Getting on the Front Page: Organizational Reputation, Status Signals, and the Impact of U.S. News and World Report on Student Decisions
- 1.9k Downloads
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.
KeywordsRankings Reputation Status Signaling Organization theory College admissions
Sincere thanks to Jeremy Reisman, Ben Shipper, and Ruth Kallio for research assistance.
- Adelman, C. (1999). Answers in the toolbox: Academic intensity, and Bachelor’s degree attainment. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics.Google Scholar
- Ajzen, I. (1985). From intentions to actions: A theory of planned behavior. In J. Kuhl & J. Beckman (Eds.), Action-control: From cognition to behavior (pp. 11–39). Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
- Allison, P. (2005). Fixed effects regression methods for longitudinal data using SAS. Cary, NC: SAS Institute Inc.Google Scholar
- Bastedo, M. N., & Bowman, N. A. (in press). The U.S. News and World Report college rankings: Modeling institutional effects on organizational reputation. American Journal of Education.Google Scholar
- Bowen, W. G., & Bok, D. (1998). The shape of the river. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Brewer, D. J., Gates, S. M., & Goldman, C. A. (2001). In pursuit of prestige: Strategy and competition in U.S. higher education. Somerset, NJ: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
- College Board. (2002). SAT-ACT score comparisons. Retrieved May 10, 2008, from http://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/act-sat-concordance-tables.pdf.
- Finder, A. (2007, August 17). College ratings race roars on despite concerns. New York Times. Retrieved October 6, 2008, from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/17/education/17rankings.html.
- Frank, R. H., & Cook, P. J. (1996). The winner-take-all society. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
- Garland, J. (2003). Miami University tuition plan: A solution for higher education funding? Excerpted from the 2003 State of the University Address. Oxford, OH: Miami University.Google Scholar
- Higher Education Research Institute. (2007). College rankings and college choice: How important are college rankings in students’ college choice process? Los Angeles, CA: Author.Google Scholar
- Jencks, C., & Phillips, M. (1998). The black-white test score gap. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
- Karabel, J. (2005). The chosen. New York: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
- Machung, A. (1998). Playing the rankings game. Change, 30(4), 12–16.Google Scholar
- Marklein, M. B. (2007, April 9). Race, wealth affect significance given to college rankings. USA Today. Retrieved October 3, 2007, from http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2007-04-09-college-rankings_N.htm.
- Miami University. (2008). Miami’s Ohio Scholarship program: Program specifics. Retrieved February 4, 2008, from http://www.miami.muohio.edu/ohioscholarships/specifics.cfm.
- Monks, J., & Ehrenberg, R. G. (1999). The impact of U.S. News & World Report college rankings on admissions outcomes and pricing policies at selective private institutions (Working Paper #7227). Washington, DC: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
- Nettles, M. T., & Perna, L. W. (1997). The African American education data book: Volume III: The transition from school to college school to work. Washington, DC: Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute of the College Fund/UNCF.Google Scholar
- Olson, J. C. (1977). Price as an information cue: Effects on product evaluations. In A. G. Woodside, J. N. Sneth, & P. D. Bennett (Eds.), Consumer and industrial buying behavior (pp. 267–286). New York: North Holland.Google Scholar
- Podolny, J. M. (2005). Status signals: A sociological study of market competition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Riper, T. V. (2007, January 19). America’s most expensive colleges. Forbes. Retrieved December 10, 2007, from http://www.forbes.com/2007/01/19/most-expensive-colleges-biz-cx_tvr_0119college.html.
- Rossi, L. (2007, January 23). Grinnell stuns students with unusual tuition jump. Des Moines Register. Retrieved December 13, 2007, from http://www.topcolleges.com/news32.html.
- Sauer, S. J., Thomas-Hunt, M. C., & Morris, P. A. (2008). Too good to be true? The unintended signaling effects of educational prestige on external expectations of team performance. Unpublished paper, Cornell University.Google Scholar
- Spence, A. M. (1974). Market signaling. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Steinberg, J. (2002). The gatekeepers: Inside the admissions process of a premier college. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
- Stevens, M. L. (2007). Choosing a class: College admissions and the education of elites. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Thacker, L. (2005). College unranked: Ending the college admissions frenzy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- University of Richmond. (2005). University of Richmond strategic plan: A five-year status report. 2000–2005. Richmond, VA: Author.Google Scholar
- Washington, M., & Zajac, E. J. (2005). Status evolution and competition: Theory and evidence. Academy of Management Journal, 48, 282–296.Google Scholar