The Effect of COVID-19 on Higher Education

September 29th, 2020 by



  “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

                             The New Yorker






Students from all over the world want to send a thank you message to university officials for all they are doing for students during this difficult time. # Thank University.  More to come on this effort.

According to an unpublished study by Parthenon’s Global Education Practices, demand for Study Abroad programs will surge after the pandemic subsides. For now, 79% of American colleges and universities expect to experience a decline in their study abroad programs.



According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, as of July 27th, only 12% of U.S. colleges will teach fully online for the fall semester. But that percentage is changing daily.

According to an ICEF Monitor survey, 92% of the 520 schools responding to the survey are planning to use a hybrid learning model for the fall semester.


87% of all U.S. schools are offering accepted international students the option to defer enrollment until the Spring semester. 20% of Harvard’s first-year students, 340 students, have chosen to defer their admission for a year.

As of July 30th, 57,855 international students have been accepted at 286 U.S. colleges and universities and 4,488 have deferred to the spring semester. 

In a Reimagined University first-year students who elected to defer enrollment for a semester or a year year because of the virus would have been assigned a GAP year project that would have earned them credits toward their degree.

India’s Ministry of Education has introduced the National Education Policy 2020 which will allow the world’s top-rated universities to operate in India.

Author’s recommendation: For many reasons, the Chinese supply-chain of students has been broken and Chinese students will never enroll in international colleges and universities in the numbers previously recorded. International deans of admission should look elsewhere in the future to replace their number of Chinese students. India may be a good place to begin to search.

In a Reimagined University international recruitment will focus on in-country enrollment, articulation agreements and two-plus-two-degree completion arrangements and less on college fairs, agent referrals, and school visits. Cohort marketing, or enrolling groups of students from a single source, will replace outmoded recruitment practices.


According to information from the Center for Global Development, a Sino-American trade war could cost the U.S. $1 billion in lost tuition next year.

The growth rate for Chinese students in America has decreased from an average of 22% annually to just 5%. 

 Why I don’t believe Chinese students will leave China to study abroad in the future as they have in the past.

China’s Double-First Class program, initiated in 2015, has allocated more than 300 billion yuan to improve the teaching and research capability of Chinese colleges and universities. There are 42 participating Chinese institutions. The results are impressive. For example, Tsinghua University’s civil engineering, computer science and engineering departments topped Harvard University, MIT, and Stanford Universities in a recent US News and World Report’s Best Global Universities publication.

Better quality instruction in China decreases the incentive to study at “quality” institutions abroad.

On August 7th, The Telegraph reported 18% of job applicants are less likely to receive a callback if they have a U.S. degree.

The average cost of a college degree in China is $1,600. The average cost in the U.S. is $26,820. Although China reported today a 7.2% increase in export numbers from a year earlier. China’s GDP shrank 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020, the first decline since 1992. Many Chinese families simply cannot afford to send their children abroad to study.

Visa policies in many countries throughout the world are confusing and ambiguous, making it difficult for families to plan.

COVID-19 rates of infection are worse in many countries than they are in China.

Final Note: Underpinning all of the above reasons for fewer Chinese students studying abroad is the geopolitical conflict between China and many countries, including the U.S., Canada, and Australia.


The Impact of COVID-19 Virus on Higher Education

September 22nd, 2020 by

“It’s only when the tide goes out, that you learn who’s been swimming naked.”

Warren Buffett


Given the cornucopia of bad news over the past five months, it’s refreshing to acknowledge when something goes right. In last week’s bulletin I wrote about the proposed U.S. federal rules prohibiting international students to legally enroll in fall classes if the classes were only taught on-line. For seven days we all chased after this shiny object and planned for the worst. And then on July 15th, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs wrote:

“I have been informed by the parties that they have come to a resolution. The government has agreed to rescind the July 6, 2020 policy directive.”

The voices of 200 American colleges and universities in 17 states prevailed. 



It’s too early for anyone to define the reimagined student but it’s not too early to suggest a few attributes of the post COVID-19 college and university student.

The Reimagined Student:

Will enroll in schools with well-established health protocols

Will enroll in schools that have a proven track record of putting students first

Will enroll in schools closer to home

Will enroll in schools that offer year-long classes

Will enroll in schools that offer a reasonable schedule of in-person and online instruction

Will enroll in schools that can map out a reasonable schedule for degree completion at the time of acceptance and deposit

Will enroll in schools that assign academic and financial aid advisors at the time of acceptance and deposit

Will enroll in schools that provide accepted students with the approximate cost of degree completion 

Will enroll in schools with robust career counseling and internship programs and

Will enroll in schools that assign alumni mentors to accepted and deposited students. 


