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COVID-19 Resource Center for Higher Education
Hanover Research is closely monitoring developments surrounding the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and how it has and may continue to impact the higher education community. This resource center provides you with key facts, resources, and potential responses to this rapidly evolving situation.
In addition to the information included in this resource center, Hanover is committed to providing you with up-to-date custom research to help you address COVID-19 related challenges as the situation continues to develop.
Sample Custom Research Solutions
Our research team can craft a customized research project based on your institution’s individual needs:
Reopening Audit Surveys
Hanover’s Reopening Audit Surveys help members gather critical feedback on a recurring basis from current students, faculty and staff, and parents of current students. The surveys focus on the efficacy of an institution’s operations with respect to communication, personal safety, the instructional experience, and the overall academic environment. Equipped with this data, institutions will be empowered to respond effectively as stakeholder needs arise / change over the course of the academic year
- Climate Pulse Survey: Provides rapid insights into key stakeholder perceptions and needs.
- Climate Assessment Survey: Delivers a comprehensive evaluation of institutional climate with internal benchmarks to compare climate health across academic terms.
View an illustrative example of a Climate Assessment Survey dashboard.
Peer Policy Benchmarking
Evaluates opportunities for clarification or expansion relative to COVID-19 related policies at peer and competitor institutions. Sample policy areas include remote work, online education, study abroad and international students, support for at-risk students and discrimination responses, and long-term planning.
Institutional Climate Pulse Survey
Gather real-time feedback on the experiences of students and faculty as they navigate institutional responses to COVID-19.
Reopening Audit Surveys
Gather critical feedback on a recurring basis from key stakeholders, focusing on the efficacy of your institution’s operations with respect to communication, personal safety, the instructional experience, and the overall academic environment. Explore the surveys.
Social Media Monitoring
Audit social media communication and responses to the COVID-19 situation to reduce the spread of misinformation and optimize transparency.
Research Library Reports
Our syndicated Research Library contains numerous reports that can help inform your institution’s transition to online learning in response to COVID-19 – below are some of most relevant reports:
- Global Benchmarking and Best Practices in Online Student Supports
- Student Services for Distance and Online Students
- Best Practices in Virtual Student Engagement
- Best Practices in Online Faculty Development
- Best Practices in Online Student Retention
- Best Practices in Engaging the Next Generation of Students
- Best Practices in Online Course Seat Time
- Strategizing Online Program Management
- Getting the Most Out of Online Learning
- Best Practices in Online Learning for Art & Design Programs
- Best Practices in Risk Assessment and Planning
- Case Studies: Major Disruptions to University Operating Models
- Best Practices in Virtual Admissions
- Building Community in the Time of COVID-19
- Best Practices in Online Learning for At-Risk Students
- The CARES Act in Higher Education – Trends and Best Practices (May 2020)
- Undergraduate Test-Optional Admissions in the COVID-19 Era
- COVID-19 Support – Transitioning Student Services to Online Delivery
- Benchmarking Financial Policies
- Best Practices: Virtual Commencement
- Post-Pandemic Workplace Toolkit
- Meeting Practical Hands-on Learning Requirements During COVID-19
- National Online Learning Survey
- Alternative Revenue Generation Strategies
- Online Exam Security
- Contingency Plans for Online Instruction
- National Admitted Student Survey
- The State of Prospective Student Enrollment: COVID-19’s Impact on High School Students’ Academic Plans
- COVID-19’s Impact on International Students’ Academic Plans
- Best Practices in Teaching Current International Students Abroad
- Higher Education Scenario Planning Toolkit 2020-2021
- Best Practices for Marketing the Virtual Campus
Webinar Recording – International Student Enrollment Amid a Global Crisis
In this webinar, Hanover discussed key findings from an international student mobility survey of prospective students from China, India, Vietnam, Brazil, Nigeria, and Turkey to reveal key trends impacting international student enrollment.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Tracker
Understand the prevalence of COVID-19 when considering decisions about your reopening with our dashboard, presenting county- and state-level statistics on COVID-19 cases and testing.
According to Johns Hopkins (verbatim):
- COVID-19 is the disease caused by the new coronavirus that emerged in China in December 2019.
- COVID-19 symptoms include cough, fever or chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, nausea or vomiting and congestion or runny nose. COVID-19 can be severe, and some cases have caused death.
- The new coronavirus can be spread from person to person. It is diagnosed with a laboratory test.
- There is no coronavirus vaccine yet. Prevention involves frequent hand-washing, coughing into the bend of your elbow, staying home when you are sick and wearing a cloth face covering if you can’t practice physical distancing.
