As we watch colleges, universities, and schools struggle with decision-making around the fall, one fact looms large: there is an unprecedented level of uncertainty that, for many, is paralyzing.
Some of this is completely outside everyone’s control: Will the infection rate surge again? Will there be public health directives that affect campuses? Will there be travel restrictions? Can international students even get a visa?
But another significant portion is because all of our well-constructed planning models are off. What does it mean if a student participates in a virtual campus visit? Do enrollment deposits mean fall matriculants? And what’s going on with fundraising, anyway? All of our formulas for estimating yield, financial aid needs, or annual giving are completely blown out of the water in the midst of the pandemic.
One thing that can help with the second category of uncertainty is to gather fresh data. Many schools are doing just that: surveying students about their online experience, parents about their views on cost and value, faculty and staff about their experiences pivoting online and the support they need to deliver instruction and services in the fall. While these data can’t completely lift the mist, they might help you get out of the “dense fog” you’ve been driving through, to quote a recent Chronicle article.
The shut-downs, lost revenue and added costs of COVID-19 have created financial hardships for colleges and universities of all sizes and in every sector. Many institutions have announced cut-backs, while others are planning to do so in the weeks and months ahead. We began to scan for campus announcements and news coverage to see what action steps are being taken and how college leaders are talking about their financial planning. As we assembled these resources, we thought they might be of value to colleagues around the country who are wrestling with similar issues.
We do not claim this is a comprehensive list; please let us know if you’d like to add something or see information that needs to be updated or corrected. Continue reading →
We work with a great many new and first-time college presidents. Even in good times, taking the helm of a complex, decentralized and highly political organization presents career-defining challenges for new leaders. But in the time of pandemic, these challenges multiply and accelerate, forcing an incoming president to battle unimaginable crises and weigh in on urgent decisions — before the freshly appointed can even set a foot on their campuses.
For colleges and universities across the country, the past few weeks represented an historic, breathtaking achievement. Faced with the choice to act or be acted upon, higher education institutions took the initiative and led the nation.
In a matter of days, they transformed curricula that would normally take years or decades to reshape. In the face of deep uncertainty, wobbly governmental guidance, and no precedent whatsoever, they moved thousands and thousands of students out of harm’s way. They made bold choices, and they did so with intelligence, grace, and an unfathomable amount of hard work.
And now, even as we counsel our clients to find time for a breather, we know that can be only the briefest of respites. Because if colleges and universities are to recover from this pandemic, leaders must begin now to plan what those institutions will do and be when the crisis ebbs. Continue reading →
As campuses everywhere deal with the ongoing challenges created by COVID-19, one thing they don’t need to be dealing with is fighting intentional misinformation. And yet, just to show we have entered a brand new era, at least two schools were quickly trying to debunk nonsense distributed in their name: Stanford, tagged with fake tips on fighting coronavirus, and Bates College, victim of a hoax letter claiming the college planned to intentionally infect students with the virus.
Nearly two years ago I wrote about the issue of colleges combating fake news in the form of online bots and trolls. I thought it might be useful to reprise this article, which is full of useful tips. Continue reading →