An Enron Factor at Top Business Schools

The Enron scandal factors in a current report on America’s leading undergraduate business schools as identified in a BusinessWeek survey, and that bane of the accounting profession is also part of the thinking at some of those top schools.


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In its first ever ranking of undergraduate business schools, based on criteria that include academic standards and intangible qualities like the learning atmosphere on campus, and the value that their graduates command in the job market, BusinessWeek ranks the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School number one, followed by the University of Virginia’s McIntire School, Notre Dame University’s Mendoza, and the Sloan School at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For a full list visit http://bwnt.businessweek.com/bschools/undergraduate/06rankings.

In discussing the significance of the rankings, the report notes that in the face of the job market’s strong demand for business professionals, students considering business school typically choose programs based on the academic reputation of the entire university but may overlook just how the institutes’ business schools compare. It also notes that the market for financial professionals is being fueled by factors that include: Sarbanes-Oxley law of 2002, enacted in the wake of the Enron scandal, a backlash against offshoring jobs, and companies making up for a lag in hiring after the terrorist attacks in 2001.

Daniel Short, dean of the number 33-ranked Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University, seconded the thought about the accounting scandals’ impact. “Thanks to Enron, one of the most popular majors these days is accounting. Students have realized there are great opportunities, that they can go into an organization with an accounting degree and make a difference,” he says in an interview with the Dallas Morning News.

“Kids have made the leadership connection – that if the accounting is not done correctly, you wind up with the 'Enrons' of the world,” he adds. Indeed, the BusinessWeek report includes discussion of the top business schools' ability to cultivate leaders and to get students involved in business processes.

At the number nine ranked Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University, Steven Albrecht, an associate dean, said that his school has been acting to make students “more pro active in the (accounting) profession” because of the increased demand for audit services created by Enron and the Sarbanes-Oxley law. He commented in a survey conducted last year by the accounting profession marketing and research firm, Bay Street Group.

The Bay Street Group survey found that a high percentage of business school leaders felt that shortcomings in how their schools teach ethics and real world business matters may have contributed to Enron and the other scandals. That study last year also found that business schools have been expanding their courses and extracurricular offerings to make students more aware of some of the issues that Enron brought to the surface.

The BusinessWeek survey concurs, noting, “Under increased pressure from students and recruiters, business schools have revamped their offerings, putting more emphasis on specialized classes, real-world experience, and soft skills such as leadership. Once a refuge for students with poor grades and modest ambitions, many undergraduate business programs now get MBA-like respect.”
~JC


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