John M. Thomas, dean of the University at Buffalo's School of Management, found some good news in his copy of the Wall Street Journal Wednesday morning.
The business school this year moved up two notches to 13th place in the newspaper's high-profile rankings of the nation's top regional business schools.
"We're very happy about it," said Thomas, who resisted the urge to stay up into the wee hours of Wednesday morning to sneak a peak at the Journal's rankings on the Internet. "There's a lot riding on it."
The rankings, which reflect how corporate recruiters view each school based on 20 different criteria, give Thomas and other UB administrators a notable recruiting tool in the fight to attract top students, as well as faculty. They also help build UB's reputation among recruiters and the business community, he said.
That's important to students like Deneb Pirrone, who expects to wrap up work on his MBA next year. "It makes UB students more attractive to companies," he said as the school passed out cake to students to celebrate the rankings. "It improves the overall impression that recruiters have of the school."
The Journal's rankings break business schools into two categories, one for bigger national schools that have a nationwide reputation and draw recruiters from across the country and a second category for regional schools that attract recruiters mainly from their own region.
UB ranked 13th among the 47 top regional schools, four spots ahead of the University of Rochester's Simon school, the only other upstate school included in the rankings. Purdue University, for the second year in a row, was the top-rated regional business school.
Dartmouth College moved up two spots to knock the University of Michigan out of the top spot in the national category.
Thomas said the Journal's method of separating national and regional schools makes sense, since UB typically competes with other regional schools for most of its students and faculty.
Thomas and other UB administrators anxiously await the Journal's annual rankings. "It's an evaluation of our students and our school and how we prepare them," he said.
But the Journal's survey is just one of many college rankings, and they often produce very different results. UB's business school, for instance, finished in the middle of the pack in a ranking last month by Forbes magazine and wasn't even included in a survey this spring by U.S. News and World Report.
In the Forbes rankings, which rated business schools based on their return on investment, UB placed 48th out of 111 business schools included in the survey.
Forbes' rankings gave UB high marks for the relative value of an MBA from the school, based on a formula that calculates the cost of obtaining a degree, including tuition and foregone income, compared with the salaries students earn during the five years after they graduate.
UB, with its comparatively low tuition, won high marks in terms of payback, with the 2.8 years it took for the higher post-graduation salaries to offset the costs of attending the school ranking as the fourth-fastest recovery. But UB's overall ranking suffered because its average post-graduation salary of $70,000 a year was the lowest among the 60 highest-ranking schools.
The Forbes survey was based on a survey of 25,000 MBA graduates from the Class of 2000.
Another high-profile ranking released in April by U.S. News and World Report magazine didn't include UB among its list of the nation's 88 best business schools.
"It can be confusing. There are so many different rankings," said Katie Sullivan, a first-year MBA student from Amherst who looked at the Journal's ratings while she was researching business schools.
"This one stood out," she said. "The Wall Street Journal rankings reflect what recruiters think."