College and university presidents respond to COVID-19: 2021 Spring term survey

March 2021

As the pandemic enters its second year, what’s on the minds of college and university presidents?


The American Council on Education, in partnership with the TIAA Institute, is conducting a series of surveys to gauge how higher education institutions are responding to the challenges of COVID-19. In the first survey of the spring 2021 term, 348 college and university presidents shared their most pressing concerns, how the pandemic has affected their institution’s spring enrollment and financial health, and adaptations they have made to institutional services and support for students. They also made predictions on future fall enrollment and state appropriations.

Key Insights
86% of presidents indicated the top “mental health and well-being issue” for students is anxiety.
57% indicated they were offering or planning to offer “predominantly online, with some in-person instruction” in spring 2021.
35% reported expecting an “increase” among undergraduate enrollment in fall 2021.
Presidents were most likely to report making “many changes or adaptations” to dining services, residence life, student activities, and their health center.
75% indicated “travel and immigration policies” were a top concern regarding their international students.

The study’s findings are based on a survey of 348 presidents conducted Feb. 1-12, 2021. Ninety-one percent of respondents lead either private four-year institutions (42%), public four-year institutions (24%), or public two-year institutions (25%).  


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