Inside Higher Ed Releases its 2019 Survey of College and University Presidents


NEW YORK— March 8, 2019 – Watermark, a pioneer in educational intelligence, is pleased to support Inside Higher Ed’s 2019 Survey of College and University Presidents, conducted with Gallup and released in connection with the American Council on Education’s annual meeting in Philadelphia. This year’s survey includes compelling, and at times, confounding data around current sentiments on campus race relations, strings-attached donations, skepticism of higher education, and institutional financial stability. As a featured sponsor, Watermark welcomes the opportunity to support research and initiatives that bring to light key issues in higher education.

The survey, to which 784 chief executives of two- and four-year institutions responded, finds presidents expressing more confidence on some key issues, even as significant worries remain. Among the key findings:

  • One in four presidents describe race relations on college campuses nationally as good (24 percent) or excellent (1 percent), up slightly from last year’s low of 20 percent. They view the situation on their own campuses much more favorably, with four in five rating race relations on their own campuses as good (63 percent) or excellent (18 percent).
  • Fifteen percent of campus leaders say their institution has been offered large financial gifts with inappropriate strings attached, and a third (34 percent) say they had rejected gifts because of requirements on how the funds could be used. Presidents are divided on whether more donors are making inappropriate demands than in the past.
  • Fewer presidents this year (66 percent) than in 2018 (77 percent) say they are worried about Republicans’ increasing skepticism of higher education. But slightly more campus leaders this year (37 percent) than last year (32 percent) agree that the perception of colleges as places intolerant of conservative views is justified.
  • Fifty-seven percent of presidents are confident in their institution’s financial sustainability over a decade, up from 53 percent last year. Leaders of private four-year colleges are most confident (64 percent), public master’s and baccalaureate college presidents the least (49 percent).
  • And just 16 percent agree with the statement that “most Americans have an accurate view of the purpose of higher education,” and 50 percent disagree (12 percent strongly). Fewer than one in five presidents (18 percent) say that Americans understand the purpose of their sector of higher education, with the proportions ranging from 8 percent for private four-year colleges to 26 percent for community colleges.

The results of the survey and other studies indicate that institutions and the sector as a whole are not good storytellers. However, individual colleges and universities, as well as the sector, have many good stories to share, and Watermark is honored to have the opportunity to support efforts to better tell those stories.

Inside Higher Ed’s editor, Doug Lederman, and a panel of presidents will present findings from this survey at the American Council on Education’s annual meeting in Philadelphia. For those who want to know more, register for IHE’s free webcast on Tuesday, April 2. A copy of the survey report can be downloaded here.

About Watermark
Watermark’s mission is to put better data into the hands of administrators, faculty, and students everywhere in order to empower them to connect information and gain insights into learning which will drive meaningful improvements. Through its innovative educational intelligence platform, Watermark supports institutions in developing an intentional approach to learning and development based on data they can trust.

Victoria Guzzo
Director, Corporate Communications