Rice University in Houston, Texas is building nine large outdoor classrooms. The university has purchased five open-sided circus tents and another four semi-permanent structures and will offer specific classes outdoors during the fall semester.

Fairfield University in Connecticut offered 1,150 accepted incoming students the opportunity to take an online summer class. As of July 6th, 887 incoming students enrolled in the class. Perhaps “summer melt” will not be a big issue for Fairfield?

Bentley University in Massachusetts is offering a free summer class as part of a flexible Trimester Program that will begin in the fall. Perhaps Bentley has already acknowledged that the previous academic calendar is no longer relevant?


The latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine focuses on the reshaping of the global order with China taking the lead, including being the world’s leader in education

 Professor Youmin Xi, executive president of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, speaking at the Going Global Conference said:

“In the face of crisis and new situations, individuals and organizations are presented with valuable opportunities to boldly innovate and plan for future transformation.”

Prior to COVID-19 more than 600,000 Chinese students studied worldwide. Many colleges and universities, including schools in the U.S., UK, Australia and Canada, depended on the revenue from these students to meet their enrollment and fiscal goals.

But this prior trend of Chinese students may change. Geopolitical disputes with the U.S., UK, Australia, and Canada, may impact the number of Chinese students studying in those countries in the future. 

U.S.-China relations, in particular, are in free fall and Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, predicts that the situation will worsen the in the months to come.

We are naïve to think that even after the virus is contained, Chinese students will enroll in the same numbers as before. This cohort of students simply has too many options. Of course top tier schools will continue to be of interest to Chinese students and parents but the virus has left Chinese families economically insecure and politically wary of being educated in western countries.

Chinese student mobility has, in my opinion, moved from the Atlantic to the Indian ocean.


“It’s 2022. What Does Life Look Like?” David Leonhardt, in his sagacious New York Times article, (July 12,2020), predicts the long-term, negative impact of the virus on several industries, including retail, publishing, restaurants, department stores, cruise ships, theme parks, and colleges and universities. Any industry, the author writes, that depends on close human contact is at risk, and that includes colleges and universities.

But let’s end on a positive note. Emily Oster, a Brown University economist, writes in this same article: “A downturn is an opportunity to revisit inefficiencies.” 

I think it is also a good time to reimagine and plan for what your school will “look like” in the future.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education

September 15th, 2020 by

                         THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON HIGHER EDUCATION                 

“There is only one way out of this. It is, of course, by rethinking our education.”

C.P. Snow, former professor, Cambridge University and author of The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution



In the reimagined university the registrar is re-named graduation counselor and the career counselor is renamed lifelong learning counselor.

These two administrators, rarely having a seat at the strategic planning table, should have a seat at the vision planning table.

The graduation counselor has the ability, to outline for accepted applicants and their families, the courses that should be taken in sequence that could “guarantee,” if followed, progression and graduation in two, three or four years. Applicants would have this information before making an enrollment decision.

Potential outcome: Increased yield rates, less student debt and better progression and graduation rates.

Lifelong learning counselors have the ability to inform accepted and deposited applicants about internship opportunities at the beginning of their academic career, not as they approach the final year of enrollment as is often the case.

Students and their families would have this information before enrollment.

Potential outcome: Increased yield rates, better graduation and retention rates and earlier collaboration between potential employers and alumni.

Both of these suggestions build upon the previous recommendations for a reimagined university, including offering classes yearlong, both in person and online.

Another quote from C.P. Snow is relevant to the times:

“The imperative for adaptability, rigor, and quick but astute decision making is obvious. Because academic wristwatches mark time in increments of quarters or semesters, clock speed may need to be calibrated. Faculty committees tend to deliberate while shifts in policy, culture, and technology flash by at warp speed.”

Adaptation is part of life.

Or as the management consultant, Peter Drucker wrote, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”



“The mean-spirited policy is ignorant and ominous.” So wrote Brian Rosenberg, president emeritus of Macalester College, referring to the July 6th ruling by the Trump administration requiring all international students, those in the United States and those international students planning to enroll in the fall semester, to take courses only in person and not online. 

