ACE Launches COVID-19 Pulse Point Survey Series
April 27, 2020

ACE's first monthly COVID-19 survey of college and university presidents finds their most pressing concerns are focused on financial impact, remote learning, and student mental health.

Earlier this month, ACE launched the first of 12 monthly Pulse Point surveys, to gather presidents' insights and experiences with COVID-19 and its effects on their institutions and the larger higher education landscape. After one week in the field, ACE collected responses from 192 college and university presidents at public, private, two-year, and four-year institutions.

From a list of 14 issues, presidents were asked to select up to five they deem most pressing, with the most common being “fall or summer enrollment numbers" at 86 percent. Sixty-four percent of presidents surveyed said “long-term financial viability" was their most pressing concern, with 45 percent selecting “sustaining an online learning environment," and 44 percent selecting “laying off of faculty and/or staff." Forty-one percent were most concerned about “mental health of students."

ACE also asked presidents to indicate what finance-related actions they had already taken or were anticipating taking in response to the pandemic. Slightly more than half of presidents have already implemented a staff-hiring freeze (54 percent) or issued housing and/or meal plan refunds (51 percent). While few presidents reported laying off staff (6 percent), merging or eliminating academic programs (5 percent), or laying off faculty (1 percent), these were among the top actions presidents anticipated taking in the future.

When it comes to student emergency aid, 63 percent of presidents indicated that their institution had already established emergency aid but are now making more funds available, and 14 percent said their institution currently does not have an emergency aid fund, but that they are considering establishing a fund. Nine percent said they created their first emergency aid fund in direct response to COVID-19.

Previous research by ACE has shown that student mental health is a major concern of presidents. To better understand COVID-19's impact on institutional responses to student mental health, ACE asked presidents to consider how they are planning to direct funds on mental health services moving forward. Overall, 51 percent of presidents indicated that their institution already offers student mental health services, but they are not making more funds available and 35 percent of presidents said their institution already offers student mental health services and they plan to invest more in them because of COVID-19.

Overall, presidents considered the transition to distance learning as mostly successful. Nearly 86 percent of all presidents said their institution transitioned either “well" or “very well," and most presidents said that students were already familiar with the technologies required for transitioning to fully remote learning.

Click here to see the April Pulse Point survey results, or explore the entire series.

ACE's Pulse Point Surveys

Pulse Point surveys gather the insights of college and university leaders through a brief set of questions designed to get their take on the decisions, issues, and challenges they face.

explore the Series