On-Demand Webinar: 2022 Inside Higher Ed President’s Survey

Last updated on: April 19, 2022

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What keeps university Presidents wake at night? What challenges and topics are top-of-mind for these individuals? This webinar sheds some light on the 12th annual Inside Higher Ed: 2022 Survey of College and University Presidents, a research report from Inside Higher Ed and Hanover Research. Inside Higher Ed editors walk you through some of the report’s most interesting findings.

Conversation topics

Stream the video for an engaging conversation among experts on these and other topics:

  • The financial stability of institutions across the country
  • How COVID-19 has changed business model programming and other major operations
  • The affordability factor of online learning
  • How Presidents feel about online, hybrid, and in-person formats


  • Doug Lederman: Editor and Co-founder of Inside Higher Ed

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>> Hello, welcome to today’s web cast, what keeps you up at
night which is a review of inside higher ed’s survey of
university Presidents. I’m joined today by my co-editor and
founder Scott Scott. We are going to run through in the first
half or so of the presentation we will run through the results
of the survey and offer some modest analysis of it. And then
the second half of the presentation Scott and I will take your
questions. You don’t need to wait until then to submit them and
we encourage you to start typing any questions you have or
thoughts and things you would like us to maybe explore a little
more deeply into the Q&A box. There is a icon on the bottom of
your screen and you can put your comments in there.
We will not do — we will not be reading your name or
institution or anything with your questions unless you
specifically put them in there. And if you think it would help
us to have that kind of information to answer your question,
either type of institution or sector or something identifying
that would be help us answer your question more informed way,
please go ahead and do that.
We are recording today’s session and transcribing for
those who need it Jessica has put a link to the transcription in
the chat box which is where a lot of the housekeeping stuff is.
And then other thing is before we begin I wanted to offer a note
of thanks to the sponsors of the President’s survey. They make
both the survey itself and our report on it and the web cast
that we are doing today possible. So we thank them for that.
The sponsors are D2L, EY part in, Qualtrics, timely MD, widely
university service and the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi.
Thank you to all of them for their support.
As we sort of start to move in a couple more sort of
pre-curser notes, this is just some identifying information
about the survey and the methodology. These are — this is one
of several surveys we do each year of campus administrators
including Provosts and business officers and admission officers.
And the goal is for us to try to inject into the higher
education ecosystem some sense of how leaders elsewhere are
thinking about a lot of the issues that are facing all of you in
your daily work and the hope is that by giving you a sense of
how your colleagues are thinking about these things and how the
leaders of the institutions you work at are thinking about them
can help guide your own work and maybe make you feel a little
less alone in your own sense of opportunities and challenges and
we hope these are helpful.
Pretty straightforward information here. Decent mix of
different types of institutions. Every response is coded, is
private. There is no identification of the respondents, but
there is tagging done by our survey partner Hanover research so
we can tag and break down and provide some more granular data by
sector and institution-type, et cetera, which can help you in
your sense of the overall picture.
So now time to sort of dive into the results. Get our
first set of slides about kind of the closest thing we have to a
consumer confidence survey where we ask Presidents to assess the
financial stability of their institutions. And the sort of
overarching data this year was more than three-quarters, 77%
agreed, 31% strongly. We asked them to assess the confidence in
their institution’s financial stability over five and ten years.
And this — these are the ten year data which are the ones we
tend to focus on because they are a little bit further out and
maybe a stronger sense of where they think their institutions
are going. And three-quarters agree, express confidence and
that sort of mid-term viability and sustainability and
stability. Not surprisingly as is true of so many things in
higher education, pretty significant differences at the sector
level. Where you see here that Presidents of public doctoral
universities and baccalaureate colleges express the most
confidence. That’s to the far right of your screen. And 47% of
private college leaders strongly agree that they are confident
in their institution’s financial stability over a decade.
That’s up from 27% a year ago. Pretty dramatic change. Not
quite a doubling but a pretty significant increase in the sense
of four year private college leaders.
And again thinking about that and we will talk about this
throughout the presentation about sort of how people are
thinking about that. Obviously institutions have a big infusion
of federal money a year, year and a half ago that has given a
lot of them some revenue that they might have foregone and
suspect some of them also made some changes structural changes
in their institutions over the last couple of years that might
have reduced their expense structures a little bit. So that may
be attributable why we are seeing that increase.
Leaders of public masters and bachelors institutions and
