Public Policy

Tracking Campus Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Christopher Marsicano Davidson College
Kathleen Felten Davidson College & The Huron Consulting Group
Luis Toledo Davidson College
Madeline Buitendorp Davidson College
American higher education institutions rapidly responded to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Between March 1st and April 4th, over 1,400 colleges and universities closed their doors and transitioned to online instruction. This paper uses a novel dataset and draws upon theories of institutional isomorphism to descriptively examine the trends in how higher education institutions responded to the Coronavirus pandemic. It finds little difference in institutional response based on campus infrastructure including, residence hall capacity, hospital affiliation, and medical degree offerings. There is some suggestive evidence, however, that institutions may have responded to external coercive isomorphic pressures from state governments and may have relied on a heuristic of peer institution closures to inform their decisions.