By MATTHEW BRODSKY, senior editor/Web editor of Risk & Insurance®
Let's not have a drum roll. Let's not hesitate over the envelope for dramatic effect. Let's announce the winners of the 2011 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Specialty Rankings for undergraduate insurance and risk management programs now and not keep you waiting.
In order from No. 1 to No. 10, the winners this year are: the University of Pennsylvania, University of Georgia, Georgia State University, University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois, New York University, Temple University, University of Texas, Florida State University and the University of South Carolina.
A little change happened on the way to the rankings this year. In last year's rankings, the top two programs--the Quakers of Wharton and the Bulldawgs of the Terry College of Business--held the same order. But the next three schools in the rankings changed from last year to this year; No. 3 last year being a tie between Illinois and Wisconsin, while No. 5 being NYU.
(We were only able to access the top 5 from last year, by the way, because U.S. News charges a minimum of $299 to access the complete rankings archive. The rankings are a valuable franchise, not just a resource to students, parents and educators.)
Perhaps this year's rankings are more surprising by which programs are not in it than the order of those in it.
"I will say that many of the schools I would expect to be in the top 10 in terms of the quality of their risk management and insurance programs appear in this," Roger L. Andrews, director of risk management at E. D. Bullard Co. and chairman of the Spencer Educational Foundation, told Risk & Insurance® in an e-mail. The foundation provides scholarships to risk management students.
"I am surprised that some schools I would expect to appear in the top 10 are absent," Andrews also wrote.
Should those left-out insurance and risk management programs feel too aggrieved? As the Harvards, Princetons and Yales of the world fight for the coveted overall No. 1 spot, should risk and insurance departments do the same for this subcategory ranking?
Perhaps not. It appears the "best undergraduate business programs" contest has a far less complex methodology than the overall college rankings, which are based on an alchemy of statistics and opinions. For the business specialties, U.S. News surveyed deans and senior faculty at each accredited undergraduate business program, asking in the process for nominations for best business specialties, such as insurance and risk management. The rankings then are based on these mentions. And that appears it.
The main U.S. News college rankings have come under fire of late. As detailed in a recent MSNBC article, there's even a nonprofit called the Education Conservancy formed to fight commercialism in college admissions. The group attacked the rankings in a 2007 letter signed by 65 college presidents who declared their intent not to cooperate with U.S. News.
Still, the rankings might be useful and worth noting. Getting a little attention for a niche like insurance and risk management education can only be beneficial.
"Overall, with the growing interest and emphasis on risk management, I believe it is important to direct some attention to the schools that have great programs," Andrews said.
Programs that make the list can point to the accomplishment as recognition of their efforts, for what it's worth. The program at Georgia State University, which jumped three spots to No. 3 this year, prides itself on innovation in its curriculum and the launch of its Center for the Economic Analysis of Risk (CEAR) last year.
"I would say that we pay attention to them but we try not. We try to drive our own boat and sort of view the rankings as ... they're somewhat of a lagging indicator of program quality," said Richard D. Phillips, professor and chair of the Risk Management and Insurance Department at GSU's J. Mack Robinson College of Business.
Will Phillips' program use its ranking to recruit new students? More important for students who are going to drop tens of thousands of dollars for a degree, said Phillips, is information on the program's faculty and its fields of study, as well as stats on where and how well graduates get placed.
"I think those things matter a whole lot more," he said.
August 31, 2010
Copyright 2010© LRP Publications