The university admissions process is a big topic around my house these days as my daughter is prepping for college entrance exams. Higher education has never been such a big business, and the college decision grows more complicated as rankings proliferate from well-known media outlets and unknown blogs alike. Questions are beginning to swirl around our atmosphere of friends, colleagues and family members. Where can your kid get in? What universities, if any, are affordable? What defines a good college reputation these days? More questions than answers.
One thing I know for sure is that many of the nation’s thousands of colleges and universities are engaged in a reputational arms race.
One of the main battlegrounds is intercollegiate sports, and Forbes and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity recently completed a study about it. (Given my obsessive relationship with college football, it’s no wonder I found this interesting.) If you follow college sports, you have heard about universities bulking-up their sports programs with the goal of raising the school’s overall profile. Nike founder Phil Knight famously donates millions to his beloved University of Oregon with one of the indisputable strategies being that better sports teams (and very flashy uniforms) will increase the overall reputation of the university. Financier T. Boone Pickens has made similar donations to Oklahoma State University, and I’m sure there are many other examples.