Research in Higher Education

, Volume 60, Issue 6, pp 870–904 | Cite as

The Lure of Academic and Social Reputations Versus Athletic Success: Influences on Enrollment Yield at NCAA Division I Institutions

  • D. Randall SmithEmail author


Colleges and universities face pressure to maintain enrollments in a time of demographic shifts in the college-going population and reductions in state funding. One indicator of successfully maintaining enrollments is the percentage of accepted students who matriculate—the enrollment yield. Factors known to contribute to yield include school size, cost, research, and reputation. Of interest in the present study is the import of academic reputation as measured by U. S. News and World Report rankings and social reputation as measured by designation as a ‘party school’ relative to accomplishments of the school’s high-profile athletic teams. I use a 21 year panel to model yield for all institutions competing at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics. The results show that yield rates consistently respond to USNWR rankings, but being named a party school has a more sporadic influence. Athletic success has little effect on a school’s enrollment yield. The findings suggest that the signals sent by academic rankings are stronger and better received than the signals sent by social or sports accomplishments.


Enrollment yield College rankings Intercollegiate athletics Enrollment management 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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