Mental Health, Enrollment, Finances Lead List of Pressing Concerns for Presidents
March 08, 2021

Mental health concerns continue to be top of mind for college and university leaders as the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic nears, according to the latest ACE Pulse Point survey, the seventh in a series conducted over the past year.

This latest survey of 348 college and university presidents and chancellors is the first of the spring 2021 term and developed in partnership with the TIAA Institute. Throughout the first two weeks of February, presidents and chancellors identified their most pressing concerns, how the pandemic has affected their spring enrollment and financial health, adaptations made to institutional services and support for students, and predictions on future fall enrollment and state appropriations.

For the fourth time in the survey series, presidents report that student mental health tops their most pressing concerns. “Mental health of faculty and staff” was the second most commonly selected pressing concern, followed by the “long-term financial viability of the institution.” More than one-third of respondents selected “racial equity issues” as a most pressing issue, a new item included on the list for this survey.

Presidents were also asked to identify the type of instruction they were currently offering or planning to offer at the start of the spring 2021 term. More than half of all presidents indicated that they were currently offering or planning to offer “predominantly online, with some in-person instruction” in spring 2021 (57 percent). Thirty-five percent of all presidents indicated that they were currently offering or planning to offer “predominantly in-person, with some online instruction” in spring 2021.

The survey looked at how colleges and universities have had to adapt and innovate many of their student services in order to continue to meet students’ needs during the pandemic. Looking forward, presidents considered what changes or adaptations might continue to be in place after the pandemic. The three most commonly chosen student services in which presidents anticipated keeping at least some of the changes were “academic support services” (73 percent), “academic advising” (72 percent), and “student counseling and mental health services” (71 percent).

College presidents were also asked to describe the resources made available to students hit particularly hard by the pandemic and the economic crisis, including students of color and low-income students. Across sectors, the most common form of institutional support provided was financial or emergency aid. These resources were often made available through CARES Act funding and/or institution-level fundraising. In addition to this financial assistance, many presidents noted their institution’s expanded mental health supports or improved efforts to check in with students. As part of these efforts, presidents reported that their college has hired additional counseling staff, expanded hours for mental health services, and created student support groups.

One president shared, “Every person on the campus, beginning with our faculty, are rolling up their sleeves and finding ways to support or connect students to resources, or individuals.”

You can find more details and read the full report here.​

​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.