June Pulse Point Survey: Fall Planning, Financial Viability Top List of Concerns
June 26, 2020

With the summer term in progress and fall quickly approaching, college and university leaders are increasingly focused on planning for the start of the 2020-21 academic year. Earlier this month, ACE launched its third monthly Pulse Point survey of college and university presidents, continuing to gather presidents' insights and experiences with COVID-19 and its effects on their institutions and the larger higher education landscape. 

As in the previous month's survey, fall enrollment was top of mind for most presidents (65 percent), and the next most pressing issue presidents chose was “deciding on fall term plans” (46 percent), followed by “long-term financial viability of the institution” (39 percent), “mental health of students” (33 percent), and “furloughing or reducing salaries for faculty and/or staff” (31 percent). Compared with the May survey, fewer presidents in June selected “furloughing or reducing salaries for faculty and/or staff” and “laying off faculty and/or staff.”

Relative to the results of the May Pulse Point survey, the June survey results suggest that fewer presidents are expecting their institution’s fall 2020 enrollment to decrease. Presidents at public two-year institutions (60 percent) and public four-year institutions (55 percent) were more likely to report expecting their institution’s fall enrollment to decrease than presidents at private four-year institutions (47 percent).

New for this month’s survey, presidents were asked about their campus-based advisory structures and fall 2020 planning. Specifically, they answered whether they have been adjusting by creating new advisory groups (e.g., special committees, taskforces) or whether existing campus advisory structures were sufficient in supporting fall 2020 planning. The vast majority (84 percent) of presidents reported that they had created new advisory groups to support planning efforts for the fall 2020 term. Only 16 percent of presidents reported that their institution was relying on existing advisory structures.

Presidents also answered questions about the various scenarios they were considering for the fall. Most respondents (76 percent) said they were considering a hybrid, or split, model with some virtual courses and some in-person courses. Nearly 1/4 (23 percent) of presidents indicated that their institution was developing a plan for fall 2020 to be “normal” or similar to fall 2019 with new safety protocols. Sixty-three percent of presidents indicated that their institution is developing more than one scenario plan for the fall.

Three hundred presidents responded (310 responded to the May survey) on topics including summer and fall enrollment projections, contingency plans for the fall term, communication strategies, and student support. Given the uncertainties related to the pandemic, presidents’ views will almost certainly continue to evolve. Click here to see the full summary of findings for this month and previous surveys.

​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.