College and University Presidents Weigh in About the State of Higher Ed

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Given the spate of school closures, the rapid ascent of artificial intelligence, and the continuing decline of public confidence in a college degree, the higher education world is eager to hear from college and university presidents. Are institutions concerned about their financial future? What plans do presidents have for artificial intelligence on campus? What are presidents doing to reinforce public confidence in higher ed? In their annual survey of higher education leaders, Inside Higher Education, in partnership with Hanover research, sought to find answers to these questions, among others. Below, we lay out some of the highlights from the 2024 Survey of College and University Presidents. 

Despite Recent Closures and Mergers, Presidents Are Optimistic About Finances

Finances are a pressing concern for higher education institutions. Demographics of traditional aged students are declining alongside public funding and private donations. Despite this, 82% of presidents polled are confident that their institution will be financially stable over the next five years. Only 17% of presidents polled admitted to having had serious internal discussions about whether to merge with another college or university. Given that many presidents also admitted that they expect labor costs and inflation to continue to rise and student enrollment to decline, these statistics were surprising. 

Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education Gets Mixed Reviews

There’ve been frequent conversations in higher education about artificial intelligence in the past few years, many of these having been brought about after the release of ChatGPT. Are institutions concerned about AI on campus? What about when artificial intelligence is used to improve day-to-day operations?

When asked their opinions on AI’s growing impact on higher education, about 50% of presidents said they feel optimistic. Only 6% were very concerned. Given that many are predicting artificial intelligence will have a huge impact on college campuses, it was surprising to learn that only 18% of institutions whose presidents responded to the survey have published or adopted policies governing the use of AI on campus.


Public Confidence in Higher Education Is a Concern

Presidents may be optimistic about the state of higher education finances, but that optimism isn’t necessarily coming from a belief that public confidence in higher education is increasing. 66% of presidents surveyed said they were extremely or very concerned about the state of public confidence in higher education. What do presidents think is impacting public confidence? Tuition affordability, workforce preparedness, and concerns about ideological bias were the top three answers.

Do presidents think these concerns are valid? Not entirely. When it came to public concern about tuition prices, 57% of presidents said these concerns were highly valid. But when it came to concerns about graduate workforce preparedness and ideological bias only 24% and 21% of presidents agreed these concerns were valid.


Read Inside Higher Ed's Full 2024 Survey of College and University Presidents

These were only a few of the insights found in the 2024 College and University Presidents Survey. You can find the full survey here, including what presidents think about free speech, the Biden administration, mental health, and more. 

IHE 2024 Survey of College and University Presidents

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