Presidential Perspectives: The 2011 Inside Higher Ed Survey
The economic health of American colleges and universities of all types fluctuates with the overall health of the country. But the current economic downturn has produced a variety of reactions from different types of institutions. “Presidential Perspectives: The 2011 Inside Higher Ed Survey” asked presidents of institutions from all sectors of higher learning to identify the most significant challenges facing their institutions and the ways they are reacting to them. The survey was conducted in January and February 2011 and was distributed to approximately 2,900 presidents of public, private, and for-profit colleges and universities. Of those who received the invitation, 956 elected to participate.
When asked to identify the most pressing institutional challenges, presidents’ responses varied widely across sectors. Even among all public institutions, there was considerable dissonance between different sectors such as between Doctoral vs. baccalaureate institutions. However, questions about institutional strategies and personnel management produced more consistent responses across most sectors.
Top Institutional Concerns
- The majority of presidents at public institutions (62 percent) named budget shortfalls as the most important issue confronting their institution, followed by changes in state support (42.6 percent). Neither private nonprofit nor for-profit institutions listed budget shortfalls as their first or second area of concern.
- Rising tuition/affordability was the most common concern listed by presidents of private nonprofit colleges and universities (42.6 percent). Within the sector, though, only presidents of doctoral universities listed cuts in federal research support among their top two concerns (34.5 percent); master’s, baccalaureate, and associate institutions were more concerned with increased competition for students (38.9, 36.9, and 31.6 percent, respectively).
- Presidents of for-profit institutions were the only sector to list potential cuts in federal student aid programs as their top concern (48.7 percent). Presidents of these institutions were also more likely to likely to list student remediation and readiness for college as a top concern.
Strategies for Coping
- When asked what strategies they would use to address the consequences of the current economic downturn, presidents from all sectors responded they were making selected cuts targeting administrative operations and services, with public institutions the most likely to make these cuts (63.6 percent).
- Public institutions were also more likely to increase tuitition by more than 5 percent in 2010-11 (48.8 percent, compared with 25.3 percent at private nonprofit institutions and 23.1 percent at for-profit institutions). Private nonprofit institutions were much more likely than institutions in other sectors to allow the discount rate to rise to provide more financial aid (48.9 percent, compared with 5.1 percent at for-profit institutions and 2.9 percent at public institutions.)
- Absent political pressure, presidents from all sectors responded they would make personnel changes to address financial challenges. Public sector presidents were more likely to outsource various campus services (44 percent) or increase teaching loads (38 percent). Presidents of private institutions were more likely to mandate the retirement of older faculty (43.3 percent) or change tenure policies (30.5 percent).
What They Do Well
- The majority of presidents across all sectors rated their institutions as “very effective” at managing financial resources and providing quality undergraduate education. Presidents at nonprofit institutions were most likely to give high rankings for financial management (80.4 percent at public, 72.2 percent at private), while presidents at for-profit institutions were most likely to give high marks for preparing students for employment (66.7 percent).
- Presidents from all sectors were unlikely to give high performance rankings for their institution’s ability to ensure junior faculty development (less than 25 percent in all sectors) and secure financial support from alumni or from corporations and foundations.
The full report can be downloaded here
- Less than 7 percent of presidents expect Congress to protect federal student aid spending; Nearly 30 percent expect cuts to the size of the maximum Pell Grant in 2012.
- Sixty percent of all college presidents agree or strongly agree that eliminating humanities programs will create major problems for higher education.