- As of now, researchers know that the new coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds — this is why physical distancing is effective in preventing the spread.
- Global map of locations with confirmed COVID-19 cases
- U.S. map of states reporting cases of COVID-19 to the CDC
- Map of U.S. states that have implemented stay-at-home orders
Funding for Higher Education
Hanover’s Grants team is curating COVID-related funding opportunities that are broadcast weekly through our Grant Alerts, combining them in an easily searchable dashboard. The team will continue to update over the coming months, as the landscape develops.
COVID-19 Funding Opportunities
Passed by the House on March 27, the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) includes more than $14 billion in aid to assist higher education institutions in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic . The act includes:
- Funding by Agency
- COVID Relief Fund State Allocations
- Higher Education Funds by Institution
- K-12 Education Funds by State
Webinar Recording: Proposal Writing in the Time of COVID-19
As grant-seekers navigate a post-COVID funding environment, many are finding that they must adapt their approach to ensure competitiveness and feasibility of their proposals. This complimentary webinar covers special considerations for grant proposals during the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
- Development of COVID-specific contingency plans
- Alternative strategies for research studies and programmatic interventions.
- How to engage program officers and what to ask them
- Formal and informal guidance from funders
Click here to view the webinar recording.
COVID-19 has created considerable uncertainty around higher education’s traditional revenue streams, including tuition, room and board fees, and government funding. These temporary disruptions, combined with longer-term shifts in the postsecondary landscape, argue for alternatives to traditional revenue streams.
Academic leadership should select alternative revenue strategies based on financial return, resource and operational needs, and alignment with the institution’s mission. Sample strategies include:
- Strategic partnerships: Arizona State University’s partnership with Starbucks enables Starbucks employees to receive a 42 percent tuition scholarship each semester of their undergraduate studies at ASU Online. After other scholarship and federal aid, students can be reimbursed by Starbucks for the remaining tuition. This ASU-Starbucks College Achievement Plan also includes student support services, such as online tutoring, access to career services, and disability support.
- Corporate training: Maricopa Corporate College (MCOR), in Arizona, “contracts with companies, such as Amazon, Marriott and Nissan, and with nonprofit organizations and government agencies, to deliver a wide range of non-credit training programs,” according to Education Dive. Topics range from leadership training and time management to hard skills, such as Excel or Outlook.
- Products and services: Berea College students sell crafts, such as student-made brooms, blankets, and ceramics, aligned with the College’s mission to enhance students’ business skills without paying tuition.
- Innovation centers: Purdue University’s Discovery Park is comprised of over 15 centers and institutes located on 40 acres of land on the institution’s West Lafayette campus. These centers conduct research in a variety of fields, including nanotechnology, bioscience, entrepreneurship, global health, and sustainability. Discovery Park also has affiliations with project centers and institutes across campus and has six major research initiatives.
- External funding and grants: For current grant opportunities see our Grant Alerts and sign up for our weekly updates. Contact us about how Hanover can assist in your grant identification, proposal development, and other grants-related needs.
Final selections should reflect a ‘portfolio’ approach, with a mix of larger and smaller, conservative and risker initiatives. See our report on Alternative Revenue Generation Strategies for additional insights and best practices.
As a service to the higher ed research community, we’ve opened up our subscription Grant Alerts to the public, consolidating funding opportunities and news from grantmaking organizations (public and private) in response to COVID-19, as they develop. Find the latest edition here.
College Plans for Reopening Dashboard
Our dynamic dashboard tracks how institutions are planning to resume courses in the upcoming academic year using data compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Plan for a Socially Distant or Even a Virtual Fall
Though some countries and U.S. states are easing social distancing restrictions, re-opening isn’t necessarily a return to normalcy. Indeed, Johns Hopkins University (2) urges governors to open schools and businesses in a phased approach once they are “able to safely diagnose, treat, and isolate COVID-19 cases and their contacts.” However, some contact limitations may need to continue to prevent transmission from accelerating again. If another outbreak occurs, large-scale physical distancing may need to be reinitiated.
Institutions need to begin finalizing long-term changes and communicating potential continued disruptions to their students, faculty, and staff. Preliminary responses for the upcoming Fall include:
Maintaining a virtual campus, either in part or in full; OR
- A recent article from Inside Higher Ed highlights the ‘half-campus’ model, whereby institutions – particularly highly selective institutions that can afford to do so – will allow only half of their undergraduates to attend classes on campus come the fall. This typically manifests in first-year students attending in the fall, and seniors in the spring, though some, like Harvard, Georgetown, and Emory, will also allow students with clinical needs or unsafe home situations to also attend in person.
