Voluntary disclosure and the strategic behavior of colleges
This paper investigates how outside ranking organizations such as U.S. News and World Report affect colleges’ admission decisions. To do this, we focus on a policy that has received criticism for being motivated by ranking concerns: optional reporting of SAT I scores. This policy allows colleges to report an average SAT I score based on those applicants who chose to submit their scores which may not be reflective of actual student body quality. We use proprietary data from two liberal arts colleges to address how the optional reporting policy affects the colleges’ admission decisions as well as how applicants’ SAT I scores influence their decision to submit these scores to the colleges. The data suggest that college admission departments are behaving strategically by rewarding applicants who do submit their SAT I scores when their scores will raise the college's average SAT I score reported to U.S. News and World Report and rewarding applicants who do not submit when their SAT I scores will lower the college's reported score. The data also suggest that applicants are behaving strategically by choosing not to reveal their SAT I scores if they are below a value one might predict based on their other observable characteristics.
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