Pulse Point Survey: Enrollment, Fall Planning Top List of Concerns
May 22, 2020

As institutions move past their initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, college and university leaders are most concerned about summer/fall enrollment and how to move forward with planning for the fall term, according to ACE's latest Pulse Point Survey of presidents.

This is the second 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. Presidents were asked to select up to five issues from a list of 14 they deemed to be most pressing. The top three issues in the April survey were “summer or fall enrollment," “long-term financial viability," and “sustaining an online learning environment." In the May survey, presidents were asked to choose from the same list with three additional issues (deciding on fall term plans; furloughing or reducing salaries for faculty and/or staff; and auxiliary services (e.g., campus bookstore, parking services)).

For this latest survey, 310 presidents responded with the following results topping the list:

  • As in the April survey, “summer or fall enrollment" (79 percent) was the most pressing issue facing presidents in May.
  • The next most pressing issue facing presidents was “deciding on fall term plans" (63 percent), followed by “long-term financial viability of the institution" (49 percent), “furloughing or reducing salaries for faculty and/or staff" (44 percent), and “short-term financial viability of the institution" (35 percent).
  • The top three most pressing issues were the same for presidents at public four-year institutions, private four-year institutions, and public two-year institutions.

More than half of presidents surveyed say they are very likely to allow in-person classes for at least some portion this fall. Also, of the presidents who offer on-campus housing, more than half say that it was very likely they would open up housing this fall.

College and university presidents are most likely to consider their state governor's guidance when deciding whether to resume in-person classes, followed by state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 40 percent of presidents rated students and families as having a “high level" of influence in their decision.

Presidents were also given a list of 20 actions (see Fig. 5) and asked to indicate whether or not they would be likely to take that action. Presidents are more likely to set up residential space on campus to quarantine, require masks to be worn on campus provide PPE to faculty and staff.