What Are College/University Presidents Thinking About?

Obviously a lot, according to the 2020 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Presidents.

Some of the concerns are apparent from the snapshot of findings:

■ Sixty-nine percent of college presidents are confident their institution will be financially stable over the next five years, a new high in the Inside Higher Ed survey. The 57 percent who are confident in their institution’s finances over the next 10 years ties last year’s percentage as the highest to date.
■ Nearly two-thirds of chief executives believe their college is better prepared to handle the next economic downturn than it was in 2008. Nevertheless, a majority says they are worried about the impact the next economic downturn will have on their institution.
■ Most presidents, 69 percent, strongly agree or agree their college needs to make fundamental changes to its business model, programming or other operations. Presidents at public and private, two-year and four-year colleges are about equally likely to express this view.
■ Presidents believe senior administrators and trustees understand the challenges their institution faces and the need to adapt. But by a 2-1 margin, they disagree rather than agree that faculty members do.
■ More presidents (54 percent) think their college has the right mindset to adapt to needed change than think it has the right tools and processes to do so (45 percent). Presidents at four-year public colleges are less likely than those at other types of colleges to think their college has the right mindset, as well as tools and processes,
to effect change.
■ One in six presidents say their college has had serious internal discussions in the past year about merging with another college. Twenty-nine percent of these presidents believe it is very or somewhat likely their college will merge with another within the next five years.
■ Three in 10 presidents say their campus’s leaders have had serious discussions about consolidating operations or programs with another college.
■ Presidents widely expect additional colleges to close or merge this year, with 72 percent predicting more than five colleges will close, 49 percent thinking more than five private colleges will merge and 19 percent saying more than five public colleges will merge.
■ Nine percent of presidents say they could see their own college closing or merging in the next five years. This is down from 14 percent a year ago. (7)

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