Sexual assault, cheating, hazing: Major media coverage of a scandal that unfolds on a college campus can reduce applications by as much as 10%, a Harvard Business School study has found. The decline is roughly equivalent, the study notes, to dropping 10 spots in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.
To complete the study, researchers tracked public scandals at the top 100 U.S. colleges and universities, based on their 2015 ranking, between 2001 and 2013. Scandals with five New York Times mentions, a proxy for national coverage, reduced applications by 8.8%. Scandals detailed in a long-form magazine article reduced applications by 10.4%.
For prospective students, there’s a silver lining to the damage done: Widely covered scandals both prompt reform on campus and make it easier to get in.