- Brown University is planning a three-term academic schedule whereby undergraduate students will be on campus for two of the three semesters, though most classes will take place online regardless of the student’s living arrangement.
- Similarly, the College of William & Mary is planning an in-person, condensed fall semester, for which classes will begin a week early and end before Thanksgiving, sans Fall Break.
- Oakland University has announced a hybrid Fall semester: “At this point, indications are that COVID-19 will remain a threat into the fall,” Oakland’s president, Ora Pescovitz. “As we prepare for the fall semester, we are planning for a hybrid approach that includes both face-to-face and remote instruction.”
- San José State University in California will likely conduct a hybrid range of courses, focusing on offering lab-based, fine arts, and performing arts programs in-person with other online: “We obviously would love to do in-person come fall, but we have to be ready for all scenarios,” said Kenneth Mashinchi, San José State spokesperson.
- Several large institutions in Canada, including the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria, will conduct most classes online through the next semester. McGill University in Montreal will offer its Fall 2020 courses “primarily through remote delivery platform” as well as provide its extracurricular activities virtually.
- The Netherlands will allow “a maximum of 20 percent of students and employees at universities, colleges, and vocational institutions… to be on site when Dutch tertiary institutions reopen on 15 June,” per the University World News. In the fall, institutions may allow on-site education outside of typical rush hours (i.e., 11am to 3pm and after 8pm) to avoid overcrowding of public transportation, necessitating remote learning for 80 percent of all students.
- In May, the California State University System announced that most instruction across its 23 campuses will be delivered virtually in the Fall 2020 term. The policy includes “limited exceptions for in-person teaching, learning, and research activities that cannot be delivered virtually, are indispensable to the university’s core mission, and can be conducted with rigorous standards of safety and welfare.”
- Similarly, three-quarters of universities in South Korea will continue with online learning through the next semester, according to a survey of 193 private, public, and national four-year universities nationwide conducted by the Korean Association of Private University Presidents in May.
Resuming in-person programs and services with social distancing parameters in place.
- University of Virginia says it plans to spend nearly $400,000 on ‘Welcome Back Kits’ that include protective equipment. These kits will include two cloth masks, two containers of hand sanitizer, and a tool that can pull door handles so that students and staff will be protected while on campus. Larger classes will take place online.
- Though schools in the University of North Carolina system will reopen in the fall, students living on campus are encouraged to “pack light” should an outbreak occur, according to a move-in guide from UNC Chapel Hill.
- Rice University is building nine outdoor spaces – five in open-sided tents and four in semi-permanent structures – to host classes and student activities.
- Citing an internal study, Cornell University is opening for in-person instruction come the Fall based on findings that physical campus life would lead to better health outcomes for the university community than holding classes online. This decision is premised on the belief that the campus will be a magnet for students regardless of course delivery method and that the university will be better able enforce testing, track cases, and support positive health outcomes with in-person operations.
- Institutions in some regions of China are partially re-opening after weeks of lockdown, according to University World News: “South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region has partially reopened its colleges and universities, with seniors and students with medicine-related majors returning to campuses, as the COVID-19 epidemic wanes… preventive measures include wearing masks in classes, scattered distribution of seats in classrooms and having meals separately.” Similarly, some universities in Shanghai are taking students’ temperatures, disinfecting luggage, and taking other precautions upon re-entry to campus.
- Universities in Spain are also re-opening in a phased approach: Per University World News, “Most universities plan a phased return of students and researchers, with the first phase starting in early June if things continue to improve. As a result, the academic year could be extended until July, and some students may have to sit exams or conduct lab work in September. This could mean an overlap with the following academic year, or a delayed start for the upcoming term.”
- Israeli and Albanian universities and colleges are also re-opening partially. In Israel, groups of up to 15 students permitted for laboratory classes and other hands-on courses. While most programs and services will continue virtually, Yaffa Zilbershats of the Council for Higher Education states, “limited access to campus is necessary for students in order to fulfil all their academic assignments at the end of the semester, including holding examinations.”
- University of Mary Washington, a public institution in Virginia, plans to re-open in the fall: “Given what we know at this moment, it is our hope and intention to resume our scheduled academic operations on campus with the start of fall classes on August 24, and we remain committed to our residential college experience,” President Troy Paino wrote. “That being said, we will be stringent about following federal and state guidelines to promote individual and public health.”
