The Impact of Highly Publicized Campus Scandals on College Outcomes

17 Pages Posted: 22 May 2019

See all articles by Patrick Rooney

Patrick Rooney

Harvard Business School

Jonathan Smith

Georgia State University

Date Written: July 2019


Recently, many high‐profile scandals have occurred on college campuses. How might scandals affect colleges' outcomes? To investigate, we construct a dataset of scandals at the top 100 U.S. universities from 2001 to 2013. We find that scandals with significant media coverage substantially reduce applications. For example, a scandal covered in a long‐form news article leads to a 10% drop in applications the following year‐roughly the same impact of dropping ten spots in prominent college rankings. This impact persists for 2 years. We find no impact on incoming student body competitiveness, yield, or alumni donations, and little effect on deterring future scandals.

JEL Classification: L82, I23, D83

Suggested Citation

Rooney, Patrick and Smith, Jonathan, The Impact of Highly Publicized Campus Scandals on College Outcomes (July 2019). Contemporary Economic Policy, Vol. 37, Issue 3, pp. 492-508, 2019. Available at SSRN: or

Patrick Rooney (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

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

Jonathan Smith

Georgia State University ( email )

United States

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