Colleges and universities were given nine days to respond with their teaching plans for the fall semester to meet the requirement.

This amounts to a new travel ban for F-1 students and could affect one million international students and cost the U.S. $41 billion in revenue.

A list of 40 colleges and universities in the United States with largest number of international students, included the following:*

NYU – 17,552 international students  –  30.8% of budget

Columbia University  –  14,615 international students  –  44.6% of budget

 USC  –  16,075 international students  –  32.3% of budget

Stanford University  –  5,650 international students  –  27% of budget

Harvard University  –  6,117 international students  –  15% of budget

Boston University  –  9,742 international students  –  23.5% of budget

Carnegie-Melon University  –  8,604 international students  –  56.4% of budget

Northeastern University  –  14,905 international students  –  53.6% of budget

Cornell University  –  6,775 international students  –  23.5% of budget

If you added up the number of international students attending California schools listed in this report the number is 68,174.

 Some of the most prestigious and generously endowed colleges and universities in the United States, with a substantial portion of their budgets met by international students, will be in trouble if these students are not allowed to enroll in the fall semester. Of course, everything is relative. But I was surprised at the high percentage of budgets met by international students at NYU, USC, Stanford, Northeastern, Columbia, BU, Cornell, and Carnegie Melon. 

*Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education

On July 9th, Harvard, MIT and Northeastern University sued the Department of Homeland Security over this policy.

“We will pursue this case vigorously so that our international students – and international students at institutions across the country- can continue their studies without the threat of deportation.”

                              Lawrence S. Bacow, President, Harvard University


More bad news for international students and scholars. According to the Alliance for International Exchange, the suspension of certain visa categories, including H-1B, H-2B and some L and J non-immigrant visa categories, could cost the United States’ economy more than $223 million dollars and more than 7,000 jobs.

My colleague and co-author, Gretchen Dobson, sent me an article detailing how geopolitical tensions between Australia and China have spilled over into Chinese students’ decisions about studying in Australia. Less than 50% of Chinese students plan to return to Australia to study.

Some families and colleges and universities are investigating purchasing tuition insurance to protect against future enrollment uncertainties. GradGuard, is a tuition insurance company with 300 private and public institutions enrolled in their tuition insurance program.

Some UK universities are considering chartering planes to bring international students from India and China to their campuses to begin classes in the fall semester. Jamie Arrowsmith, assistant director of policy at Universities UK International, said it was supporting institutions by exploring the logistics and costs of chartering flights.

The UK has announced the creation of an “Office for Talent,” as part of a plan to attract high-caliber research talent in order to make the UK a scientific superpower.

Enrollment managers at several small private and public regional colleges in the U.S. report they are very near to meeting their new student enrollment goals for the fall semester. Returning students’ enrollment, at the colleges polled, is also strong. 

How did this happen?

“We threw all the models out the window.” Todd Rinehart, vice president/chancellor for enrollment at the University of Denver.



I am gratified by the comments I have received over the past 15 weeks from many of you reading these bulletins. “Bulletin distribution” has increased from a small group of colleagues to vice chancellors, presidents, international deans and consultants in Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia and the United States.

I am grateful to all who read and respond to my axiomatic suggestions of the moment. And I often try to reimagine what the next 15 weeks will bring. 

Stay tuned.


The Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education

September 8th, 2020 by

 THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON HIGHER EDUCATION                                      



           “The world is changing. Understand what’s ahead.”                                                     The Atlantic                   



In the book, The Innovative University, authors Clayton M. Christensen and Henry J. Eyring defined disruptive innovation: The theory of disruptive innovation asserts that in industries from computers to cars to steel those entrants that start at the bottom of their markets, selling simple products to less demanding customers and then improving from that foothold, drive the prior leaders into a disruptive demise. In higher education, the authors write, the new form of disruption will require traditional universities to change fundamentally. Belt tightening and incremental enhancements will not be enough.

In this same book, Gordon Gee, then president of Ohio State University wrote: “The first instinct in responding to economic crisis is to hunker down and wait for the storm to pass. That is the instinct, but acting on it would be a grave mistake.”

Both the book and the quote were written in 2011. 

COVID-19 has disrupted every aspect of higher education, including how students are recruited and admitted, to where and how students are taught, to the measures needed to safely re-arrange classrooms.

