Reflections of Resiliency from the 2021 URMIA Annual Conference

Risk Management

by Elizabeth Marks, Senior Strategy Consultant

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the 2021 University Risk Management and Insurance Association (URMIA) Conference in Seattle aptly named “Emerging from the Storm.” The major theme that ran throughout the conference and sessions I attended was dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on colleges and universities. While many issues emerged from the storm for higher education, the need to be flexible, creative, hopeful, and resilient is at the top of the list.

Resiliency is defined as one’s ability to adapt and respond to meet challenges effectively.

There were three items that stood out to me during the discussions as major areas in which we have seen resiliency.

  • The first is the impact of COVID-19 in the current environment and on future trends.  The statistics said it all:  In fall 2020, there was a 7% decline in students attending colleges and universities across the board and a 13% decline for students from low-income households.  In addition, 4.3M employees quit their jobs in August which could affect the ability to pay the ever-increasing tuition costs.  All that underscores the need for campuses to adapt in the future in designing a hybrid campus that focuses on the value of education for all students.
  • The second emerging issue is how COVID-19 has disrupted business operations. The changing environment leads to uncertainty and institutions of higher education are using Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) programs to adjust. One approach is to identify the top three to five institutional risks and develop strategies for mitigating them. An interesting example given at a session I attended was student wellbeing, defined as an institution’s “duty to provide reasonable and reliable care to its students, with respect to physical, mental, social, and financial well-being.”
  • The third is that COVID-19 is one of four converging crises facing the education industry which also includes racial injustice, climate change, and mental health.  In April of 2021, 73% of college leaders identified student mental health as their most pressing issue.

Overall, there is still more work to do as we confront challenges such as mental health and wellbeing, managing remote work and learning, and overall uncertainty. But, after hearing how our institutions of higher education have adapted to new models, I am positive we will overcome any challenge that comes our way.

See you next year!

If you missed URMIA but would like to chat more about resiliency, reach out to me directly.

Find me on LinkedIn here.