- William Jewell College, a private liberal arts college in Missouri, also intends to re-open in the fall beginning on August 26: Elizabeth MacLeod Walls, William Jewell’s president, states: “Our size and expert partnerships allow us to pivot quickly as health protocols change… We will be ready to welcome our students the moment it is deemed appropriate to reopen the campus. It may look a little different than a traditional semester, but as The Critical Thinking College®, we will adapt and co-create our new reality together.”
- Purdue University recently released plans to re-open its campus in the fall with strict social distancing measures in plans. Preliminary ideas include “spreading out classes across days and times to reduce their size, more use of online instruction for on-campus students, virtualizing laboratory work, and similar steps” as well as “[protecting] the more vulnerable members of our community by allowing (or requiring, if necessary) them to work remotely.
For additional campus housing plans, see the Association of College and University Housing Officers International (ACUHO-i)’s Campus Housing Plan Tracker.
Institutions must also consider the legal and political implications of offering online or in-person instruction.
- On July 24th, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released guidance that new international students would not be awarded a visa to study in the United States if their program of study would be delivered entirely online. This policy updates previous guidelines that would have prohibited any international students from coming to/remaining in the United States if their colleges adopt an online-only mode of instruction, with a maximum of one class or 3-credit hours online allowed for those on student visas.
- The BBC also highlighted a recent statement from Beijing stating students should be “cautious” when choosing to study in Australia. Specifically, the statement suggests that “the spread of the new global Covid-19 outbreak has not been effectively controlled, and there are risks in international travel and open campuses… [Further], during the epidemic, there were multiple discriminatory incidents against Asians in Australia.” Australian and other institutions seeking students from China should find ways to alleviate these concerns.
See the Oxford University COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT), which “systematically collects information on several different common policy responses that governments have taken to respond to the pandemic on 17 indicators such as school closures and travel restrictions. It now has data from more than 160 countries.”
Assess where the your institution was successful in the transition to online learning, and identify areas for improvement in a second wave scenario.
While offering classes online may be the best for individuals’ personal health, this decision has presented multiple pedagogical challenges, including:
The need for faculty members to restructure their classes to accommodate a distance format. Institutions must consider how to support faculty who still have limited experience with hosting online classes.
- Provide professional development days to allow faculty members to have time to adapt their classes. Universities can also develop a standard guide for faculty with best practices for taking their courses online.
- Ohio State University has a “Keep Teaching” website, which provides resources to faculty in the event that they need to “take [their] class materials online with minimal notice.”
- Pepperdine University has similarly published a set of strategies, tools and resources, and training guides to “share solutions for continuing coursework if meeting with students face-to-face is not possible.”
- Academic technology specialists at Stanford have put together a guide for “putting together a student-centric learning experience in a remote or online learning environment.”
- Check out syndicated reports on the topic: Best Practices in Online Faculty Development, Best Practices in Online Course Seat Time, and Strategizing Online Program Management
- Consider whether to continue holding in-person sessions for laboratory-based, studio arts, theater, or similar classes and activities with a significant in-person component.
- National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) medical experts released specific recommendations for college athletes at the end of May. Developed by the NCAA’s COVID-19 Advisory Panel and Sport Science Institute, recommendations include evaluation of individual athletes for COVID-19 exposure before returning to campus facilities and “consider asking” athletes and staff to self-screen daily. Athletes and athletics staff “should remain physically distant during strength and conditioning activities and, where distancing is not feasible, face coverings should be worn,” according to Inside Higher Ed’s review of the guidance.
- See our Best Practices in E-Learning an Art and Design Institutions and Meeting Practical Hands-on Learning Requirements During COVID-19 for further insights.
Universities also need to understand how successfully they supported students who do not have the resources to effectively participate in distance education. Specifically, in the shift to online education, universities should consider how well they addressed the challenges of low-income, part-time, or other students who are already at the greatest risk of dropping out from classes.
- Consider leaving some academic resources operational and loaning materials to students in need.
- Shoreline Community College enables students to check-out laptops, webcams, and other instructional equipment: “Our goal is to prioritize students who do not have a device to access online classes for spring 2020. With limited supplies, we are prioritizing students who have paid tuition and fees.”
- Similarly, University of Wisconsin-Madison libraries, InfoLabs, and the Help Desk have partnered to provide laptops and other equipment for remote work and education. University community members may pick up laptops from the Memorial Library during strict days/hours, or they may have their equipment shipped to them. Furthermore, all checkout and overdue fees are waived at this time.