For vice-chancellors and presidents’ immediate concerns center around the fall 2020 academic semester and the spring 2021 term. These concerns are shared worldwide and certainly need to be addressed. But for the reimagined chief executive, the concerns are longer term. Most realize that even with a vaccine, the residuals of this pandemic will impact higher education for an indefinite period of time. There is no going back and there can be no new normal. There can only be the normal that each chief executive creates in the future. 

Three questions for presidents and vice chancellors

What is your vision for your institution?  Thinking from the end, what would your school “look like” in the future? How will you create that future?

How has your governance style changed? In his book, On China, former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger, explained the difference between American and Chinese foreign policy. American policy, he wrote, is like a game of chess, and controlling the center of the board. Chinese policy is one of strategic flexibility. Are you leading at the margins or planning with innovative leadership?

What are the opportunities, and there are many, to create both enrollment and financial stability in the future?  

The former president of Babson College, also wrote in 2011: “We must recognize that the ground is shifting in fundamental ways for higher education. We must reframe our approach to managing colleges and universities in the face of the new normal.”

True in 2011 and even more true in 2020.


In a recently published survey of college presidents in the United States, conducted by Inside Higher Education and Hanover research, 55% of the presidents polled are planning to reduce the number of academic programs offered at their schools. That same survey revealed the concerns of many chief executives about the effectiveness of online teaching and their ability to ensure a safe and comfortable physical environment for the fall semester.

Furloughs, temporary layoffs, permanent layoffs, unspecified layoffs, contract nonrenewal, permanent reduction in hours, all define the same thing: across the United States and probably worldwide, both academic and administrative staff will be reduced to help meet the financial difficulties created by declining enrollments, fewer international students enrolling in some countries, reduced federal and state funding, decreased federal research spending and declines in donations.

At least 50,000 higher education employees in the U.S. have already either been terminated or furloughed.

One of the greatest concerns for higher education employees is the real threat of de-funding of pension plans.

The latest QS research on prospective international student study plans revealed that global interest in study abroad remains high for prospective international students and these students are more are willing to study on-line for three to six months before in-person classes resume.

This same survey listed New Zealand as the country with the best handling of the virus crisis. The U.S. came in last in the survey.

Spain’s IE university organized with thirty-three countries from around the world, an agreement to support the preservation and fostering of cross-border knowledge through: leveraging technology, streamlining cross-border flows of talent and global collaboration of effective health-related protocols.

“Care Counts in Crisis” College Admissions Deans Respond to COVID-19.” Twenty admissions deans came together at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to raise their support of mental health care for higher education students. 

Smile Section

One entrepreneurial retailer, bowing to the inevitable, is selling a “STUDY-AT-HOME ZONE” for college students. The kit contains everything students need to turn rooms into the perfect college study space! 

It’s now eventide. Time for me to stop writing and for you, depending on your time zone, to stop reading.


August 25th, 2020 by

                        THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON HIGHER EDUCATION


“Major crisis have major consequences, usually unforeseen.”


Francis Fukugama, Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University



I am currently conducting research for a monograph I plan to publish on the Reimagined University. Information will include my vision for reimagining the following:

Admission process


Financing options

Progression, retention and graduation programs

Career counseling

Alumni programs

A separate article will focus on the Reimagined International Student Office.

Let’s begin with how the admission process could change to meet the needs of the student-customer.

In most institutions, recruiters travel the world and their own countries to collect information on potential applicants. Several of the prospective students become applicants. Several are accepted and eventually enroll.  With some exceptions the process, from application to notification, can take several months.

What if the admission process was based on a year-long rolling notification?

 What if an applicant, whose file was complete, for example, by November 8th and was acceptable, was notified by November 11th?

 What if the acceptance packet contained information not just from the “usual suspects,” but from the registrar who outlined the courses needed to graduate not just for the first year, but for all four, three, or two years?

 What if the acceptance packet contained information from the financial aid officer estimating how much it will cost to graduate, how much the accepted applicant could expect in grants, bursaries, etc. from the school and the estimated amount of student debt the accepted applicant would incur? 

 What if the acceptance packet contained information from the career counseling staff outlining the types of internships, based on major, that could be available to the accepted applicant?

 What if information from the alumni office listed recent graduate school placements and job titles of graduates?

What if the acceptance packet contained the names and contact information of the admission, registration, financial aid, retention, and career counselors assigned to the accepted applicant?

And what if your institution was the only one providing this information?

Many of you reading the above may press the delete button: there are too many silos, too much entrenchment, too much institutional resistance to make my suggestions for a reimagined admission process reality. The process outlined is just too holistic and could never work.

