Article | Creating Resilience

Higher Education: Reopening Considerations and Strategies

16 Jun 2020 3 Minute

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This concept paper provides an overview on COVID-19’s implications and what’s next for higher education.

Across the country, colleges and universities large and small are working to understand the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on their established ways of delivering education and conducting research. The abrupt and comprehensive response necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus on campus will reverberate for the foreseeable future.


Social distancing requirements have rendered spaces that are traditionally closely collaborative into potentially unsafe environments that will require creative re-purposing. As of Spring 2020, most major university campuses have been effectively closed to students, while dormitories, residence halls, and even apartment style housing has generally been emptied. University faculty and administration are turning to online teaching to finish the spring semester and contemplating creative solutions to address the summer and fall semesters and beyond.

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Fall 2020 Reopening Plans

COVID-19 has had a dramatic negative impact on university operating budgets nationwide, however, the magnitude of the impact remains unknown. Many universities have already experienced increased expenses in the transition to online learning, while at the same time, non-tuition revenues have been decimated. Further, as the crisis continues to evolve, it has been challenging for campus leaders to plan and forecast for the upcoming academic year.

While the future of higher education is uncertain, there are clear indicators of the near-term outlook for this sector.

According to Moody’s credit rating agency, the United States higher education outlook has been downgraded from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’ and in the given environment, financial instability is expected to continue into 2021.

Public institutions that rely on state support could see public funding decline further as state governments struggle to respond to unprecedented fiscal challenges. Universities are looking for ways to decrease their expenditures and stabilize revenue to weather the pandemic. Some universities might have to close their doors permanently as a result of this crisis, while those with larger operating budgets and reserves may be able to survive the crisis and emerge more agile on the other side.

Concept Paper: U.S. Higher Education

COVID-19 Implications for Higher Education.

Download the full paper to read:

How colleges and universities are reopening

Budgetary considerations

What’s next

Select university reopening plans & statements

* This paper relies on a survey of publicly available documents and reopening plans released by the universities named within.