In a recent survey of ACUI members regarding the status of professional development funding and related experiences like travel, online learning, and changing variables for staff participation, a resounding 92% of the 110 respondents reported impacts on the availability of professional development funds. With the funds that are available, nearly 70% reported being able to use those funds for membership costs, and 67% said they would be available for virtual conferences and seminars.
Budget and hiring “chills” and freezes, travel hiatuses, drops in professional development funding, and staffing realignments were all cited in comments made by ACUI members taking the survey. Two out of three participants said they faced a complete restriction on work-related travel; another 15% said only essential travel was permitted.
Effects of the pandemic on staffing have been even more severe, according to members, with 87% experiencing hiring freezes, 68% experiencing restrictions on student staffing, and 59% witnessing either reductions or furloughs of professional staff. One member reported that student staffing was reduced due to “the number of students not wanting to come to campus, and therefore giving up their jobs,” and another staff reductions were made through attrition and not filling vacancies, “but we may need to look at this again depending on how this budget year unfolds.”
Respondents to the survey represented director-level members from over 400 member institutions. It was released in August and the results, available here, were compiled in September.
Even with severe restrictions on staffing and professional development, members did point to bright spots within the services being delivered by ACUI through the pandemic, particularly in the value of online and virtual learning and sharing opportunities, and the affordability and accessibility of those benefits. They also pointed to the availability of COVID-19 resources and expertise made accessible through participation in ACUI’s communities of practice.
“Keep focusing on delivering virtual content for the duration of the upcoming fiscal year; it’s the only realistic thing that we can count on,” one member wrote.
“ACUI is doing a great job through all the resources available online. For the remainder of this fiscal year, more virtual professional development opportunities will allow us to take part to a greater degree,” another member shared.
Nearly one-third of the participants in the survey took time to make additional comments, and those emphasized that ACUI should focus on delivering virtual professional development opportunities, especially free or inexpensive opportunities. Similarly, available online resources, best practice sharing, and space for networking were noted as valuable to continue. Finally, members urged patience given financial challenges facing departments.
What is the current status of professional development funding for you and your staff?
Of respondents, 91.8% were aware of some form of impact realized to the funding available for professional development. The largest group (30.9%) noted that funding was available for only activities that did not require travel, while 20.0% would only have funding for memberships/subscriptions and 14.5% noted that all professional development funding had been cut.
The chart below shares the percentages of those who selected each question option. Respondents were asked to select the one option that most accurately described their institution.