Illustration of businesspeople on a life raft in open water

Now Is the Time to Think Differently

Traditionally the month of March has brought to mind themes that motivate everyone to be positive about the light at the end of the tunnel. Colleges and universities always looked ahead to “springing forward” with their enrollment success as they hoped to achieve a projected “pot of gold” and sat back and cheered the highlights of March Madness—especially if their school was playing. Unfortunately, today the “Ides of March” are upon us, everyone is gasping about how empty the pot of gold could be, and with the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus), March madness has a new meaning. No question, the uncertainty about the short-term and long-term ramifications from this situation is becoming even more exacerbated by social distancing, which is fostering plenty of concern and consternation.

For better or worse, the times are changing. Gallup Education recently shared some research findings and noted that there is “waning confidence in higher education.” The laws of supply and demand are directly impacting colleges and universities today—and most likely, tomorrow.

For better or worse—and without question—now is the time for higher education to think differently.

Lawlor Recommends

Life is a journey, and we are all faced with situations that demand grit and persistence along with creativity, relevance, and authentic edupreneurism. Many people and institutions are prone to doing easy things, and often not the right things. March of 2020 is definitely a painful reminder that the days of yesteryear are over, but it is also a genuine inspiration for colleges and universities to now think about the needs of current and future students—and how best to provide rewarding experiences.

We recently received a communication via Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn Ferry. He noted that one of the four key qualities of a great leader is crisis management—and now is definitely one of those times. He adds that “leaders always deal with ambiguity” but “during crises, ambiguity becomes exponential. And as fear becomes contagious across organizations, leaders must manage their own responses to ambiguity.” No matter our position, we are all in leadership roles.

Despite this month’s heightened levels of anxiety and consternation, we believe higher education is here to stay, and as we have so often mentioned previously, the necessity to lead and DO is now a must. There is a real need for students of all ages to be provided a relevant educational experience because lifelong learning is being thrust upon all of us as a staple of everyday work life. It will no longer be optional or aspirational; it will be a necessity and ubiquitous. At the same time, colleges and universities must think about the new cause-and-effect consequences for everyone within the campus community. As we frequently note about life’s journey, there are often “speed bumps” or a “periodic exit” exists that can facilitate concern and apprehension. Keep the faith and maintain resilience. We are all in this together and this is an all hands-on-deck situation. Onward and upward.


Enrollment Setbacks

John Lawlor is quoted in an article about why the majority of colleges surveyed missed their enrollment goals last fall. (Source: Chronicle)

Leadership During a Crisis

The president who led Tulane through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina talked about managing an interrupted semester. (Source: FutureU Podcast)

Recruitment Disruption

Social distancing to slow the coronavirus pandemic is requiring colleges and universities to find alternatives to recruitment events. (Source: Inside Higher Ed)