Tonight is the first presidential debate of the 2016 general election season, and this clash between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump could top 100 million viewers. (I won’t be one of them, as I’m teaching tonight.) The host site, Hofstra University, is actually the second choice—as Wright State University pulled out over the high price tag this summer. Hofstra is paying about $5 million to host the debate, with the costs generally covered through three donors.
Hosting a presidential debate is undoubtedly a great public relations opportunity for a university, similar to making a big run in the NCAA basketball tournament or making a big football bowl game. Some research has shown that big-time athletics success is associated with increased student applications in the following year, so the media circus following a presidential debate (Hofstra is trending on Twitter as I write this post) could have similar results.
Hofstra also hosted a presidential debate in 2012, so I looked at what happened to the number of applications they received before and after the debate compared to their defined group of peer institutions. The data are below:
|Name||2011-12||2012-13||2013-14||Pct increase, 2012-13 to 2013-14|
|George Washington University||21433||21591||21756||0.8%|
|New York University||41243||42807||45779||6.9%|
|Pace University-New York||10623||11778||12885||9.4%|
|Seton Hall University||6436||10180||10735||5.5%|
|St John’s University-New York||54871||52972||51634||-2.5%|
Hofstra did see a 6.3% increase in applications between 2012-13 and 2013-14, compared to a 4.6% increase across its peer institutions. But other peers, such as Ithaca, Quinnipiac, Syracuse, and Pace saw even larger increases. So it appears that the debate brought plenty of pride to Hofstra, but there was not an unusual jump in applications after the debate aired.