I understand all of these concerns and push-backs.  

But what if you offered your version of what your reimagined admission process could look like? Are there parts of what I suggest that would work for your institution?

Let’s think from the end. How would an accepted applicant and that person’s family react to having this information in an acceptance packet and have months, not weeks, before enrollment? 

Let’s think from the end. Wouldn’t you like to know, on a rolling basis, your yield numbers earlier in the year then is now the case? How could this information impact the planning of your chief financial officer if he/she knew on a monthly basis the likelihood of meeting enrollment and financial targets?  

How would your reimagined admission process compete against your competitor schools?

Iconoclastic? Yes. Possible? Yes. Worth a try? I think so.



 According to a report by Strada Education Networks, 25% of Americans want more education if they lose their job as a result of the pandemic. Most prefer non-degree training over the traditional college model.

This week President Trump will sign an executive order prioritizing workforce skills over college degrees when hiring federal workers.

Could workforce education become a new player in future student enrollment?

This week President Trump suspended foreign worker visas, a decision that will impact future international education experts and participants in teacher training programs from coming to the U.S. 

Another executive order limits the number of H1-B visas. This decision will negatively impact future international recruiting efforts and make it more difficult to hire professors and researchers.

China is advising students not to study in Australia because of the trade and political disputes between the two countries. However, a recent report in The Australian revealed that Australia is still the first choice of Chinese students despite the warnings from the government. Only 13.7% of the surveyed students indicated that Australia’s domestic policies toward China were a deterring factor in their decision to enroll in Australian schools.

The situation is different however for Indian students. Rising tensions between India and China have resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of Indian students applying to Chinese universities.

The U.S. enrolls 22% of all international students; the UK enrolls 11% and China enrolls 8%.

For the past two decades China had experienced a 5% annual growth rate in the number of international students studying in China.  In 2019 there were 500,000 international students enrolled in Chinese colleges and universities.

But that is about to change. In the future China will focus on quality, not quantity.   

At the University of California at San Diego, computer models, created by two sociology professors at Cornell University, predict how COVID-19 could cause the spread of the virus on campus. The models reveal a reduction in virus cases when classes are capped at 50 or fewer students. Recommendations include allowing small classes to use large classrooms to allow for social distancing. Another recommendation: teach large classes online.

Note: 97% of the 92 universities in the UK recently polled indicated their fall schedule will include some in-person teaching.



The IMF predicts the world’s economy will shrink 4.9% this year. Less money in the world’s economy means less money in individual households and that means less money for expensive, study abroad programs.

Follow consumer behavior patterns to determine who is likely to apply to your institution and enroll.  

England’s Minister of State for Universities announced that EU, EEA, and Swiss students planning to study in the UK will no longer be eligible for home fee status as of August 2021. Students will no longer be eligible for the same tuition rates and financial supports available to domestic students in England.

Stanford University announced that some reduction in the school’s workforce is unavoidable.

The University of Michigan at Flint will terminate 41% of its 300 lecturers to help meet a budget shortfall of $ 8.4 million.



Quacquarelli Symonds Work University Rankings 2021 reveal a significant rise in the rankings of Asian universities and an overall decline in the ranking of colleges and universities in the U.S., UK and Europe.

26 Asian universities are among the top 100 schools listed in the report. This is a first!

112 of America’s 153 ranked universities declined, with only 34 recording improvements. The U.S. has two fewer top-50 universities than last year. Carnegie Mellon dropped to 51st and the University of California at San Diego dropped to 54th.

63 of the 84 UK universities declined. Oxford fell from fourth to fifth place, replaced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 Reasons for decline include decreases in teaching capacity and research impact.

For decades, government policies and financing schemes in several Asian countries have resulted in the creation of educational infrastructures that can now rival higher education institutions worldwide. The rise in the rankings of several Asian universities is an example of those policies coming to fruition.

At the same time the turmoil surrounding Brexit and decreased federal and state funding for many flagship public universities in the U.S. has resulted in a decline in the ranks of several western schools.  



Human contact is now a luxury good.”

Nellie Bowles, New York Times

A report from New Zealand predicts that COVID-19 will never go away and the world will just have to learn how to live with the virus. If that is so, presidents and vice chancellors should look beyond the juggling they are doing to open their campuses for the fall and spring terms and look beyond that time frame to what will be THE normal.