Study Shows Campus Scandals Deter Prospective Students from Applying to Colleges

Incidents of sexual assault, murder, cheating and hazing hurt a university's new student recruitment efforts when the scandals receive a lot of media coverage.
Published: July 11, 2016

Over the years, Campus Safety has reported on the costs of crime to institutions of higher education, and new research appears to further support the beliefs held by many security professionals and administrators that these incidents are bad for campus business.

A new working paper just released by Harvard University Business School and the College Board researchers has found that incidents of sexual assault, murder, cheating and hazing hurt a university’s new student recruitment efforts when the scandals receive a lot of media coverage.

The study’s authors identified 124 different public scandals that occurred between 2001 and 2013 at the top 100 U.S. colleges. They found that scandals with more than five mentions in the New York Times lead to a 9 percent drop in applications at the college the following year. Colleges with scandals covered by long-form magazine articles receive 10 percent fewer applications the following year.

The researchers also found that colleges’ responses to scandals involving sexual assault, murder, cheating and hazing are short-lived and that the long-term effects of their responses are minimal.

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“…colleges react to scandals – the probability of another incident in the subsequent years falls – but this effect dissipates within five years,” the report says.

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