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The Wharton degree of Mar Roxas II
By Elson T. Elizaga

First, Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte said Mar Roxas II is not a graduate of Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. When rappler.com and the Philippine Daily Inquirer confirmed the degree, the mayor changed his statement a bit: Roxas took an undergraduate course in Wharton, not an MBA, so Roxas is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, but not of Wharton.

Two webpages support this view and suggest that the undergrad course taken by Mar Roxas at Wharton School is a small achievement. One writer states that it is not even economics: "Mr. Roxas, no self-respecting presidential candidate will consider 4 years in high school [at Ateneo de Manila University] and 3 years in [Wharton] college a 'background in economics'."

Apparently, the writer has little idea about the quality of students and education at Wharton. Undergrads at Wharton are sought after by many firms. They are recruited even while they are still studying and offered exceptionally high salaries. Consider this excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on Wharton:

"Wharton undergraduate students fare well in the recruitment process, with many leading firms conducting on-campus interviews. In 2013, 407 employers participated in the on-campus recruiting process; each student received an average of 12 interviews.[42] More than 60% of Wharton's typical undergraduate class of 600 students go into financial services, with the top sectors being investment banking, sales and trading, investment management, and the buy side. The next most common industry after investment banking is management consulting, which hires approximately 30% of the students. A number of students enter marketing, sales, and the technology industry, particularly in Silicon Valley.[42]

"In 2013, Wharton undergraduate students earned an average first-year compensation of $103,820, including an average starting base salary of $67,986, an average signing bonus of $9,311, and an average annual bonus of $26,523. These figures were the highest of any undergraduate business program in the United States.[43] The top starting base salaries reported by students, not taking additional compensation into account, were $110,000 in finance, $100,000 in management consulting, $112,000 in marketing, $100,000 in general management and $96,000 in real estate.[42]"

One can take this excerpt with a grain of salt. Wikipedia, after all, states the entire article contains promotional material. Also, the figures in the excerpt are for 2013 only and may not be applicable to Roxas, because Roxas graduated from Wharton in 1979. Is it possible the quality of Wharton education then was dismal and Roxas failed to find a job?

To find the answer, I checked the Wikipedia entry on Roxas and found this:

"After graduation, he [Roxas] worked for seven years as an investment banker in New York, and became an assistant vice president of the New York-based Allen & Company. Following the 1985 announcement by President Ferdinand Marcos of a snap election, he took a leave of absence to join the presidential campaign of Corazon Aquino.

"In September 1986, President Corazon Aquino went to the United States. He [Roxas] was one of those who organized a series of investment round-table discussions with the American business community. From 1986 onwards, he visited the Philippines more frequently.

"He then proposed to his company to set up shop in Asia, specifically in the Philippines, and later his superiors agreed. In 1991, he was stationed in the country under North Star Capitals, Inc. which took Jollibee public. In the United States, he participated in the first financing of Discovery Channel and Tri-Star Pictures."

How reliable are these bits of information? Wikipedia is a "free-access, free-content Internet encyclopedia", as many of us know. Most people still have the impression that Wikipedia articles are generally inaccurate. But there is a way to discover if the claims are true. Nowadays, Wikipedia contains lots of referential footnotes. Check the footnotes. In the entry on Wharton, for example, read the contents of footnotes 42 and 43. Read other sources and keep an open mind.

Finally, a disclaimer. This article does not endorse the political campaign of Roxas or other candidates. Whether a person is fit to be president of the Philippines because of a degree from Wharton, Yale or Xavier is another matter. What I'm trying to do is demonstrate that Wharton is different. There is no basis for concluding that because a student has spent only three years in Wharton, and because Philippine education requires four years of college, then that person's degree in Wharton must be non-existent.Black square indicates end of article.


On Dec. 18, 2015 the director of the media relations of Wharton School wrote a reply to Elson T. Elizaga's email:

The word “graduate” and “alumnus” are synonymous. Wharton offers both undergraduate and MBA degrees. Mr. Roxas received a Wharton undergraduate degree. An undergraduate degree is a pre-requisite for admission to nearly all accredited graduate schools including those that bestow an MBA. The University of Pennsylvania Registrar confirmed Mr. Roxas’ Wharton degree as follows:

  • Name: Manuel "Mar" A. Roxas II
  • Wharton Undergraduate degree: Bachelor of Science in Economics, 1979
  • Major: Finance

Thank you.

Peter Winicov Director, Media Relations
The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania



Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte and former interior secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II are running for the position of president of the Philippines in the May 2016 election. Other candidates are vice-president Jejomar Binay, Sr., senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, and senator Grace Poe.

The author was information officer of the Department of Trade and Industry of Region 10 from 1989 to 1997.

Published December 16, 2015. Updated February 15, 2016.
Copyright © Elson T. Elizaga