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Business has been one of the most popular undergraduate degrees for years, and even the pandemic hasn’t changed that. Sure, we may all be working from home, but students with big ideas still dream of becoming entrepreneurs or startup scions, while those with a knack for crunching numbers still want to learn accounting or data analysis.
Since business schools collaborate closely with the working worlds they feed into, in some ways it’s been easier for them to adapt to the pandemic than it has for other academic programs.
“A good business school will mirror in their curriculum what’s happening in practice, and they will also find ways to lead what’s happening in practice,” says Fenwick Huss, dean of the Zicklin School of Business at CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College. “When we think about our curriculum, we first benchmark what we’re teaching against what’s happening in the business community.”
The business world has been forced to innovate in some pretty big ways this year, but business schools are incubators for future leaders, so in some ways, business students are getting a low-pressure glimpse of what’s to come. Students entering business school today can expect to be prepared for a world that’s more virtual, but also more globally connected than ever.
Huss recalled a recent virtual seminar on pandemic business practices in South Korea, for which they were able to Zoom with professionals on the ground in Seoul. In years past they would have gone back and forth over scheduling to fly people to New York, he observed. Today, it’s all seamlessly virtual.
But now that the world has changed, should students reconsider what to look for in potential business programs? According to Huss, “the big three areas of knowledge, delivery, and community” are still all-important when it comes to making a choice, even if their parameters may have shifted a bit this year.
Students should still be evaluating the knowledge a faculty brings to the table, as well as looking closely at the delivery method (still largely virtual this year) to see if it meets their needs. But the third — community — is potentially the most crucial when it comes not only to business schools but to any school experience.
“Students don’t come to you just to have skills poured into their brain,” said Huss. “They come to school to build relationships.”
Based on affordability, average salaries for business majors, and the number of students studying business topics, these colleges have some of the strongest business offerings in our Best Colleges ranking this year. Here’s a breakdown of the top 10, including what students can expect to pay for a degree and earn afterwards, and what they should be looking for in a business program, especially in these uncertain times. See the full list of best business colleges here.
1. CUNY Bernhard M. Baruch College
- Estimated price with average grant: $4,300
- Average student debt: $11,500
- Early career earnings of business majors: $55,500
With a student body as diverse as New York City itself, and a home right in the middle of downtown Manhattan, Baruch College has a lot to offer business majors. Three-quarters of its 15,000 undergraduates study at the Zicklin School of Business, drawn in by its location, its promise of real-life training in the business world, and its commitment to making connections with potential employers.
2. Babson College
- Estimated price with average grant: $30,900
- Average student debt: $23,250
- Early career earnings of business majors: $64,800
With its one undergraduate degree — a B.S. in business — and plenty of hands-on courses and training programs, Babson College gives students a deep-dive into the business world. But a focus on business doesn’t mean losing sight of students’ other interests: liberal arts and science courses are plentiful, making the entrepreneurs of tomorrow not just successful, but also well-rounded.
3. Bentley University
- Estimated price with average grant: $40,000
- Average student debt: $25,000
- Early career earnings of business majors: $61,800
With its very own trading room, which comes with dual screen monitors and Bloomberg terminals, Bentley University demonstrates its commitment to training future business leaders in the fast-paced world they’ll enter after graduation. Bentley is also a stand-out when it comes to career services, offering counseling and internship placement that leads to students landing high-paying jobs.
4. University of Pennsylvania
- Estimated price with average grant: $27,400
- Average student debt: $19,500
- Early career earnings of business majors: $75,600
With its Ivy League pedigree and a name — Wharton — that is synonymous with the elite, the University of Pennsylvania draws some of the country’s top business leaders and thinkers, allowing students to interact directly with them. A flexible curriculum allows students to study abroad to prepare for the world of international business or start working toward a graduate degree early.
5. Arizona State University-Tempe
- Estimated price with average grant: $14,300
- Average student debt: $20,350
- Early career earnings of business majors: $55,700
A diverse student body and faculty representing six continents give Arizona State University-Tempe’s W. P. Carey School of Business an international edge. Students are encouraged to build teamwork skills through clubs and activities, including Black, Hispanic, and Pan-Asian professional groups and a sports business association. A select few get extra resources and counseling through the Leadership Academy.
6. San Jose State University
- Estimated price with average grant: $15,200
- Average student debt: $15,720
- Early career earnings of business majors: $60,500
With a highly diverse student body and an ideal location right in the middle of Silicon Valley, San Jose State University’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business takes full advantage of its local brain power. It reports that 80% of its students work in Silicon Valley, which means an acceptance here may mean a future job at places like Google, Intel, and Oracle.
7. Indiana University-Bloomington
- Estimated price with average grant: $12,500
- Average student debt: $20,500
- Early career earnings of business majors: $58,800
A 100-year-old business school at a large state university, Kelley School of Business devotes a large chunk of its resources to undergraduate business majors (who make up a majority of its students). A focus on global programs and collaboration prepare students well for the world of business today, and a vast network of alumni — some in positions to hire freshly minted graduates — welcome Hoosiers into the business world after college.
8. Texas A&M University-College Station
- Estimated price with average grant: $20,000
- Average student debt: $18,500
- Early career earnings of business majors: $57,000
A huge school with a truly dizzying array of programs, Texas A&M University-College Station offers its Mays Business School students a strong foundation in the core tenets of the business world, including accounting, finance, and management. For an extra challenge, students can aim for its highly selective Business Honors program, which provides additional leadership opportunities.
9. California State University-Fullerton
- Estimated price with average grant: $8,600
- Average student debt: $15,000
- Early career earnings of business majors: $49,700
A diverse student body and coveted location in Orange County, give California State University-Fullerton’s College of Business and Economics an edge, offering students a path to an affordable degree and a job in southern California’s varied business economy. Several privately funded centers and institutes on campus also give students the chance focus on more specific topics like entrepreneurship, corporate reporting and governance, and even entertainment and hospitality management.
10. University of Georgia
- Estimated price with average grant: $16,200
- Average student debt: $18,750
- Early career earnings of business majors: $57,100
Founded over 100 years ago as the South’s first business school, Terry College at the University of Georgia is a member of the EFMD — a globally connected management development network across 90 countries. Students can tap into this and countless internships and study abroad programs to gain international work experience. If you’re unsure about majoring in business, Terry College smartly encourages non-business students to minor in the subject to enhance their understanding of a variety of business and economic issues.