The COVID-19 pandemic has entirely changed the scenario for universities in every aspect. The campuses which used to be bustling with students and professors are now empty, as remote learning has taken over.
This overnight change has left institutions with grave financial challenges. The financial situation of universities has deterred due to rising expenses and plunging revenues. It has also been observed that the stress levels of students and staff are on a rise, due to the current situation. Thus, it is advised that universities doing budget allocation for the remainder of the year should prioritize their staff and student wellness.
Colleges and universities have been facing a major crisis involving cash flow. Many sources of revenue for institutions like parking fees, dining outlet sales, and other auxiliary revenues are now absent. To add to this loss, most institutes are facing unexpected expenses in the form of partial refunds on fees and dorm rooms.
Further, the technology needed to scale and enhance virtual engagement sessions has given rise to the overall expenses of universities.
Another major cause of fret for institutes at the moment is the drop in the enrollment rate and the expected hit for the university’s finances. Many students who are already enrolled in college are dropping out as they are not able to afford tuition in the current economic climate, and experts are forecasting that enrollment for the 2020-21 academic year may see a fall in numbers. The Chronicle of Higher Education has reported based on a survey that, “The vast majority of Presidents, 84%, anticipate a drop-in enrollment, both for new and returning students”. Thus, in the upcoming academic session, it can be expected that college and university finances will face severe setbacks.
Optimizing University Budgets
Set against the revenue loss, there are small savings from not operating a physical facility but, these savings are generally not large. To combat these losses, universities have been trying to adapt budget models and implement cost-cutting strategies, as the dominant strategy to cut down costs and optimize the university budgets remains to be laying-off staff.
Private as well as public universities of every size are actively strategizing on reducing expenses and optimizing university budgets. Johns Hopkins University disclosed in April ’20 that the university is planning to suspend its contributions to employee retirement accounts and cut salaries of the top management as the university has been facing a massive budget shortfall due to the pandemic. Also, the four campuses of the University of Missouri System are bracing to implement a reduction of up to 15 % in university expenses, as well as possible layoffs, unpaid leaves, and other cost containment.
The top management at universities is constantly working towards creating feasible strategizes for the institute and student wellness while dealing with a shortfall in university finances. For the 2020-21 academic year, college and university enrollment officials are under a lot of pressure as they are required to strategize and execute the enrollment process for the upcoming academic year.
The challenges that the officials are currently facing include moving the traditional campus recruiting activities to a virtual setting, providing solutions to the students whose financial needs are shifting, and also forecasting the enrollment outcomes for the new term. Just like the officials, the professors at colleges and universities are adapting to working remotely and provide the same level of education to their students as in the classroom. Thus, it is feasible to say that staff members of every university are currently facing challenges in the work front.
Prioritizing Students’ Wellness
In the middle of all the unrest that universities are facing financially, this time also offers some valuable lessons that institutions can use to better position themselves. Other than the digital educational aspect, colleges and universities must notice their staff and student wellness levels. The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have increased the level of uncertainty in the lives of many people.
Due to this, it has been noticed that people’s stress and anxiety levels have increased, over the months. Those already living with a mental health condition are finding it even more difficult during these times. Students and adults alike are facing stress issues at a higher rate now than ever before. With a rise in mental stress, people are finding it hard to focus on work/studies, lacking motivation in everyday activities, or have an inefficient sleep cycle. All of these issues combined are causing a deal of unrest in the minds of a lot of people. Thus, it is a time when institutes should actively participate in ensuring its staff and student wellness.
Since most institutes are planning to allocate their remaining university budgets, it is suggested that they keep some budget allocations for a remote and affordable digital staff and student wellness solution that will improve the performance of university staff and will provide much-needed student wellness as well.
A digital wellness solution that ensures better health of an individual can be the answer to the problem that is currently being faced. One way to ensure an improvement in performance and a reduction in stress and anxiety levels is by using a digital sleep improvement program. With a digital sleep improvement program, the mental performance is bound to enhance as sound sleep is vital for the mental and emotional health of an individual, especially to increase student wellness.
Let’s take a look at sleep as a case study. Sleep plays a crucial role in determining the level of good mental health and emotional well-being in the life of an individual. It is scientifically proven that if a person gets sound sleep at adequate times, then it can help protect his mental health and quality. Moreover, the way a person feels while he’s awake depends enormously on the quality of his sleep.
Certain studies show that sleep deficiency may alter some brain activities. Inefficiency arises in activities like problem-solving, controlling one’s behavior, and adapting to change. Another side-effect of sleep deficiency is associated with severe mood swings, a reduced attention span, and a lack of motivation.
All of these factors may lead to lowers grades and higher stress levels. With the help of a sleep improvement program, the mental and emotional stress that university students and staff members are facing can significantly get reduced. Also, a wholesome sleep program will ensure that staff members’ and students’ wellness increase with time.
5 Tips for Smart Budget Allocations and Prioritizing Students’ Wellness
Considering the ongoing pandemic situation and aftermath, here are some tips that universities can incorporate into their overall strategy –
1.Online Recreational Sessions: In university, almost every student participates in some kind of recreational activity. It’s time to bring a couple of those activates to an online platform. Universities can organize online dance sessions, fitness, yoga, and meditation sessions. Further, colleges can organize online quiz competitions. They can even get subscriptions to apps related to puzzles and other mind boosting games.
2. Invest in E-books: A digital library is the need of the hour. The best way to keep students engrosses in gaining knowledge is by letting them spend with academic books, magazines, and works of fiction. Students can even be encouraged to academic research on a specific topic to enhance their knowledge even more. Subscribing to a few e-newspapers is another feasible thing for universities to allocate their budgets in.
3. Self-help Digital Programs: Studies show that self-help programs can be beneficial for an individual’s quality of life. Given the current circumstances, students, as well as staff members, should be involved in some kind of self-help digital program. There are various mobile apps available that help in mental and emotional wellbeing. Universities can get a year-long subscription to a digital program to do an optimal budget allocation. Learn more about Sleeprate’s Refresh Sleep Program>>
4. New Teaching Methods: Teaching students online can be quite a task. It’s of utmost importance for professors to keep them engaged in the session. Thus, professors and colleges should work on creating new methods of online teaching. Professors can even enroll in short courses related to online teaching. Once the faculty members have adequate knowledge of the tools and tricks to be used while teaching online, the quality of education will not be compromised. Moreover, students will be able to learn efficiently.
5. Exempting Sports Competitions: Colleges and universities spend a tremendous amount of money on sports competitions. In current times, organizing any type of sports competition is not recommended. However, online chess and scrabble competitions can be held by colleges. Thus, the university budget for competitions can be optimized in this way.
In this challenging time, universities will need to optimize their budgets such that the work efficiency of their employees and students increases. A good strategy for colleges and universities would be to incorporate the digital solutions in every aspect of the education paradigm – from study to the health and wellness of students and staff.