Pandemic Accelerates Looming Challenges for Higher Education Institutions, TIAA and EY-Parthenon Research Reveals

NEW YORK, Oct. 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — According to a new white paper released today by TIAA and EY-Parthenon, COVID-19 has created new financial and operational challenges for higher education institutions and has accelerated the impact of long-standing demographic, organizational and economic trends on the higher education sector.

The white paper, entitled “The new normal: Higher education in a post-COVID-19 world”, was the focus of a panel at the TIAA Institute Virtual Higher Education Symposium in which leaders from Bucknell University, Rutgers University and St. Olaf College shed light on how institutions can adapt to their new realities and ensure higher education remains attractive for future generations of students.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly transforming the higher education industry. While the challenges vary among institutions, leaders are finding ways to adapt and address the needs of current and prospective students,” said Christina Cutlip, Senior Managing Director, Head of Client Engagement & National Advocacy at TIAA. “At TIAA, we are committed to helping higher education leaders navigate this new reality so they can continue to create spaces for young people to develop valuable skills and grow into exceptional citizens.”

The virtual event, hosted by the TIAA Institute on Friday, October 16, featured a discussion about the current challenges facing the higher education sector and the impact of the pandemic on human, financial, physical, and reputational capital for institutions of all sizes. The conversation touched on several trends, including a renewed emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices, greater reliance on an institution’s core mission, and faster and more agile decision-making processes. Participants also discussed:

  • Imagining the evolution and future of institutions: Higher education institutions will need to be agile as they adapt to the shifting environment, meet students’ and faculty’s evolving needs, and provide safe and equitable spaces that foster growth. Achieving a desired future state requires revisiting institutions’ value propositions and considering a sharpened focus on mission-critical programming that aligns with their goals. This may mean cutting non-essential areas of study, providing flexible hybrid and online curriculum, building interdisciplinary schools, or offering shorter degree pathways and certificate programs that align with the future workforce.
  • Flexing human and financial capital: As institutions evolve, they may need to align their human and financial resources to new priorities. This may mean redeploying employees into new areas that align with their talents and campus needs and renewing focus on DEI initiatives, including recruiting diverse faculty through non-traditional job markets and ensuring new hires match their institutions’ DEI values. It will also be important for institutions to think beyond traditional 12-month budget cycles. The pandemic has made it apparent that in some cases, short-term budget planning and liquidity is needed. However, maintaining a focus on financial decisions that have long-term benefits over a 3 to 5-year time horizon, as higher education adjusts to a new normal, will be necessary for strategic and intentional planning.
  • Engaging strategic partners: Institutions are considering new or expanded ways to work with outside partners. Examples include implementing wellness programs