The new normal: Higher education in a post-COVID-19 world

October 2020

Looking beyond the pandemic, higher education institutions are evaluating what may need to change in their operating models.


COVID-19 has not only created severe short-term financial and operational challenges for colleges and universities, it’s also accelerated the impact of demographic, financial, technological and political trends long affecting the sector. While leaders remain committed to their institutions’ core missions in the face of these challenges, now is the right time to reconsider value propositions and operating models in light of new realities. TIAA and EY-Parthenon produced this report to help institutions navigate the uncertainties ahead.

Key Insights
College and university leaders may need to more clearly identify the student population(s) and stakeholders they seek to serve and implement changes to their program portfolio and operations to reflect their refined focus.
By deploying agile decision-making processes, leaders can remain flexible in their responses to an ever-changing environment.
Leaders may also redeploy human, financial, physical and reputational capital in alignment with their new operating models.

The authors analyzed publicly available data, surveys, and industry publications, and also interviewed leaders at 14 four-year higher education institutions ranging from small liberal arts colleges to large flagship public universities.