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I don't think it's any sort of active collusion, but I definitely got the feel that school officials keep their competitive rankings at the front of their minds at all times.
For example, I attended a reception for Columbia in the Bay Area. The dean of admissions made several references to Stanford (a fellow ultra-elite) when talking about alternatives, but made no mention at all of Berkeley. The omission was particularly conspicuous because Columbia actually has a number of joint programs with Haas. It was clear that she wanted to limit the pool of competing schools when describing Columbia. All part of the marketing game I guess.
I remember reading an article some time ago talking about competitive marketing. #1 in any market never mentions the competition, while #2 frequently makes comparisons to #1. The examples used, as I recall, were Pepsi always targeting Coke with their marketing (Pepsi challenge, new generation, etc.); and Miller always targeting Bud. The opposite is almost never true.