Latest Pulse Point Survey Details Fall Reopening Plans, Impact of COVID-19 on Financial Health
October 09, 2020

​The results of ACE’s latest Pulse Point survey of college and university presidents show that leaders are prioritizing physical health and safety to support safe operations on their campuses, but unsurprisingly, the pandemic has had a drastic impact on institutional finances.

The vast majority of presidents reported increases in different types of expenses such as technology, cleaning and maintenance, student financial aid, support services, and instruction. Similarly, the majority of presidents reported that decreases in revenues generated by special programs (such as conferences and events) were the highest, followed by decreases in revenues from auxiliaries, room and board, and endowment earnings or gifts.  

In this first survey of the new fall term, which was developed in partnership with the TIAA Institute, 295 presidents identified their most pressing concerns, reported on their fall reopening plans, and offered an assessment of the impact the pandemic has had on their institution's fall enrollment and financial health.

Between April and July 2020, ACE surveyed college and university presidents in order to better understand how they and their institutions were responding to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. With the 2020–21 academic year now underway, ACE will survey presidents twice this fall and twice in the spring in order to capture how they are responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19, as well as to better understand both the immediate and long-term effects of the pandemic on higher education more broadly.

In our spring and summer surveys, presidents were asked to select up to five issues from a list of about 20 that they deemed to be most pressing. In the September survey, presidents were presented with a list of 19 issues and again asked to select up to five they view to be most pressing for them currently. Mental health of students (53 percent) was the top concern selected by presidents.

Presidents also indicated “long-term financial viability" (43 percent), “mental health of faculty and staff" (42 percent), “enrollment numbers for the spring" (39 percent), and “sustaining an online learning environment" (30 percent) as other top issues.

More than half of the respondents (55 percent) reported that their institution’s fall 2020 enrollment had decreased relative to fall 2019 enrollment. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of presidents reported that their fall 2020 enrollment remained about the same as last fall, while 22 percent reported that their fall 2020 enrollment had increased relative to fall 2019.

Click here to read the full summary of the findings.

​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.