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An interactive chart of BusinessWeek's rankings of undergraduate business schools since 2006. Related article: Wharton falls in rankings

The Wharton School dropped from third to fourth place in BusinessWeek’s 2010 Undergraduate Business Programs rankings.

The school took third place last year after holding the top spot for three years in a row.

For 2010 the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business received the highest ranking, followed by the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce in second and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management in third.

Wharton representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Steven Goodman, an educational consultant based in Washington, D.C., compared business school rankings to Major League Baseball.

“The number one thing that’s worth pointing out is that the Yankees don’t always win the World Series,” he said. “That doesn’t change the fact that the Yankees are the premier baseball franchise. Wharton is not always going to be number one in every survey every year.”

However, Goodman added, Wharton’s reputation will be affected if it is ranked the same way several years in a row.

Still, some experts say a one-place drop is inconsequential.

“Overall, a drop from 3 to 4 does not seem significant — it’s clearly one of the best B schools in the country with an A+ reputation for getting kids jobs and is ranked #1 in academic quality — if I were looking, that’s the ranking I’d be paying attention to and Wharton IS #1,” Michele Hernandez, president of Hernandez College Consulting, wrote in an e-mail.

Goodman said rankings are often tied to perception of quality, and Wharton “should take it as a warning signal that nothing is as rosy as everybody would like it to be.”

BusinessWeek’s ranking scheme takes into consideration job placement after graduation, student and recruiter surveys and average starting salaries, among other factors.

Wharton received an A-plus for both teaching quality and job placement and an A in facilities and services. Mendoza and McIntire received A-pluses in these categories.

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