Strategies for Resiliency in Challenging Times

November 2020

For colleges and universities, the past several years have seen declining enrollment, rising costs and liquidity challenges, which have all been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To drill down into specific challenges impacting these institutions and their plans to combat them, we analyzed their responses to our annual benchmarking survey.

Here are our top findings:
 

Colleges & Universities Face Financial Firestorm

The financial health of the higher education sector has long been in question, and institutions themselves are feeling less than confident.

Graphic of the financial health of the higher education sector

When asked about their top challenges and priorities, financial issues were a common concern.

Graphic of the top priorities in 2020: Securing Revenue/Funding and Combatting Decreasing Margins

And these institutions have reason to be concerned—the majority lack a robust financial safety net.

Graphic of the top priorities in 2020: 56%25 have under 6 months of operating reserves to help manage unexpected costs and 57%25 say revenues have stagnated or decreased in their last fiscal year

Graphic of the Top Challenges for 2020: Decreasing margins, securing the capital needed for infrastructure, variability in funding and adequate liquidity

"BDO TIP: Many organizations have already deployed costcutting measures to manage unexpected financial challenges. But colleges and universities need to look beyond immediate hurdles. Institutions should adjust their long-term plans to reflect the “new normal” and align budgets and investments to support their vision for the future."
 

They May Be Overlooking Cybersecurity and Fraud Risks

While finances are top of mind, they’re not the only issue, particularly when many institutions are operating remotely. These conditions are ripe for potential fraudulent activity and cyberattacks, and many organizations have already experienced breaches this year.

However, our findings show that many colleges and universities may be underestimating these risks:

Graphic of Cybersecurity and Fraud Risks

"BDO TIP: Savvy organizations are ramping up risk prevention efforts, and should ensure they are evolving their policies and procedures to match the current situation."
 

Turning to Tech for Solutions

While the issues facing colleges and universities are diverse and complex, technology—when used effectively—can help organizations increase efficiencies, lower costs, mitigate risks and ultimately help these institutions continue to educate students, whether it’s in a real classroom or a virtual one.

"60%25 of colleges and universities plan to invest in new technology."

Graphic of Goals of Technology Investments: Improve operational efficiency and improve program/service delivery

"BDO Tip: Technology can certainly aid higher education institutions, but it’s not a silver bullet. Organizations should focus on making investments where they are likely to see the greatest and speediest ROI, and those that will help them become more adaptable to future disruptions."

For information on how to help your higher education institution during this time, please visit our Crisis Response Resource Center and subscribe to our nonprofit blog. For more findings from our annual benchmarking survey, download the full report.