By Thomas K. Lindsay
For political reform to gather steam in a democracy, a sizable proportion of voters must first become aware of and indignant over the status quo. For the past several decades, higher education reformers have sought to awaken college-bound students and their parents to the broken system that is American higher education: tuition hyperinflation, crushing student-loan debt, rampant grade inflation, and poor student learning. But due to the high esteem with which Americans have traditionally held higher education, most of these efforts have been in vain.
According to a new study from the Harvard Business School, “The Impact of Campus Scandals on College Applications,” by Michael Luca, Patrick Rooney, and Jonathan Smith, “Scandals with a high level of media coverage significantly reduce applications.” The study finds that “a scandal covered in a long-form news article leads to a ten percent drop in applications the following year. This is roughly the same as the impact on applications of dropping ten spots in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings.” The Harvard study examined 124 public scandals that took place between 2001 and 2013 at the top 100 colleges and universities in this country. It found that if a campus scandal garnered more than five mentions in the The New York Times, there was a subsequent drop of nine percent drop in applications the following academic year.
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