- Read some of our sample reports on the topic: Best Practices in Online Learning for At-Risk Students and Best Practices in Online Student Retention
- Provide faculty members with guidelines for effectively maintaining relationships with students in online classes. Previous studies have shown that strategies for fostering professor-student relationships – such as video updates, personal emails, and personalized comments on assignments – can help improve retention and academic performance in online classes.
Engage in non-academic student services virtually to more wholly support students during the pandemic and beyond. An optimal approach will include a span of technological platforms, such as videoconferencing, blogs, video libraries, mobile applications, virtual events, and social media.
- Align goals and services – Develop a strategy to ensure alignment of resources, policy, and infrastructure. “Make sure that policies are enabling your strategy and are not a barrier to your strategy,” states Kim Scalzo, Executive Director of Open SUNY. For example, if the goal is to expand online course offerings, either overall or due to stay-at-home orders, the administration must invest in new professional staff or training existing staff to support growing online enrollment.
- To support its voluminous online student community, Western Governor’s University’s Career and Professional Development Center provides 1) 24/7 Self Service Tools, like webinars, resume builders, and self-assessments, 2) Job Board of opportunities from WGU students and alumni, and 3) Individual and Email Support.
- Develop and test supports – Utilize for-fee services from online program management partners, like Blackboard, or free virtual applications, like Zoom. “To start… the support delivery platform must be strong enough to provide classes, counseling, academic support, video chat and other services in a user-friendly way.”
- University of Toronto, for instance, is offering virtual Mindful Moments via Zoom, as well as one-hour online activities and workshops led by students and staff to help with issues like ‘Building Community in a Time of Social Distancing’ and ‘Self-Care When You are Sick.’
- Communicate strategically – Ensure that staff are using a variety of modes to communicate what support services are available to students. While older students may prefer email, for example, younger students may be open to text and notifications via social media. Ultimately, it is wise to ask students what their preferences are for communicating.
- George Mason University has moved its Mason Student Services Center (MSSC) online as of March 2020. Students who need assistance with financial aid, enrollment, student accounts, and other areas may complete an online form or email the MSSC to set up a virtual conferencing session.
- Determine staffing – Involve staff in conversations about moving services online. When deciding whether to deliver a specific student support online, how to staff that service, or whether to utilize a third-party service, involve staff in the discussion as they are most familiar with the students they serve. Staff may be more or less comfortable working outside of regular business hours and with learning new technologies necessary to support students virtually.
- According to American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and the association for Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA), budget cuts, such as those resulting from COVID-19 related complications and developments, often target support staff first. Finding ways to employ these staff virtually is the most effective way to retain jobs in the interim.
- Align services with unique student needs and interests – Meet immediate needs first and expand to other supports as resources allow. Arguably, mental health support and counseling services should be one of the first services institutions move online. Susan Aldridge, past president and advisor for Drexel University Online, actively worked with the University’s counseling center “to create video-based training for faculty on how to identify someone in crisis and when to refer them for support. The counseling center compiled a list of mental health resources available by phone in every state, since clinicians can only provide counseling to someone physically located in the state where they’re licensed.”
- University of Alberta’s First People’s House staff are available during regular business hours via email, phone, and Google Hangout. Students may also fill out an online form to contact the Student Wellness Worker and dedicated Elders.
- See below for additional guidance on offering telemental health services.
Adapted from University Business’ “5 Steps to Building Virtual Services for Online Students” by Theresa Sullivan Barger, August 13, 2019. See our Global Benchmarking and Best Practices in Online Student Supports report for additional guidance.
Reassure and Project Stability to Admitted Students Who Are Considering Which University to Attend in the Fall
Global higher education titans Philip G Altbach and Hans de Wit state in University World News that “It is impossible to predict the full extent of the short-, medium- or long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education, but the implications are becoming increasingly serious and mostly negative, and are likely to amplify gaps and inequalities between learners, institutions and countries.” Admissions arrangements, in particular, have been disrupted due to cancelled entry examinations and other factors.
Though less so than previously thought, international students are reconsidering global study plans, necessitating targeted marketing and outreach efforts.
- Using student search behavior data, Studyportals, a Dutch-based global study choice platform, provides a publicly available and regularly updated overview of the effects of COVID-19 on international student interest. Overall trends illustrate that “prospective students are showing less interest in exploring study abroad options and are less focused on planning their studies. This is shown by a general decline in interest compared to 2019. However, the demand for education is still large and there are already signs of a rebound as students start to adjust to the new context. In certain countries the interest for online delivered programmes is on the rise, and not all levels of education are equally affected: the decrease of interest for postgraduate offers is less pronounced than for undergraduate offers.”