community colleges were a little bit less expressed a little
less confidence, but still much more confident than less. And
just a couple of other notes on this slide, Presidents of
colleges in the northeast were less likely than their peers
elsewhere to express confidence in the ten year outlook and
Presidents in the south are less likely to express confidence
probably not shocking but interesting to note.
The next slide and this is a set of questions we haven’t
asked before. It’s designed to go a little deep for the the
psychology and how people are thinking. We asked this question
specifically because the world is such a variable place right
now and thinking about — so we asked Presidents to assess their
current situation compared to 2019 to a year ago and to project
a little year from now. I expected more Presidents to think
that they might be in worse shape a year from now because of the
disappearance of that federal money and the fact that money was
going to largely fall away and have been spent. But in general
Presidents were — they rejected the idea largely. You will see
in that bottom chart that they rejected the idea that their
institutions are in better shape now than they would be a year
from now. They believe that things are in general more likely
to agree that things will get better a year from now than they
are now.
You know, taken together, I think this suggests a pretty
confident group of college leaders. I have — I will admit that
it’s a little overly Rosie from my perspective, and in trying to
understand why I think there are a lot of thing at play. We
quoted one former President in the article we wrote about the
survey saying I read this as people were pretty much on a high
saying, we got through that and it’s starting to feel normal
again. What you may have got here is what they felt not their
pure intellectual assessment but feels so much better after
being under so much pressure.
I thought that made some sense and we had a lot of
conversations about sort of how people are peeling about that
and interested in hearing from some of you in the Q&A about how
you read these numbers.
Going to shift now to talking a little bit about set of
questions we asked about the pandemic’s impact on higher
education and on the sort of landscape that we are all dealing
with. And what you see on this slide is a couple of charts that
describe that make it clear that Presidents recognize that
things are changing in higher education. And I guess the top
one essentially has most Presidents agreeing that their
institution needs to make fundamental changes in their business
model programming, other major operations. And the other one on
this chart again shows pretty overwhelming views that the
pandemic sort of led to changes for the institution. Some of
them either clearing the way for changes they might have wanted
to make otherwise. A general sense that some of the things they
did during the pandemic will linger and be held on to going
I guess what struck me — well, sorry. Scott point out
there is a problem with these — please ignore. That flipped to
be backwards. I will — apologies for that.
But I guess what struck me about this slide is there is a
general perception that even though the higher education is in a
state of flux and that they need to make significant changes,
but they — there is also as you will see on the next slide
maybe a little bit less sense that their own institutions need
to change and I think a sense that as things start to return to
normal, what you see on this slide is quite a bit fewer
Presidents this year than last year, for instance, saying that
there was — whoops, sorry about that. They saw an opportunity
to make changes at their institution that they otherwise wanted
to make. 37 — 27% this year compared to 37% last year. And
similarly also quite a few — quite a bit fewer Presidents
saying that they were going to hold on to some of the changes
they had made after the pandemic. And so I think there is a
sort of a sense and what was interesting particularly is the
President’s most likely to have reduced numbers to see changes
less needed were those places that are expressing the most
confidence about their institution’s financial position. In
other words, Presidents of private baccalaureate colleges, only
68% of them this year compared to 82% of them a year ago said
the pandemic created an opportunity for their institution to
make other changes that their leaders had wanted to make. And
Presidents of those institutions and of the public doctoral
universities that are also sort of expressed the most confidence
were 10 percentage points this year less likely to say that
their institution needs to make fundamental changes this their
business model. So what that suggests to me is that as the
financial conditions improve or at least the perceptions of the
financial conditions improve, Presidents are less likely to feel
the need and the compulsion to make significant changes. I
think that’s pretty natural human condition. I think it will be
interesting to see whether that — it depends to some extent
whether Presidents are thinking — are responding with their
hearts or with their heads and I think there is a little bit of
a mix here and some of both probably.
So I’m going to shift now — this continues to be sort of
about some of the changes we have seen during the pandemic. But
this is — these are a set of questions we asked Presidents to
answer about sort of the national landscape and sort of overall
changes in perceptions in the public and elsewhere. And what
you see here is that, I don’t know, mixed signals in certain
ways. We have only about a third of Presidents agreeing that
the pandemic will cause a shift from more expensive to more
affordable or less expensive colleges. I think that had been a
