, Volume 50, Issue 5, pp 415-436
Date: 24 Feb 2009

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

Abstract

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.

An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Louisville, KY, November 2007.