College and university presidents respond to COVID-19: 2020 Fall term survey

October 2020

With the 2020–21 academic year underway, the American Council on Education (ACE) is examining how institutions are responding to the pandemic.


As part of an ongoing research initiative, ACE surveyed college and universities presidents to understand how their institutions are managing the immediate effects of COVID-19, as well as the pandemic’s potential long-term impact on higher education. The presidents identified their most pressing concerns, reported on their fall reopening plans, and assessed how the pandemic has affected their institution’s fall enrollment and financial health. This report summarizes the survey’s findings.  

Key Insights
Fifty-three percent of presidents deem “mental health of students” as the most pressing issue they currently face.
Fifty-five percent reported that their fall 2020 enrollment had decreased relative to fall 2019 enrollment.
Fifty-five percent described their institution as offering “predominantly online, with some in-person instruction” in the fall 2020 term.

ACE surveyed 295 college and university presidents between Sept. 14-22, 2020. Participants represent a variety of public and private institutions, both two- and four-year. ACE developed the survey in partnership with the TIAA Institute.


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