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College Presidents Confident, With an Asterisk

College Presidents Confident, With an Asterisk


Doug Lederman
March 2, 2022
Even as COVID-19 slowly eases its grip on colleges and universities, campus leaders would seem to have plenty to worry about. Enrollments have fallen sharply since the beginning of the pandemic, the federal government has closed the spigot of generous recovery aid and political intrusion into curricular matters and college governance is on the rise.
Higher ed leaders seem unfazed, though: Inside Higher Ed’s 2022 Survey of College and University Presidents finds them upbeat and generally confident that their institutions are prepared for what’s ahead.
Most notably, they are optimistic about their institutions’ financial situation: more than three-quarters of respondents agree that their college will be financially stable over the next decade, most think their institution is in stronger shape now than it was a year ago and a majority believe it will be better off next year than it is now.
Presidents and chancellors recognize that the pandemic has altered the higher education landscape in key ways: more than two-thirds (71 percent) say their institution must fundamentally change its business model or other operations, and 91 percent agree (52 percent strongly) that their college or university will keep some of the COVID-19–related changes it made even when the pandemic ends. More agree (50 percent) than disagree (34 percent) that the pandemic will cause a shift toward more virtual instruction “for years to come.”
But campus leaders seem less sure about the likelihood and degree of such transformation. Three in five agree that their institution has settled into a “new normal” despite the continuing pandemic. Only about a quarter say their institution has had “serious internal discussions” about consolidating some of its programs or operations with another college or university’s.
And only a quarter (27 percent) strongly agree that the pandemic-era changes have “created an opportunity for my institution to make other institutional changes we have been wanting to make anyway.” That figure was 37 percent a year ago, in the throes of the pandemic.
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