What Are College and University Presidents Thinking?

May 26, 2014

By: John Gaal

university-pillar-300x213Inside Higher Education recently issued its 2014 Survey of College and University Presidents, conducted by Gallup, and it makes for some very interesting reading.  The survey results are based on responses from 846 college and university presidents and chancellors (and some other top administrators), with 438 responses from public institutions, 347 from private institutions and 37 from the for-profit sector. The survey provides responses to questions covering government collection of data and reporting, budget and finances, sexual assault policies, race relations and the American Studies Association Boycott of Israeli universities. With respect to the federal government’s efforts to collect and publish career data and other outcomes for graduates, about half of the respondents agreed that it was appropriate (with 17% strongly agreeing) for the government to do so.  However, only 13% agreed (2% strongly) that the government would accurately collect and report that data. Just a little more than 60% of responding institutions indicated that they now report institutional average loan debt of graduates on their websites, with just under 60% reporting institutional job placement rates for graduates.  Far fewer reported average loan debts (19%) and job placement rates (45%) at the program level, although that information likely would be more valuable to students.  Interestingly, 53% reported that they should report program level debt and 74% reported that they should report program level job placement rates, raising the obvious question of why so many more institutions think they should report this information than actually do so.  Only a little more than 30% reported starting salaries of recent graduates, 9% reported income of graduates 5 years out, and only 4% reported income 10 years out. While 62% of all respondents were confident that their institution’s financial model was sustainable over the next 5 years, that number dropped to 50% when looking at a 10 year horizon.  Interestingly, public and private non-profit institutions responded in those same percentages, but for-profit institutions showed greater confidence in the sustainability of their models with 73% agreeing that their financial model was sustainable over 5 years and 70% over 10 years.  Fifteen percent of all respondents did not have confidence that their institution’s model was sustainable over the next 5 years, and 22% lacked confidence when looking over 10 years. Only 18% of all respondents agreed that reports of a significant number of higher education institutions facing an existential financial crisis are overblown, while 60% did not agree that these concerns are overblown.   Only 22% agreed that the economic downturn starting in 2008 was effectively over at their institutions, while 54% disagreed that this was the case on their campuses. With respect to sexual assaults, 71% of all respondents agreed that higher education institutions, generally, need to improve the way they respond to sexual assault reports, while 95% felt that their own institutions handled sexual assault cases appropriately.  Forty-nine percent of all respondents felt that sexual assault allegations are best investigated by law enforcement, rather than the institution, while 30% disagreed with that view. Similarly viewing their own campuses as better than “the rest,” 90% of all respondents felt that race relations on their campuses were excellent or good, while only 53% felt that was the case on campuses across the country. The full survey, which contains considerably more information and breaks down survey responses by type of institution (public/private/for-profit and doctoral/masters/baccalaureate), is well worth reviewing.