How Accounting Programs Stack Up

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Even if it's been years since you graduated, it's always fun to find out how your alma mater did in U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges 2010" ranking.

For accounting, this year's top-ranked undergraduate schools are:

1. University of Texas-Austin

2. University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

3. Brigham Young University-Provo

4. University of Pennsylvania

5. University of Southern California

6. Indiana University-Bloomington

7. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

8. University of Notre Dame

9. New York University

10. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

The top 10 graduate accounting programs are:

1. University of Texas-Austin (McCombs)

2. University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)

3. University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

4. University of Chicago (Booth)

5. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (Ross)

6. University of Southern California (Marshall)

7. Stanford University

8. Brigham Young University (Marriott)

9. New York University (Stern)

10. Indiana University-Bloomington (Kelley)

Schools Game the System

If your school didn't make the cut, you may want to blame it on dishonest college administrators and cite Inside Higher Ed's behind-the-scenes story about the way schools attempt to manipulate the rankings.

After filing public records requests with state universities, Inside Higher Ed had this to say about the peer assessment that constitutes 25 percent of a school's rating:

"Long a sore spot for many critics, the peer assessment survey for U.S. News & World Report's annual college rankings has been subjected to especially tough scrutiny since June, when an official at Clemson revealed that her bosses, as part of a larger strategy to propel the university up the rankings, had regularly given low scores on the 'reputational' survey to other universities to make Clemson look better."

And really, who can blame the provost at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who rated his own institution and the New School as "distinguished" while rating the Ivy League schools "adequate"?

All this leads us to wonder how accounting programs would be ranked in the best of all possible worlds. By CPA exam passing rates? Number of students who finish in five years? Proportion working in accounting a year or even five years after graduation?

Supposing you could access any data, what information would you use to do the ranking?

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