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

May 2021

The pandemic has undoubtedly left its mark on higher education. How are institutions responding?


Over the past year, the American Council on Education, in partnership with the TIAA Institute, has surveyed college and university presidents to gauge how they are responding to the challenges of COVID-19. In February 2021, presidents described how the pandemic has affected their institution’s spring enrollment, financial health and student services. In this follow-up survey, they report on the mental health of students; changes in admissions processes and application numbers; adaptations to institutional operations; and practices to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

Key Insights
73% of presidents identified student mental health as a pressing issue, up slightly from February.
47% reported a decrease in undergraduate applications for fall 2021 relative to fall 2019.
56% indicated their institution made standardized tests like the SAT and ACT optional.
60% stated the pandemic had disrupted implementation of their institution’s strategic plan.
85% indicated their institution is hosting discussions on racism and racial equity for students, faculty and staff.

The researchers surveyed 244 presidents between April 19-30, 2021. Ninety percent of respondents lead either private four-year institutions (40%), public four-year institutions (28%) or public two-year institutions (22%).  


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