Now that the US Dept of Education has released additional funding for higher education under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, supplementary to the original Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) of 2020, public and non-profit colleges and universities have access to federal funds which can be used for supporting certain institutional operations. Institutions can now apply for HEERF II funding if they did not receive HEERF I funding. Under HEERF II Public and Private Nonprofit Institution (a)(1) Programs, at least 50% of funds must be committed to student aid. Institutions can use the remaining funds not committed to student aid for:
As academic departments work to create rubrics and other measurement tools, defining “quality” at the student performance level is especially elusive. Software can emulate these tools and faculty can enter results, but in a virtual environment are faculty meeting to discuss and assess the aggregate data? Or are they simply letting software compile a final score and trusting that overall students are successful or not successful?
The COVID pandemic threw institutions worldwide for a loop in 2020. It’s safe to say that every higher education institution, small or large, private or public, had some sort of local strategic plan in place. However, those plans more often than not were either COVID modified or completely revamped because of the need to re-examine goals and objectives for planned initiatives, ongoing projects, and program development.
Universities and colleges are facing financial hard times due to COVID, with lower enrollments, cuts in state/local funding, impacted endowment, and other diminished sources of revenue. Administrators must make difficult choices on retention of faculty, courses, programs, and even support units and personnel. Institutions vary widely in their approaches, and the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) has some excellent documents on these approaches.
The COVID-19 pandemic caught most colleges and universities off-guard, and those institutions are forced to respond quickly and decisively to the ongoing threat often without a thought-out strategic plan linked to budget. In response to potential budget shortfalls and cutbacks, institutional leaders must make hard decisions towards sustainability regarding personnel, facilities, and both present and future software. Despite the urgency to put solutions in place, leaders would do well to learn from their colleagues across the nation and discuss, even if briefly, what plans they propose and what solutions they still need. Travel restrictions forced cancellation of local and national meetings where colleagues could discuss such matters, with Zoom webinars serving as virtual meeting forums to exchange ideas and seek answers.
Verifying faculty credentialing is an essential part of any institutional or programmatic process, as it ensures that any individual instructor is qualified to teach a particular subject. Without verification of credentials, you can’t assure academic quality, regardless of how popular an instructor might rate by her students.
Regardless of the emergency situation, whether it be COVID-19 lockdown, inclement weather, or any other issue which prevents face-to-face collaboration on a campus, preparing for accreditation does not stop.