U.S. colleges and universities see substantial budget savings from canceled trips during the pandemic and are now considering or taking action to significantly limit such spending after Covid.
Individual campus presidents and professional associations have described staff travel – particularly that related to recruiting students – as one of the main targets of a post-Covid desire to cut costs in education superior.
“All of the institutions I’ve spoken with are re-examining travel and other expenses,” said Jim Hundrieser, vice president of advisory services at the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
“This is indeed something we’ve heard anecdotally around the profession,” said David Hawkins, education and policy manager at the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
Such reports serve as a sample of the possible lasting effects of the pandemic, even though U.S. higher education generally anticipates or hopes for a return to largely normal operations during the next fall semester.
U.S. universities have offered nationwide estimates of pandemic-related losses at around $ 200 billion (£ 140 billion), with federal emergency aid covering only a fraction of that amount.
Amherst College President Biddy Martin told a recent private institutions roundtable in her state that the savings from the cancellation of official travel was the key factor in her institution’s getting away with it. better than expected from a budgetary point of view.
For reasons of both cost and the environment, Dr Martin told colleagues in Massachusetts, “We hope that one thing that will change is that there will be less travel.”
Maud Mandel, President of Williams College, agreed and put even more emphasis after the event on the goal of environmental sustainability. “Significant reductions in emissions are expected to come from modest reductions across a large part of the college,” Professor Mandel said.
For many universities, travel is a relatively small part of the budgets of most departments, Dr Hundrieser said. The main exception, he said, is admissions, which often have multiple counselors traveling for weeks at a time.
“The savings accrued from this type of travel could really add up,” he said.
Final assessments of potential savings are complicated, said Jon Boeckenstedt, vice-provost in charge of enrollment management at Oregon State University. That’s because institutions were already expecting a dramatic drop in student enrollments in online formats, leading to huge changes in income and spending, during the pandemic, he said.
Still, administrators question the value of boosting travel after the pandemic, Boeckenstedt said. “I know colleagues from other institutions have said the same thing,” he said. “And some of them have used the savings from the recruiting trip to embark on other recruiting efforts – like the swag for admitted students, for example.”
It’s too early, said Tom Green, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, to know if Covid really means the end of recruiting trips.
“Most of the institutions we’ve heard from feel crippled” by the issue, said Dr Green. “They can’t wait to get out and connect with high schools, colleges and students in person,” he said, especially as they are struggling to rebuild their enrollments after the pandemic.
Mr Boeckenstedt also recognized the dilemma. “If it was successful,” he said of the big cuts in travel spending, “it was only because it was imposed on all of us at the same time in the same way. sure you want to be the one to go against the trend and eliminate travel when everyone is back to normal.