"Ignore the U.S. News & World Report college rankings," we admonished when the latest edition of the list came out last fall. The rankings encourage colleges to game the system! They drive up tuition! They exacerbate status anxiety!
A new report from the American Educational Research Association shows that (sigh) no one is listening to us. Rankings published by U.S. News and the Princeton Review have a significant effect on where students apply to college.
The study found that both quality-of-life and academic rankings affected students' application decisions. The number of applications and the academic competitiveness of a school’s freshman class went up the year after the school made the Princeton Review's list for Happy Students (a 2.9 percent increase) or Most Beautiful Campus (a 2.3 percent increase). Applications and competitiveness went down when the school was on the Least Happy Students (about a 5 percent decrease) or Unsightly, Tiny Campus lists (a 5.2 percent decrease).
The Princeton Review's Party Schools, Stone-Cold Sober Schools, and Jock Schools lists, on the other hand, didn't have a statistically significant effect on a school's volume of applicants.