Across K-12 and higher education, leaders are scrambling to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak on their campuses. Emergency response teams are meeting frequently to think through continuity plans, travel policies, quarantine procedures, and other urgent considerations. EAB has created a repository of emergency plans from dozens of educational institutions across the globe to inform these decisions.
But executives can’t solely focus on the short-term. As the graphic below illustrates, education leaders must constantly plan across three horizons. First, running a multi-million (or billion!) dollar enterprise—ensuring ongoing teaching, research, student services, and auxiliary operations run smoothly, even amid a crisis. Second, advancing current objectives, like multi-year student success goals, efficiency initiatives, or technology implementations. Finally, stewarding the long-range vision for the future—anticipating the impact of trends and threats multiple years out, and positioning their institution to survive and thrive amid those pressures.
The Educational Executive’s Multiple Planning Horizons
Leaders today are consumed by planning immediate responses to the COVID-19 outbreak. But they also need to keep an eye on the future and start planning for the long-range impact of the crisis. Across the long term, the public health crisis is likely to create significant funding challenges for educational institutions, which leaders need to start planning for now.
Of course, it’s hard to prioritize long-term planning in the face of an immediate crisis. But schools will feel the impact of the coronavirus long after our campuses re-open and the virus is contained:
- Many institutions will struggle to meet international enrollment targets—a survey by the Institute of International Education observed that 76% of surveyed higher education institutions had already cancelled recruitment events, admissions tests, and other engagements in China
- International enrollment shortfalls will strain operating budgets and exacerbate competition for domestic students across the next academic year
- Some institutions will struggle to meet annual giving goals, as donors fearing market volatility tighten their purse strings and gift officers are forced to cancel in-person visits
- Faculty may find their research efforts stymied by travel bans
- All institutions—public or private, K-12, or higher ed—will feel the strain of a recession, should financial markets fail to quickly bounce back from the virus
In addition to short-term emergency response plans, leaders must start planning for the long-term impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. To support long-term planning efforts, EAB is creating a series of scenario planning facilitation guides to help boards and cabinets think through the financial implications of the outbreak.
These guides are designed to help leadership teams understand the downstream impact on their institutions, and outline approaches to remain solvent in a disruptive financial environment. We’ve already published a guide to navigating the next great recession, and we’re working on similar resources to plan for long-term effects or unintended consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak on enrollment, research, financial planning, and more.