trend we had seen in place to some extent. And I’m not talking
about the sort of — there is obviously continues to be enormous
interest and growing applications and students trying to get to
sort of the very top tier of colleges, but I think we had seen
in sort of pre-pandemic people, parents and families asking
harder questions about their tuition dollars and what they were
spending. And Presidents in general seemed not to think that
pandemic has driven that further and made parents and students
and families more likely than they were before to look at sort
of affordability as a factor in choosing colleges.
About half as you see of Presidents say in here that they
think it will lead more students to choosing favoring virtual
education than was true before. Somewhat more saying that than
the flip side. And then also very few — or more going from top
to bottom saying that they do believe that families will — are
less inclined to pay same price for virtual learning as for
in-person learning, general agreement that families are going to
be somewhat less — are going to be less willing to pay top
dollar for virtual learning.
Couple other — and a few more slides on the sort of set
of changes that we’ve seen Presidents perceive because of the
This is a set of — we asked them for some of the changes
that they had made during the pandemic and whether they thought
they would keep them. Whether they thought they would remain in
their long-term plans. As you can see here, the top couple are
pretty unsurprising. Even though Presidents don’t seem to think
that more students and families will be looking for on-line
options, more of them are — the top answer here is that more of
them say they are going to keep the increasing on-line learning
options that they had been offering during the pandemic, at
least some of them. More opportunity for faculty and staff to
work remotely. And intensified investment in mental health
services which again remains top of mind for a lot of Presidents
and we will come back to that in a minute with some slides about
some questions about mental health specifically.
A lot less interest and a lot less inclination to keep
some of the kind of more significant changes that they
might — that they had made that some of them made during the
pandemic and some of them we had been seeing in the years
leading up to the pandemic. Not nearly as inclined — fewer
saying — fewer than half or half or fewer are saying that they
are going to continue to offer more certificates and other
alternative credentials to focus on — to create more programs
aimed at non-traditional and non-18-22-year-old undergraduate
learners. Not nearly as much interest in sustaining the
adaptations to the academic calendar that a lot of places made
during the pandemic. Only about four in ten saying they are
going to hold on to test optional policies or test blind
Very few, barely one in ten expecting to sort of use the
pandemic to re-think how the institution’s physical footprint
lands. So it’s interesting to think about the connection
between more flexibility for staff to work remotely and changes
in the physical footprint. I think that suggests they are more
inclined to re-think how they use their campus rather than to
shrink it.
A few more slides and I’m going to keep going through this
and we can come back to any of these that those of you — that
you would like to in the Q&A. I want to sort of breeze through
it so we have plenty of time for your questions. They are
coming in nicely. Please continue to continue to submit them.
This slide essentially asks Presidents to rate the quality
of their — different types of learning, the different modes of
learning on their campuses this fall. And as you can see here,
much more confidence, essentially 100% confidence in the quality
of Presidents in their in-person courses, 100% of Presidents.
Either think they are either good or excellent. Quite a bit
fewer express that confidence about their hybrid courses and
even fewer just one in five essentially compared to 73% who say
that about their in-person learning believe their on-line
courses are fully on-line courses are excellent.
To me, that’s just suggests that Presidents have their own
perceptions about on-line education. It’s interesting to me. I
think the general sense is that on-line education or sort of
emergency remote education that most colleges offer at the start
of the pandemic was pretty crappy all around and a lot of places
acknowledge that and there was a sense that as the pandemic
continued many institutions invested significantly in support
and that was going to make the on-line offerings better. The
quality is really interesting phrase. We didn’t define it in
this survey and we left it in the eye of the beholder to some
extent. The thing that strikes me as interesting about quality
and on-line education is compared to what? We don’t have great
tools for measuring quality in in-person courses either. So I
think there is a lot of perception involved. Again, I think
this is something we could revisit in the Q&A.
And just a couple of other things we ask about the on-line
education. They return on this slide, but we did ask Presidents
what proportion of courses are being delivered in the various
formats this spring and most of them and sort of most of them
said about two-thirds and they estimates it was a little higher
than sort of the proportion of in-person courses was 71% they
estimated in 2019. And then we asked them to look ahead and say
what they thought what proportion of the courses they thought
would be delivered in-person next spring and the Presidents sort
of general — average answer was 68% continuing to edge back to
where it was in 2019, they thought. When you think about sort
of the President’s saying on a couple of slides ago tedon’t
think that Presidents — they don’t think families will pay as
