Every year, Inside Higher Ed and Gallup team up to conduct a survey of college and university presidents. In an effort to understand how these leaders view the opportunities and challenges facing higher education institutions in the United States, over 2,700 presidents are invited to participate.

618 surveys were ultimately completed or partially completed this year –respondents represented 340 public institutions, 262 private institutions and 16 for-profit colleges. The survey addressed everything from politics to finances to student body diversity. We broke down some of the central findings, and what they mean for the higher education landscape:

(1) The Trump administration – and politics in general – are taking a toll:

49 percent of college and university presidents said that the Trump administration’s handling of higher education at the federal level has been what they expected. However, four times as many leaders (41 percent) said the administration has been worse than they expected than better than expected (10 percent).

Numerous actions have been taken by the Trump administration that have affected higher education. For example, late last year, POLITICO reported on the impact that new tax proposals would have on the affordability of college, and graduate school in particular.

Respondents were also concerned about increasing skepticism of the value of higher education among members of the Republican party. But, they remained divided over whether college campuses are intolerant of people with politically conservative viewpoints.

69 percent of college and university presidents said that President Trump’s rhetoric makes it more difficult to recruit international students. This statistic is especially relevant, because concern over recruiting international students was a major factor when leaders were asked about the size and composition of their student bodies.

(2) Student body diversity is a major concern:

 56 percent of college and university presidents were concerned about enrolling enough students who do not need institutional student aid, 54 percent were concerned about giving out too much aid to students who may not need it, 52 percent were concerned about enrolling more students studying online and 56 percent were concerned about enrolling more international students.

After digging into the numbers, we learned that when it came to enrolling more international students, 17 percent of leaders were very concerned and 39 percent were somewhat concerned. The most concerned group were the heads of doctoral and master’s programs at private, nonprofit institutions. And, as mentioned, we learned that 69 percent of college leaders said President Trump’s rhetoric makes it more difficult to recruit international students.

(3) There is widespread concern about the financial health of the industry:

 According to reporting by Inside Higher Ed, 2017 saw an increase in the number of colleges closing or merging with other colleges, particularly among small, private schools.

Nearly all presidents said they believed additional colleges would merge or close this year. 30 percent predicted one to five colleges would close, whereas 40 percent predicted six to 10 would close. 29 percent predicted more than 10 colleges would close.

13 percent of colleges said they could see their own college closing or merging in the next five years. And the majority of leaders expect to see increases in tuition resets and tuition freezes – though most believed tuition freezes would damage public institutions without additional state funding.

Shorelight’s Approach:

The data from Inside Higher Ed’s survey of college and university presidents prove the importance of Shorelight’s mission in helping universities unlock international student opportunity. By working with top-tier institutions to design strategic programs that inspire the next generation of international students, Shorelight helps alleviate concerns over international student enrollment among higher education leaders.

Not only does an increase in international student populations contribute to the diversity and global outlook of college campus communities, but it also adds significant economic value to higher education institutions. For all those college and university leaders worried about the financial health of their institutions and the industry as a whole, an increase in international student enrollment can be a saving grace. By paying full, out-of-state tuition, international students can improve financial aid for domestic students and support capital investment and upgrades.

While college and university presidents may have a wide array of concerns about the future, many are solvable. Assisting in this effort, Shorelight partners with ambitious universities to drive institutional growth, create new sources of revenue, and expand options for students who seek an exceptional, higher-education experience. By helping universities reimagine their global vision, Shorelight improves international student enrollment, aids in the overall financial health of these institutions, and strengthens the perception of U.S. higher education as a whole.