Does Athletic Success Influence Persistence at Higher Education Institutions? New Evidence Using Panel Data
Contemporary Economic Policy
This study examines the relationship between athletic success and student persistence toward a degree. We build an updated panel of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I institutions and utilize within-institution variation to identify the effects of athletic success. Using a ranking of all institutions, we find that having more successful men's basketball and football teams has a significant positive effect on first-year retention rates. We also find some evidence that improved basketball rankings increase graduation rates, and that success in the NCAA tournament may have a sizable impact on retention. Although the estimated effects are generally modest in scale, we find rather limited evidence of other institutional factors affecting persistence, suggesting that athletics can be one avenue for institutions of higher education to engage and retain students.