- A survey of over 10,000 Chinese students conducted by the British Council found that approximately 40 percent of those studying outside of China may not return to their study abroad location to continue to their studies. Of the almost 8,500 who applied to study in the UK, nearly a quarter said they were likely to very likely to cancel their plans, mostly due to concerns about health and well-being, personal safety, or finances.
- However, an April survey of nearly 24,000 international students conducted by UniQuest found that international student interest is rebounding. Citing Times Higher Education, “the data suggest that as countries have gone into lockdown, enquiries from prospective international students in those nations have increased… [This] may be because they have more time to research university options and make enquiries.”
- According to a survey of 22,519 undergraduate and 7,690 graduate international students at five public research institutions in the United States, conducted by the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Consortium, top concerns among internationally mobile students include (verbatim):
- Maintaining good health while in the U.S. (cited by 52 percent of international undergraduate students and 67 percent of international graduate students)
- Managing immigration status and visa issues (cited by 44 percent of international undergraduate students and 55 percent of international graduate students)
- Having adequate financial support (cited by 36 percent of international undergraduate students and 49 percent of international graduate students)
- Understanding U.S. medical insurance and obtaining health services (cited by 35 percent of international undergraduate students and 53 percent of international graduate students)
- Securing a job in the U.S. after graduation (cited by 28 percent of international undergraduate students and 51 percent of international graduate students).
Cancellation of key international examinations will shift admissions requirements and intakes.
- Several U.S. graduate admissions exams, such as the GRE, GMAT, and LSATs, will move online with remote proctoring, according to a press release from Kaplan. Though countries – such as the U.S. – where exams have already been taken may not see less dramatic impact on this year’s intake, other nations, including England, Ireland, Norway, China, and the Philippines, are deciding whether to offer alternative credentialing, enable students to take exams online, or other options in lieu of traditional seated tests (University World News).
- Some countries, such as the Philippines, are waiving entrance exams altogether, instead assessing students’ high school general average (GPA).
- Our reports on Undergraduate Test-Optional Admissions in the COVID-19 Era and Online Exam Security provide additional insights and best practices.
High school students rethinking fall enrollment due to virus-related financial constraints need additional support and encouragement.
- An Art and Science Group survey of roughly 487 students graduating high school this year (conducted between March 17-20, 2020) found that “only 20 percent of students are confident that they will still be able to attend their first-choice school… and 17 percent indicated they either definitely or most likely will change their plans to attend a four-year institution as a full-time student.”
- Our report on Best Practices in Engaging the Next Generation of Students and Benchmarking COVID-19 Financial Policies provide additional recommendations.
Students seeking a holistic/traditional university experience may choose a gap year to travel or work rather than taking classes online.
- Though some higher education leaders cite enrollment as their top concern amid the COVID-19 crisis, some institutions are reporting an enrollment jump. University World News reports that “enrollment in spring and summer courses has jumped at many Canadian universities despite the shift to online classes… At the University of British Columbia, enrollment for its two summer terms is up 32 percent at the Vancouver campus and 45 percent at the Okanagan campus. At the University of Toronto, registration for summer courses is up more than 20 percent compared with a year ago, and the university is adding classes to meet demand” for instance.
- See our Best Practices in Virtual Commencement report for more innovative approaches to supporting a holistic/traditional university experience.
Utilize a variety of modes to communicate ongoing admissions and operations adjustments to faculty, staff, students, and community members, such as a dedicated COVID-19 resource webpage.
According to the American Council and Education’s (ACE) June 2020 Survey of 300 university presidents in the U.S., the most popular modes of communication regarding policies, procedures, and expectations for the Fall include email (97 percent of respondents), institutional websites (96 percent), social media (87 percent), virtual town halls (75 percent), new student/staff orientations (70 percent), and local press/media (55 percent).
Exemplars using a variety of modes of communication include:
Sample Institutional Webpages
Sample Modes of Communication
The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI)
Australian National University
Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine
University of Oxford
University of Buffalo
Exemplars of COVID-19 specific websites include:
Sample Institutional Webpages
Sample Institutional Webpage Features
New York University
University of Virginia
University of Maryland
University of California San Francisco
University of Louisville
See “Higher education institution responses to COVID-19 to-date” below for additional institutional responses and dissemination methods.
Continue to monitor guidance from medical and higher education authorities as well as trends and best practices among institutions, especially those in re-opening areas.
With many states moving to re-open their economies, the National Governors Association (NGA), individual state governors, and health experts like Johns Hopkins University (see their recent COVID-19 Planning Guide and Self-Assessment for Higher Education) are releasing guidelines for re-opening colleges and universities. Institutions should follow these as well as live databases of higher education institutional responses to COVID-19 to monitor trends and assess best practices. Note that as the situation is rapidly evolving, some links may break.
