Higher Education


Higher Education


To supplement the 10 questions provided in Issue 128 of Board Perspectives: Risk Oversight, the following additional questions are offered to directors serving on boards of higher education institutions.

  1. What steps is our institution taking to ensure we live out our mission and deliver our values in the new operating environment?

  2. How are we responding to and addressing the important social issues that our students are raising and/or facing?

  3. From an academic perspective, when do our students, faculty and staff return to campus? What policies and procedures is our institution planning to implement (e.g., cleaning, social distancing, testing) to ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty and community?

  4. Is our technology infrastructure robust and secure enough to enable flexible service delivery to our students with little to no compromise in experience and quality?
  • Are we prepared to maintain student engagement in a remote setting with reduced risk of attrition?
  • What is the level of readiness among our faculty to continue online coursework?
  • How are we securing our systems and data in this fluid environment?
  • What lessons did we learn from these experiences, and what steps have we taken to be better prepared in the event of a reoccurrence of the pandemic?
  1. How are our institution’s leaders engaging with relevant groups, both internal (faculty, staff, administrators) and external (prospective students, current students, alumni, donors) to the institution, in a digital environment? Are there areas in which we need to improve?

  2. During these unprecedented times of social unrest coupled with a global pandemic, how do we ensure that we are providing exemplary mental health services to our students and our institution’s community?

  3. Has our crisis response playbook been updated for the lessons learned from the current crisis? If not, what is our plan for making the necessary adjustments in a timely manner?

  4. Do we have a playbook to enhance revenues and rationalize expenditures in an effective manner that will ensure our institution’s financial stability in the short and long term? For example:
    • What is our current process for recruiting students? Does this process need to be updated given the current environment? What is the impact to the recruiting of international students?
    • What is our strategy for retaining existing students, particularly those with out-of-state residences?
    • Have we evaluated the reasonableness of the cost of our tuition, in terms of both the needs of current and prospective students as well as the financial viability of our institution?
    • What opportunities do we have to improve our engagement with alumni in a digital environment?
    • In the event we need to exercise cost reduction measures, what are our options and in what order do we implement them? For example, have we evaluated the viability of and continued need for resource-draining programs that are not generating revenue that should be discontinued until our revenues recover?
    • How has revenue been impacted due to programmatic changes at our institution (e.g., study abroad programs, athletics, cessation of conference events, reduced room and board volumes)?
    • In view of the above, have we applied multiyear scenario analysis and financial stress testing to assess the potential operational and fundraising implications of a sustained pandemic and its related impact on the economy? If so, what options are we considering given the current realities we face, and what steps do we need to take now and in the foreseeable future?
  5. What is the institution’s strategy regarding our endowment/foundation and the revenues it could provide? If needed, what is the best strategy for deploying nonrestricted endowment assets?

  6. Aside from academics, what student life programs and activities (e.g., athletics, student organizations, Greek life) do we need to re-evaluate with a view toward assessing the appropriate governance model?

  7. In the event of sustained school closures in the U.S. education system, have we considered the impact of lost learning – due to lack of access to remote learning or the varying quality of remote instruction, home support and degree of engagement – on student preparedness for higher education and the implications to admissions and remedial programs?

  8. Have we adequately considered new guidance and funding that has come from the Department of Education (e.g., Title IX, CARES Act)?

  9. Considering the institution’s priorities in responding to the crisis, how are we ensuring that everything that needs to be accomplished is appropriately assigned with clear accountabilities for results? For example, have we established a cross-department PMO with the necessary authority and access to maintain focus as the market transitions until the eventual “new normal” is reached?
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Board Perspectives: Risk Oversight

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