Have you noticed that some smaller colleges seem to be spending a larger part of the budget on ramping up their visible athletic programs?
Turns out, the strategy is not necessarily tied to an insatiable desire to win games, but to improve student recruitment and academic performance.
In a new study, economists at Brigham Young University and the University of Chicago have documented that success in sports is followed by enhanced recruitment of diverse, academically enabled new students.
Researchers studied where students chose to send their SAT scores and discovered that universities received approximately 10 percent more scores from prospective students following a championship season.
Investigators found that these surges are fueled by certain types of students: out-of-staters, males, black students and those who played sports in high school. Furthermore, teams that advance to a title game bring enough exposure to their university to attract more applicants of all demographic backgrounds.
“Males seem to have the tournament on their radar early on, but if your team gets to the championship, males and females are influenced about equally,” said Jaren Pope, Ph.D., a BYU economist.
Researchers say that current first-year students now arriving at BYU for orientation are perhaps representative of these findings. This class of students applied to colleges after the BYU’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16.
According to the researchers, advancing that far in the tournament ordinarily translates to four percent more applicants. BYU’s admissions office actually saw more than that, but is cautious about crediting the increase entirely to the success of the basketball team.
“There is already a certain type of student that is likely to come here,” Pope said. “But there were probably some on the margin that were choosing between BYU and another school and decided ‘Oh, wow, it’s gonna be fun to be at BYU.’”
Investigators reviewed eight years of data from the SAT to understand which schools prospective college students chose to send their SAT scores.
While their own previous research has noted that sports success draws more student applications, this new study tells more about the kinds of students who are influenced by success in men’s basketball and football.
For example, one of the questions they asked was whether sports success tends to be more influential among high-achieving or low-achieving students. They found that about two-thirds of this pool of students score below the average SAT score, but even some of the top-performing students were attracted by winning teams.
“There are some really high-quality students that seem to be affected by the sports success,” Pope said.
The findings appear online in an article forthcoming in the Journal of Sports Economics.
Source: Brigham Young University