photo courtesy of Washington University

Olin School of Business Dean Mark Taylor – Photo courtesy of Washington University

Business education news outlet Poets & Quants announced Olin was No. 1 in its debut survey of the top 50 programs.

The school’s newly appointed dean, Mark Taylor, says the rankings are good for two reasons.  “One is that it shows balance across the school” said Taylor.   “We’re not just good at one or two things.  We’re actually pretty good at the whole range of things that were measured.  Secondly, it gives us room for improvement.  We can actually go up in each of those categories.”

The Poets & Quants survey equally weighed admission standards, the quality of academic experience judged by recent alumni and employment outcomes. Olin ranked third in the first two categories and 11th in employment outcomes.

Taylor says the employment classification is a bit distorted. “It will look low because it doesn’t account for the cost of living.  So you may get a higher salary in New York.  But your standard of living will be higher here on a slightly lower salary.  Midwestern salaries do tend to be bit lower than California or east coast.”

Graduates of the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania earn the highest starting salaries, averaging $86,000.

In its published story about its business rankings, Poets and Quants mentioned a Washington University graduate, Julian Nicks, who along with his twin brother, was offered a scholarship to the Olin School through the John B. Ervin Scholars Program.  Nicks described the program as “a minority pipeline into the university.”

Taylor says despite the school lofty rating, it’s able to draw students from all walks of life.  “We do strive with all our efforts to be an elite school” said Taylor.  “We are one of the elite business schools of the United States, of the world.  But we never, ever want to be elitist.  Elite, but not elitist.  Students who are thinking about coming here should not be discouraged because their background.”

Just below the St. Louis University in the rankings were business schools at Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown and University of California at Berkeley.

Taylor has only been Dean of the Olin Business School for a week or so.  He credits his predecessor, Mahendra Gupta, along with the school’s staff for its standing.

91 percent of Olin’s 900 undergraduate students were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. They come from 32 states, Puerto Rico and seven countries.

Poets and Quants claims its rankings, which were released Monday and are its first such ratings, are the most thorough, credible and authoritative effort to date.

It says rankings by U.S. News and World Report are solely based on opinion surveys of deans and faculty, which is calls a popularity contest.  It also criticized grading done by Bloomberg Businessweek as being overly weighted on salary outcomes.