With American campuses largely empty of students, higher-education leaders need to shift their thinking to what happens next.

“The COVID-19 challenge is unprecedented; its scale still is not understood. Colleges and universities in the United States cannot know when they will open again to normal activity or to what extent education as usual will resume. But even though higher-education leaders cannot know the answers, given the uncertainty in the epidemiological and economic outlooks, they must start asking themselves questions about the medium- and long-term implications for teaching, learning, the student experience, infrastructure, operations, and staff. Disciplined scenario planning can help.

In this article, we consider three broad epidemiological and public-health scenarios (Exhibit 1). All of these represent a degree of economic disruption few adults in the United States have ever experienced.

In the first scenario (virus contained), COVID-19 is contained in the next two to three months. In the second, more pessimistic scenario (virus recurrence), physical distancing and other restrictive measures last in some regions for several more months. In the final, most extreme scenario (pandemic escalation), the public-health response fails to control the spread of the virus for an extended period of time, likely until vaccines are widely available.

On the basis of these scenarios, we examine different ways in which the COVID-19 crisis could play out for US higher education (part 1). Then we suggest how institutions could respond to the unfolding conditions in both the near and medium terms (part 2).”

Read the full article on McKinsey.com.

Recent Tweets