Safety Tops List of Most Pressing Concerns for College and University Presidents
August 03, 2020

The results of ACE’s fourth Pulse Point survey of college and university presidents show that many leaders are continuing to take steps to support safe operations on their campuses while still making plans as to how to best provide instruction amidst uncertainty.

Topics addressed in this survey include summer enrollment numbers, fall enrollment expectations, fall instruction modality, balancing in-person, online, and hybrid course offerings, as well as student mental health, and a deeper look at lessons learned from state reopenings. For this survey, 270 presidents participated.

It is important to note that this survey captures what presidents were thinking in early July—given the uncertainties related to the pandemic, views will certainly continue to evolve.

“Safety protocols for the fall related to COVID-19” was the most pressing issue facing presidents (66 percent). The next most pressing issue was “fall enrollment” (56 percent), followed by “mental health of students” (39 percent), and “long-term financial viability of the institution” (38 percent).

With the start of fall 2020 still approaching, it remains difficult to estimate just what effect the pandemic will have on fall enrollment for many colleges and universities. In the July survey, 52 percent of presidents reported expecting their fall 2020 enrollment to be lower than their fall 2019 enrollment. About one-third (32 percent) reported expecting their fall 2020 enrollment to be about the same as last year, and only 16 percent expect a fall enrollment increase over last year.

Aside from fall enrollment and safety protocols, student mental health is clearly top of mind for most leaders. The survey found that an overwhelming majority of presidents (96 percent) indicated that they “strongly agreed” or “somewhat agreed” that the need for student mental health services and support will be greater this fall, relative to last fall. Open-ended responses to the survey also focused on what strategies presidents say they are implementing in anticipation of this increased need. The most popular was virtual therapy and telehealth followed by increased staffing, and training for staff.

Click here to see a full summary of the findings and also check out previous month’s summaries 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.