- Colleges’ Plans for Reopening in the Fall
- Colleges and universities closed/migrating online for COVID-19
- Institutional COVID-19 Responses – Travel & Online Teaching
- American Council on Education’s (ACE) monthly PULSE Point Survey of college and university leaders
- Association of College and University Housing Officers International (ACUHO-i)’s Campus Housing Plan Tracker
- Oxford University COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT)
Adapted from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Checklist for Administrators”.
Use reputable resources to stay abreast of recent developments in the COVID-19 situation. To prevent the spread of misinformation, point faculty, staff, students, and community members to reliable sources such as the following:
Public Health Organizations
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
- Public Health Agency of Canada (PHA)
- Australian Government Department of Health (DOH)
- UK National Health Services (NHS)
Global News Media
Higher Education News Sources
Review and Update Emergency Operations Plans
Working with local health professionals and other relevant partners, review and update emergency contingency and operations plans, particularly those that address infectious disease outbreaks.
According to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American College Health Association (ACHA), and other authoritative sources, institutions should identify a core planning team to develop emergency operations plans. In response to COVID-19, many institutions have developed working groups of community stakeholders and local public health authorities to develop tailored policies and procedures. According to the American Council and Education’s (ACE) June 2020 Survey of 300 university presidents in the U.S., 84 percent of all respondents are developing or have developed campus-based advisory structures to support institutional COVID-19 planning efforts. For instance:
- In early March, MIT Emergency Management coordinated community members into an overarching and individual working groups in the following areas to address the Coronavirus situation: Academic continuity, research continuity, business continuity, medical response, student/residential response, and communications response.
- University of Connecticut expanded its existing emergency management team to include key subject matter experts, such as university medical staff, as well as two sub-working groups to address academic affairs and student affairs. The former working group will focus on areas including travel policies and provisions for academic continuity such as through distance education, while the latter is reviewing preparedness measures for a potential outbreak on campus. These groups meet weekly and as needed.
- University of California, Santa Barbara developed a COVID-19 Response Working Group that includes the University’s vice chancellors, Academic Senate leaders, faculty subject matter experts (e.g., in microbiology and host interactions), and other relevant stakeholders. The group meets daily and regularly communicates with students and staff to ensure full transparency.
- See a sample of our related syndicated research here: Best Practices in Risk Assessment and Planning, Post-Pandemic Workplace Toolkit, and Case Studies: Major Disruptions to University Operating Models.
Per FEMA, emergency contingency plans should include the following:
- This brief document should provide an overview of the institution’s “approach to operations before, during, and after an emergency. This section addresses the overarching activities the institution undertakes regardless of the function, threat, or hazard. The content in this section provides a solid foundation for the institution’s operations.”
- Typical materials include: a cover page, signature page, record of changes, record of distribution, and table of contents
- A sub-section should review the overall purpose of the plan, with sample threats and hazards that necessitate the plan.
Concept of Operations
- Section I: Organization and Assignment of Responsibilities (i.e., indidivudal roles and resposibilities)
- Section II: Direction, Control, and Coordination (i.e., leadership designation and instructions on how stakeholders should engage with one another)
- Section III: Information Collection, Analysis, and Dissemination
- Section IV: Training and Exercises (i.e., in support of the plan)
- Section V: Administration, Finance and Logistics (i.e., support requirements for all types of emergencies)
- Section VI: Plan Development and Maintenance (i.e., overall approach to planning and maintainence)
- Section VII: Authorities and References (i.e., local ordinances, regulations, etc)
Functional Annexes Content
- “Functional annexes focus on critical operational functions and the courses of action developed to carry them out… As the planning team assesses the institution’s needs, it may need to prepare additional or different annexes. Examples include: evacuation, lockdown, shelter-in-place, accounting for all persons, communications, and continuity of operations.
- In particular, institutions should develop threat- and hazard-specific annexes, such as an annex dedicated to the COVID-19 situation and other infectious diseases.
COVID-19 Field Guide
Get the resources you need to stay up-to-date on COVID-19 and craft your higher education response strategy with our complete field guide.
Promote Preventative Health Behaviors
Specifically, the CDC suggests the following (verbatim):
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. If you don’t have a tissue, cough and sneeze into the inside of your elbow, not your hands.
- Stay home when sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces following CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfection
- Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Ensure your health clinics post specific guidelines, such as the CDC’s COVID-19 healthcare guidance.
