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Most College Presidents Are Confident in Financial Stability, But Share Concerns About Public Confidence in Higher Ed

By Maria Carrasco, NASFAA Staff Reporter

Most college and university presidents are optimistic that their institutions will be financially stable in the next five or 10 years. However, over half of these presidents have concerns about the public’s confidence in higher education – especially in terms of college affordability. 

A survey released from Inside Higher Ed in late February found that 66% of college and university presidents said they are either very or extremely concerned about the public’s confidence in higher education today. The survey recorded responses from 380 presidents from public and private nonprofit institutions across the U.S. 

Over one-third of presidents – 36% – said the decline in the public’s confidence over higher education could stem from the lack of affordability, including high tuition prices, while 27% cited whether institutions are adequately preparing graduates for the workforce as a contributing factor. Presidents also attributed concerns about ideological bias (16%), concerns that higher education is disconnected from society (11%), and concerns about equity to historically underrepresented groups (2%) as factors for the decline in the public’s confidence over higher education. 

Additionally, the survey found only about 3% of presidents said they are not confident at all that their institution will exist as a freestanding institution by 2030, while 71% responded that they are either extremely confident or very confident. And over 80% of presidents said they are confident their institutions will be financially stable in the next five or 10 years. 

When it comes to work policies at institutions, 61% of presidents said that a quarter of their non-faculty staff are working in flexible, hybrid, or fully remote arrangements this spring. Eight percent of presidents said that none of their non-faculty staff work remotely or in hybrid schedules, and 8% said three-quarters to all of their non-faculty staff work remotely or in hybrid schedules.

More than half of presidents – 65% – said they’ve increased professional development opportunities for employees and 62% said they’ve made an effort to increase pay. This comes as other surveys show that within the past year, the most common reasons why higher education professionals may look for other employment are for the opportunity to work remotely and/or to find increased pay. 

Additionally, over half of presidents – 54% – said that employee productivity stayed the same under any flexible work policies they adopted prior to or since 2020. However, nearly one-third of presidents said productivity somewhat or significantly decreased from employees with flexible work arrangements. Only 13% said productivity increased somewhat or significantly with flexible work. 

And as the 2024 presidential election cycle continues, the survey also found that one-third of presidents are completely or somewhat satisfied with the Biden administration’s higher education policy, and 41% said they are completely or somewhat dissatisfied. 

A final portion of the survey focused on the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) decision that race can not be considered in college and university admissions. According to college and university presidents, 14% said their institution considered race in admissions before the SCOTUS decision. And out of those, 71% said they changed their institution’s admission policies because of the decision.

Presidents were mostly (86%) optimistic that they would be able to maintain their current level of diversity within the student body under the SCOTUS decision on college and university admissions. Additionally, only 2% of presidents whose institution previously used  race-conscious admissions said that the SCOTUS decision decreased diversity, equity, and inclusion measures on campus. 

 

Publication Date: 3/28/2024


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