The University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business slid out of the 25 top business schools in BusinessWeek magazine's latest survey of the nation's top master's of business administration programs.
The school dropped to 27 from its 22 spot two years ago in the survey, published in the magazine's Oct. 2 issue.
The Smith School received low marks for its career placement offerings from recent students and recruiters, ranking fourth-worst among the top 30 schools in the survey.
The survey also found that graduates question the value of the master's degree they received from the university.
"We're talking about old news," said the dean of the school, Howard Frank. "We're overhauling the career center; we brought in an assistant dean, Richard Feldman ... [with a] background in human resources and as a principal in a search firm."
The latest survey, Frank said, "doesn't reflect the kind of information we have."
Frank pointed to the highest application rate ever to the program - 2,000 applicants for 200 spots - and a 94 percent job acceptance rate within 90 days of graduation. He also said the school hired 19 new faculty members and lost none.
The average post-MBA salary for Smith School graduates was $86,000, up from $74,000 last year, Frank said. BusinessWeek's median salary for the school's graduates was $105,000.
Surveys differ, Frank said, based on what is counted as salary, including stock options and bonus packages.
BusinessWeek e-mailed questionnaires to 16,483 business school graduates of the class of 2000, with 10,039 responding. The magazine, working with a consulting group on the survey, also sent questionnaires to 419 companies that actively recruit MBAs, with 247 responding.
The No. 1 school in the survey - the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business - has held the top spot since 1994.
A Smith School class of 1998 alumna, Juliana E. Davies, said: "I'm a little upset [about the survey] and very surprised about the comments on the career center."
But Davies said she did notice some disorganization at the school's placement office.
As manager of operations for Blackboard Inc., an online distance-learning venture in Washington, she offered to take interns from the Smith School a few months ago, but no one from the career placement center responded to her offer.
"I was a little disappointed," Davies said. "We were willing to take on interns."
Frank said BusinessWeek's data on the school are six to nine months out of date - but he and his staff will still have to combat the perceptions the survey will fuel for the next two years.
"You cannot deny these surveys have impact," Frank said. "You've got to take them seriously, but you also have to recognize each one has their own serious flaws and their own readership."