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The Impact of Campus Scandals on College Applications

37 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2016 Last revised: 10 Nov 2017

Michael Luca

Harvard Business School - Negotiations, Organizations & Markets Unit

Patrick Rooney

Harvard Business School

Jonathan Smith

Georgia State University

Date Written: November 9, 2017

Abstract

In recent years, there have been a number of high profile scandals on college campuses, ranging from cheating to hazing to rape. With so much information regarding a college’s academic and non-academic attributes available to students, how do these scandals affect their applications? To investigate, we construct a dataset of scandals at the top 100 U.S. universities between 2001 and 2013. Scandals with a high level of media coverage significantly reduce applications. For example, a scandal covered in a long-form news article leads to a ten percent drop in applications the following year. This is roughly the same as the impact on applications of dropping ten spots in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings. This impact on applications persists for two years following the high-profile scandal. We find little evidence to suggest that this drop in applications is associated with longer-term negative effects for the school such as a less competitive applicant pool or a more dangerous campus environment.

Keywords: Media Economics, College Choice, Reputation, Economics of Information

Suggested Citation

Luca, Michael and Rooney, Patrick and Smith, Jonathan, The Impact of Campus Scandals on College Applications (November 9, 2017). Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 16-137. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2798756 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2798756

Michael Luca (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School - Negotiations, Organizations & Markets Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Boston, MA 02163
United States

HOME PAGE: http://drfd.hbs.edu/fit/public/facultyInfo.do?facInfo=ovr&facId=602417

Patrick Rooney

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Jonathan Smith

Georgia State University ( email )

GA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/jonathansmithphd/

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