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The Impact of US News and World Report College Rankings on Admission Outcomes and Pricing Decisions at Selective Private Institutions


  • James Monks
  • Ronald G. Ehrenberg


Despite the widespread popularity of the U.S. News & World Report College rankings there has been no empirical analysis of the impact of these rankings on applications, admissions, and enrollment decisions, as well as on institutions' pricing policies. Our analyses indicate that a less favorable rank leads an institution to accept a greater percentage of its applicants, a smaller percentage of its admitted applicants matriculate, and the resulting entering class is of lower quality, as measured by its average SAT scores. While tuition levels are not responsive to less favorable rankings, institutions offer less visible price discounts in the form of slightly lower levels of expected self-help (loans and employment opportunities) and significantly more generous levels of grant aid. These decreases in net tuition are an attempt to attract additional students from their declining applicant pool.

Suggested Citation

  • James Monks & Ronald G. Ehrenberg, 1999. "The Impact of US News and World Report College Rankings on Admission Outcomes and Pricing Decisions at Selective Private Institutions," NBER Working Papers 7227, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7227
    Note: LS CH

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    Cited by:

    1. Andrade, Eduardo & Moita, Rodrigo & Silva, Carlos, 2013. "Common factors and the exchange rate: results from the Brazilian case," Insper Working Papers wpe_317, Insper Working Paper, Insper Instituto de Ensino e Pesquisa.
    2. Horstschräer, Julia, 2012. "University rankings in action? The importance of rankings and an excellence competition for university choice of high-ability students," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1162-1176.
    3. Takao Kato & Chad Sparber, 2013. "Quotas and Quality: The Effect of H-1B Visa Restrictions on the Pool of Prospective Undergraduate Students from Abroad," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 109-126, March.
    4. Arnaud Chevalier & Xiaoxuan Jia, 2016. "Subject-Specific League Tables and Students' Application Decisions," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 84(5), pages 600-620, September.
    5. Ginger Zhe Jin & Alex Whalley, 2007. "The Power of Attention: Do Rankings Affect the Financial Resources of Public Colleges?," NBER Working Papers 12941, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Andrade, Eduardo de Carvalho & Moita, Rodrigo Menon Simões & Silva, Carlos Eduardo Lobo, 2011. "Permanent Excess Demand as Business Strategy: An Analysis of the Brazilian Higher-Education Market," Insper Working Papers wpe_245, Insper Working Paper, Insper Instituto de Ensino e Pesquisa.
    7. Tan Kuan Lu, Clifford, 2014. "University Rankings Game and its relation to GDP per capita and GDP growth," MPRA Paper 53933, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. John Bailey Jones & Fang Yang, 2016. "Skill-Biased Technical Change and the Cost of Higher Education," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(3), pages 621-662.
    9. repec:spr:scient:v:104:y:2015:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-015-1584-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Brian Jacob & Brian McCall & Kevin M. Stange, 2013. "College as Country Club: Do Colleges Cater to Students' Preferences for Consumption?," NBER Working Papers 18745, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Roger King & Simon Marginson & Rajani Naidoo (ed.), 2011. "Handbook on Globalization and Higher Education," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 13590.
    12. Siegfried, John & Getz, Malcolm, 2006. "Where do the children of professors attend college?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 201-210, April.
    13. Buss, Christian & Parker, Jeffrey & Rivenburg, Jon, 2004. "Cost, quality and enrollment demand at liberal arts colleges," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 57-65, February.
    14. Liang Zhang & Wei Bao & Liang Sun, 2016. "Resources and Research Production in Higher Education: A Longitudinal Analysis of Chinese Universities, 2000–2010," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 57(7), pages 869-891, November.
    15. Christopher N. Avery & Mark E. Glickman & Caroline M. Hoxby & Andrew Metrick, 2013. "A Revealed Preference Ranking of U.S. Colleges and Universities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(1), pages 425-467.
    16. repec:spr:reihed:v:59:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11162-017-9455-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. DANIEL P. McMILLEN & LARRY D. SINGELL & GLEN R. WADDELL, 2007. "Spatial Competition And The Price Of College," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(4), pages 817-833, October.
    18. David L. Sjoquist & John V. Winters, 2016. "The Effects of State Merit Aid Programs on Attendance at Elite Colleges," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 527-549, October.
    19. Tan, Clifford, 2013. "The contribution of university rankings to country's GDP per capita," MPRA Paper 53900, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. Ellen Hazelkorn, 2011. "Measuring World-class Excellence and the Global Obsession with Rankings," Chapters,in: Handbook on Globalization and Higher Education, chapter 29 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    21. Andrade, Eduardo de Carvalho, 2009. "Rankings em educação: tipos, problemas, informações e mudanças," Insper Working Papers wpe_198, Insper Working Paper, Insper Instituto de Ensino e Pesquisa.
    22. Tao, Hung-Lin, 2007. "Monetizing college reputation: The case of Taiwan's engineering and medical schools," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 232-243, April.
    23. Ding, Lan & Li, Haizheng, 2012. "Social networks and study abroad — The case of Chinese visiting students in the US," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 580-589.
    24. Andrade, Eduardo de C. & Moita, Rodrigo M., 2009. "Peer Effect and Competition in Higher Education," Insper Working Papers wpe_185, Insper Working Paper, Insper Instituto de Ensino e Pesquisa.
    25. Brint, Steven, 2006. "Can Public Research Universities Compete?," University of California at Berkeley, Center for Studies in Higher Education qt7pb373fw, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley.

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    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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