Research in Higher Education

, Volume 50, Issue 5, pp 415–436

Getting on the Front Page: Organizational Reputation, Status Signals, and the Impact of U.S. News and World Report on Student Decisions


DOI: 10.1007/s11162-009-9129-8

Cite this article as:
Bowman, N.A. & Bastedo, M.N. Res High Educ (2009) 50: 415. doi:10.1007/s11162-009-9129-8


Recent studies have suggested that a causal link exists between college rankings and subsequent admissions indicators. However, it is unclear how these effects vary across institutional type (i.e., national universities vs. liberal arts colleges) or whether these effects persist when controlling for other factors that affect admissions outcomes. Using admissions data for top-tier institutions from fall 1998 to fall 2005, we found that moving onto the front page of the U.S. News rankings provides a substantial boost in the following year’s admissions indicators for all institutions. In addition, the effect of moving up or down within the top tier has a strong impact on institutions ranked in the top 25, especially among national universities. In contrast, the admissions outcomes of liberal arts colleges—particularly those in the lower half of the top tier—were more strongly influenced by institutional prices.


RankingsReputationStatusSignalingOrganization theoryCollege admissions

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Social ConcernsUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary EducationUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA