Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Tomeka Davis


The higher education system is strongly influenced by perceptions of university prestige (selectivity) and rankings. However, increasing selectivity has an adverse impact on university racial and economic diversity. Despite this negative impact, universities succumb to isomorphic pressures, mimicking the methods of higher ranking universities by attempting to increase the selectivity of incoming cohorts. This study aimed to establish the presence and function of isomorphic pressures on Council of Public Liberal Art Colleges (COPLAC) member universities and the extent to which those pressures impact selectivity and diversity, in comparison to state flagships, over time using longitudinal IPEDS data and original survey data. The analyses determined COPLACs are experiencing isomorphic pressures. COPLACs are becoming like state flagships in terms of Black, Hispanic, and underrepresented racial minority enrollments. However, COPLACs are serving more low-income students than state flagships. Overall, increasing selectivity does decrease racial minority and low-income enrollments at COPLAC and state flagship.