much for on-line, it’s not surprising maybe that Presidents are
pushing hard to try to return as much of the instruction to
in-person as they can.
The last couple of slides on sort of the impact of the
pandemic, before we shift to a couple of other topics, this is a
set of questions we — we asked a set of questions we hadn’t
asked for a couple of years around collaboration with other
institutions up to and including merger. More than half of
Presidents as you see on this slide think that their
institutions should combine academic programs with those of
another college or share administrative functions with another
college within the next five years.
A couple of other questions we asked, about 10% fewer
Presidents than that in the low to mid-40s said their
institutions were likely to either share academic — combine
academic programs or share administrative functions and only a
quarter said that they — that their institutions were actually
having or had had in the last year serious internal
conversations about doing so. So a lot more Presidents think
they should do these things, collaborate and cooperate with
other institutions on either administrative functions or
academic programs than seem to actually be doing so. And you
can see by the bottom on the bottom there in general only about
one in six, one in seven Presidents say their institutions had
had serious internal discussions about merging with another
college. That was about twice as high, about 20% for private
non-profit colleges as for public ones. Probably won’t surprise
anybody that Presidents were about two and a half times likelier
to say their institution was going to acquire another
institution in the next five years than to say it would be
acquired by another institution.
So we have a few more slides to run through before we get
to your questions.
A set of questions we asked this year about mental health.
And again that remains top of mind for just about every
President that comes through our office when we talk to them and
I’m sure for a lot of you because it’s a major worry.
Presidents — what we tried to get at in this set of
questions was sort of how aware Presidents were of the mental
health issues for different groups. And sort of how well
positioned they felt to address the issues that these different
groups had. Many more Presidents, more than two-thirds said
they were aware of the mental health needs of their
undergraduate students quite a bit more than of their employees
overall. And of their students. You can see those percentages
About two-thirds said the institution had the capacity
to — and we didn’t define that particularly but we were talking
about things like counselors and availability of mental health
services to meet the needs of undergraduates quite a bit felt
that way about faculty staff and graduate students and
Presidents were much more likely to say that they — 70% of
those who expressed confidence in meeting the needs of people
said that they had meaningfully increased budgets on their
campuses for mental health services. Also for investing in
telehealth and increasing the availability of counseling
Scott, did you want to add something here?
>> Yes, hello, everybody. Actually, can you go back?
>> Sorry.
>> On the two-thirds agree the institution has a capacity to
meet needs of under graduates, it’s an interesting figure. And
I tend to believe the President’s who said that truly believe
it. As we have been writing about many campuses, have to have
limits on what they will offer. If a college has a limit on the
number of sessions available to students, and many, many do,
they are not meeting the full needs of undergraduates. And so I
just thought that was an interesting figure.
>> Yeah. The conversations that have been hearing Presidents
increasingly have and hearing people who are sort of mental
health experts have is trying to broaden the definition of how
institutions are meeting people’s needs. I think it’s almost
impossible for institutions to fully meet the needs, the demands
for counseling appointments and one of the bigger questions is
going to be around whether institutions can do more things sort
of downstream in terms of meeting — of trying to get to
people’s mental health needs before they get to a serious enough
level that they require an appointment. I think that’s a
hard — that’s a culture change on a lot of campuses that I
think places are just starting to — a lot of places are just
starting to wrestle with.
This is probably the slide and the set of questions that
most perplexes people in recent years. And this is when we
asked, we asked Presidents to assess the state of race relations
on their campuses. And last year for the first time and in
quite a few years we saw a significant decrease in the
proportion of Presidents agreeing that the state of race
relations on their campuses were excellent or good. I think it
had been in the 80s in 2020 and then last year it dropped down
to 63%. This year it went back up to 73%. And that’s
particularly striking when you compare that figure to the other
question we asked them which is to assess the state of race
relations nationally on college campuses. Where much
more — many more Presidents saying they are either fair or
poor, particularly. So Presidents much more inclined to judge
their own situation favorably than the national picture. And
that tends to boggle the minds of a lot of people we get to
analyze these results.
Scott, did you want to come back in?
>> I wanted to comment on that statistic. You know the thing
that I think is happening is Presidents are evaluating did we
have major protests or a controversy specifically about race
this year? And if their answers were no or just a few, and
enabled them to pick good or excellent. I think if you really

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