by James A. Baumann
he COVID-19 pandemic has brought new concerns (or
drastically heightened existing ones) to every level of higher education.
Through the 2020-21 academic year, the American Council on Education will
survey campus presidents on the challenges brought about by the pandemic and
the issues they are finding to be most pressing.
For their September survey, “Pulse Point Survey of College
and University Presidents on COVID-19,” approximately 300 presidents chose up
to five of their most pressing issues from a list of 19 options. Leading the list of their concerns
was the mental health of students (53%) and their campus’s long-term financial
viability (43%). Rounding out the top five were faculty and staff mental health
(42%), spring enrollment numbers (39%), and sustaining online learning (30%).
Some of the other concerns related to student affairs include safety protocols
(29%), furloughing staff or reducing salaries (26%), food- and housing-insecure
students (13%), and auxiliary services (8%).
Additionally, the presidents were asked to review a list of
23 possible actions related to COVID safety and choose the ones implemented on
their campus. Not surprisingly, 96% reported that masks were required to be
worn on campus. Other steps taken related to housing operations included closing some common spaces on
campus (72%), using the student code of conduct to enforce COVID-19 safety protocols
(72%), establishing residential space on or near campus to quarantine (69%), limiting
student travel (69%), reducing residence hall capacity (65%), reducing campus
dining services (63%), and having students sign a pledge acknowledging expectations
related to COVID-19 (50%). The full report is available online.