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The Higher Education Strategy Forum hosted five virtual working sessions for presidential chiefs of staff and other strategic deputies representing 45 institutions across the United States and Canada. These working sessions gave us unique insight into what’s on the minds of presidents, cabinets, and boards as the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded.

At a time when large scale, and potentially disruptive, changes are needed for higher education’s COVID-19 response and strategy, it’s especially critical that leaders are able to avoid these psychological pitfalls to make the right decisions. Here’s how you can identify and redirect three common crisis thinking patterns that can obstruct effective recovery and response.

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Facing an economic downturn and fierce competition for undergraduate enrollments, colleges and universities are looking for a silver lining: countercyclical enrollments. This tendency for enrollments to increase as the economy declines is well documented. But leadership at four-year institutions shouldn’t get their hopes up. Not every institution benefits equally from these additional students. The Great Recession had a far smaller impact on baccalaureate and graduate enrollments than it did on community colleges and vocational programs.

EAB is now launching Emergency Response Tabletop Exercises specifically designed for colleges and universities. Created for cabinet leadership, these exercises help leaders anticipate potential crises, accelerate decision-making, and identify critical vulnerabilities in their existing policies. They also provide the space and materials for charting a course of action if and when a crisis occurs.

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