Institutions vary in their plans for promoting preventative health behaviors and health screening upon resuming in-person classes and on-campus operations. According to a survey of 310 presidents of U.S. universities conducted by the American Council on Education (ACE), just over half of respondents (53 percent) said it was “very likely” and 31 percent said it was “somewhat likely” their institutions would resume in-person classes in the fall. Common actions leaders plan to take to promote preventative health behaviors include (verbatim, as of May 2020):
- Establishing residential space on campus to quarantine (65 percent planning to take).
- Allowing some faculty/staff to work remotely (62 percent)
- Limiting lab/studio class sizes for social distancing (61 percent)
- Limiting faculty/staff travel (60 percent)
- Limiting class sizes for social distancing (60 percent)
- Limiting student travel (52 percent)
- Require masks to be worn on campus (53 percent)
- Provide PPE to faculty/staff (48 percent)
- Reducing building capacity of on-campus facilities (43 percent)
- Canceling all study abroad experiences (43 percent)
- Require regular temperature screening for faculty/staff (36 percent)
- Provide PPE to students (35 percent)
- Require regular temperature screening for students (33 percent)
- Require COVID-19 testing throughout the year (30 percent)
The CDC has also published “interim considerations” for higher education administrators about COVID-19 testing, exploring types of tests and testing strategies that institutions can use to “slow and stop the spread” of the disease on campuses. Multiple universities are also offering free courses on contact tracing.
Should an outbreak occur, institutions should plan for absenteeism and student support while they are being quarantined.
Should an institution need to quarantine on-campus students, for example, ACE’s June iteration of the Pulse Survey shows that most U.S. university and college presidents plan to support students through (verbatim):
- Food deliveries to quarantined students’ rooms (87 percent)
- Resident students quarantine on campus (86 percent)
- Flexibility to complete course requirements (80 percent)
- Provide technology (74 percent)
- Provide remote availability for counseling (70 percent)
- Designated staff to assist quarantined students (53 percent)
- Transportation for quarantined students for medical care (53 percent)
- Extend telehealth services for symptom management (50 percent)
Use a variety of methods and media to promote prevention in common areas, such as:
Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis: A Survey of College and University Presidents
We conducted a survey of 172 campus leaders with Inside Higher Ed to understand how institutions nationwide are addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Actively Counter Discrimination and Promote Resilience
Administrators should communicate about COVID-19 cases while maintaining individual confidentiality. Faculty and staff should also encourage the use of mental health services and share trusted information to counter potential discrimination and stigma. Create a broad-based taskforce of campus stakeholders and local health professionals when deciding how to proceed with campus operations.
While coping with the virus, universities must make sure that they work to reduce potential stereotyping and discrimination.
- Ensure that all communications to the campus at large convey inclusivity.
- Syracuse University’s Chancellor published a message supporting Asian students as an “integral part of our Orange community” and encouraging students to respect each other.
- University of Virginia’s Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is combatting discrimination and harassment, especially against the Asian community, by providing a variety of assistance programs, services, and resources via a ‘Community Care in Response to COVID-19 webpage. The web page offers translations in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and English.
Universities must also make sure to provide adequate support for students who have experienced discrimination or otherwise feel displaced or worried about COVID-19.
- Ensure that counseling and other mental health services remain adequately equipped and staffed to handle student needs. Within the current context, Inside Higher Ed’s and Hanover’s survey of 172 university presidents found that 92 percent are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the mental health of their students during this epidemic. To that end, the Higher Education Mental Health Alliance (HEMHA) offers the following practical considerations for offering telemental health services (adapted):
- Benefits – increased access, convenience, cost savings, barrier removal, accommodate privacy concerns, and increased clinical capacity.
- Risks – confidentiality, cybersecurity, crisis intervention, training and supervision, insurance, and HIPAA compliance.
- Limitations – service disruptions, efficacy, gaze angles, difficulty of assessment, lack of infrastructure, and social justice barriers.
- Other practical considerations:
- Administrative logistics – e.g., insurance, fees, billing
- Location of provider – i.e., what additional security measures must be in place for teleworking clinicians?
- Services provided – e.g., will assessments or comprehensive treatments be offered?
- Hours of operation – e.g., will services be offered outside of the campus’ operating hours?
- Staging the office environment – e.g., how should the provider/client sit to assess nonverbal cues?
- Third-party providers – i.e., what are the costs/benefits of various third-party providers and online platforms?
Frequently Asked COVID-19 Questions for Higher Education
Get answers to the top questions higher education leaders are asking about COVID-19.