The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted a variety of organizations and businesses. One of those industries uniquely hit is higher education institutions. With school closures, shortened study abroad programs and canceled student activities, higher education institutions must navigate a new normal.
Below are common questions we’ve received surrounding how to continue operations in the wake of COVID-19.
There’s much to consider when it comes to the impact of COVID-19.
What guidance has been released by the Department of Education?
The Department of Education has released a Frequently Asked Questions memo which includes:
Additional Resources:Guidance Released on Interruptions of Study Related to COVID-19
Compliance Related Issues
How do I ensure grant compliance through all of this?
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued two memos, M-20-11 and M-20-17, to address several key areas and to provide a directive to federal agencies. The items discussed in these memos are not an automatic exception to non-federal entities and institutions should reach out to their cognizant agency or grantor for appropriate exemptions.
Additional Resources:How to Ensure Grant Compliance in the Wake of COVID-19
How do we ensure secure connectivity and data transfer for students and faculty when moving to online classes?
Many higher education institutions already had the ability to conduct online classes, but with the shift to all classes being online, many students and faculty are utilizing technology they may not be familiar with. Providing the resources and education on utilizing those resources is essential to ensure data is contained within approved resources. Faculty should be reminded that using non-approved online services like free file sharing sites is not allowed.
How do we ensure our faculty and staff are appropriately trained on how to be secure when working offsite?
As many faculty and staff transition to working from home providing training to those users is critical. The training could include topics like how to securely connect to the institution’s resources and securing your home network. It is also a good time to remind faculty and staff of acceptable use policies, and other policies that might be relevant including bring your own device (BYOD) or password management.
Can we help our remote faculty and staff operate more efficiently?
As faculty and staff are now working remotely, inefficiencies are being identified in various business processes. Things that did not seem inefficient when people were in the same office, across the hall, or a few buildings away on campus, are now taking longer to finish.
Data is delayed getting into your business systems as people wait for approvals sometimes passing invoices or spreadsheets around via email for review. In some cases, the faculty and staff are no longer available or are not available as frequently as they care for their children, the elderly, or even volunteer with foodbanks and supporting medical facilities.
Now is a good time to streamline inefficient processes, automate manual processes and spreadsheets, and more fully utilize the business systems and technology tools available. Challenge your remote workers to identify three processes that are time consuming, more difficult now that they are remote, or are day-to-day tasks that require input from multiple people. Suggest a collaborative working session to identify creative solutions to these challenges. This can improve efficiencies and your staff experience as well as provide a positive team activity to keep morale high.
Should we still try to implement our new business system or put it on hold until we are all back in the office?
While we are typically more comfortable with face-to-face meetings and training sessions when implementing new software, implementing new functionality, or business process changes across the department, there are very effective ways to utilize technology to accomplish your project objectives.
Now might be a really good time to get these projects completed as some of your implementation team’s other responsibilities may be reduced. Your technology providers are actively looking for ways to help you continue your implementations and training and their calendars have likely opened up a bit so that you may have the opportunity to accelerate your implementations. Reach out to those providers to see what options they have available for you that may allow your faculty and staff to continue and potentially accelerate your critical project implementations.
Additional Resources:Cybersecurity & Fraud Concerns with Remote Workers in the Wake of COVID-19
Budgeting and Cost Containment
How can I plan for expected budget reductions?
Proactively review your current processes and use of technology to determine what efficiencies can be gained with automation of manual processes and better use of the business systems that are available. Nearly everyone will be trying to do more with less: fewer staff, less funding, more real-time data for decision making.
Consider the following:
By proactively identifying areas for efficiency and ways to eliminate time being wasted, you will be able to plan for any necessary budget reductions in your area.
The university employs foreign persons and those persons sometimes work outside the U.S. Are their wages still subject to U.S. payroll tax?
It depends. Wages earned by nonresident aliens for services performed outside of the U.S. are typically exempt from U.S. taxation. A crucial component to this decision is whether the employee is considered a nonresident alien. Typically, a nonresident alien is any person who is not a U.S. citizen, not a U.S. green card holder, and does not meet the U.S. substantial presence test requirement.
Periodically the university sends U.S. employees to work abroad. Are there special tax considerations related to this arrangement?
Yes. There are several potential tax issues the university should consider, including:
Stay Up to Date on Issues Impacting Your Higher Education Institution
There is much to consider when it comes to remote working arrangements, school closures and compliance. Knowing what is going on and how it impacts your higher education institution is the first step in creating a path through this pandemic and its impact on your organization.
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