Publication Date

September 2005


The annual U.S. News and World Report (USNWR) Guide to America’s Best Colleges is a much anticipated magazine among both high-ability prospective students and college and university administrators. In this paper we use a decade of Colgate University Admitted Student Questionnaire surveys to estimate the influence of changes in a school’s USNWR rank on the probability of matriculation of high-ability students. We find that the school choice of students is more responsive to changes in rank the higher (better) a school is ranked. This sensitivity to rank is independent of other objective measures of quality. As a group, women (aided and full-pay) are slightly less sensitive to the rankings than men, minorities (full-pay) are less sensitive to the rankings than non-minorities, and the rankings themselves have become more important over time for aided students. In terms of financial factors, the net cost of attendance along with the packaging of the aid matters for aided students. Finally, merit aid in general does not appear to influence high-ability full-pay students. Our results suggest that it is rational for college administrators (especially those at the highest ranked institutions) to pay attention to their USNWR rank because it is an important influence in yielding accepted students.


Suggested Citation
Griffith, A. & Rask, K. (2005) The influence of the U.S. News and World Report collegiate rankings on the matriculation decision of high-ability students: 1995-2004 (CHERI Working Paper #76). Retrieved [insert date], from Cornell University, ILR School site:

Required Publisher Statement
Published by the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, Cornell University.