State and Institutional Task Forces


Many states and postsecondary systems and institutions have created task forces to plan and manage the re-opening of higher education institutions. Here you will find ideas for how to structure a higher education recovery task force, whom to include, and how to communicate its work.

Enhance institutional or system task forces for longer-term sustainability

1.  Define the problem task forces will address and establish a clear scope and purpose to guide the group’s work.

  1. Task forces can be created to address specific needs and areas of expertise at the state, system and institutional levels. An overarching COVID-19 response task force can help serve as the organizing umbrella and is important for providing leadership and clarity of vision. It is essential that leaders clearly define the problems that the task force or committee will be asked to address.

2.  Create subcommittees for specific areas of focus.

  1. While an overarching task force is crucial for leadership, sub-committees can be formed to meet more specific needs and areas of focus.
  2. Potential subcommittees could potentially include:
    1. Student Affairs
    2. Student Health Services
    3. Human Resources
    4. Information and Technology Services
    5. Laboratory Operations
    6. Specific colleges and schools, such as the School of Nursing or College of Education

3.  Ensure that task force membership is balanced and aligns with the task force’s communicated purpose.

  1. Be sure to consider whether you can use pre-established committees or need to create a new task force or subcommittee charged specifically with addressing challenges relating to institution operations in the fall.
  2. SREB compiled the following lists of potential task force members. Use this as a starting point to brainstorm additional members to invite to serve on your task force or to add to an existing committee or group
  1. State or System
    • Governing board or commission members
    • President
    • Chief Operating Officer
    • Vice President for Academic Affairs
    • Vice President for Finance / Chief Financial Officer
    • Vice President for Human Resources
    • Vice President for Policy
    • Vice President for Communications
    • Vice President for Research
    • Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion
    • General Counsel
    • Technology Director
  2. Higher Education Institution
    • Administrators
    • Faculty
    • Students
    • Community members
    • Student Health staff
  3. Other Representatives
    • Community support agencies
    • Public radio or television stations
    • State or local public health departments
    • Hospitals or health care providers
    • Mental health officials or clinicians
    • Public safety agencies
    • County emergency management
    • Workforce development agencies
    • Business partners

As you consider expanding your groups or building new ones, review the list below to ensure the balance of your team.

Dos and Don’ts of Securing Task Force Members

Do Don’t
Take a strategic approach to building or revising your task force’s membership Ask for volunteers 
Ensure membership is diverse and balanced Limit the team to those who traditionally participate, “the usual suspects.”
Ensure invited members represent the overall demographics of your school and/or district Communicate that meetings are optional. This will limit the participation and the overall success of your team
Prioritize regional or local experts who understand and can provide guidance on health and safety measures (such as health officials, public safety officials).  

4.  Define the timeline to support the work that is communicated to both task force members and other shareholders.

  1. As task force and subcommittee work carries on throughout the summer and into the fall, it is important to share updates on the timeline and scope of work so that members can commit to the work. Questions to consider include:
    1. Are current task forces and committees meeting weekly? Is that time commitment limiting participation? Is the existing meeting schedule yielding the desired results?
    2. Is the group large enough to split into subcommittees or smaller teams on specific priorities?
    3. Can you adopt a schedule that allows subcommittees to meet every other week and share results with the full task force on alternating weeks?
    4. How will members attend meetings? Will members be expected to participate in face-to-face sessions, or can video conferencing be used?
    5. Who will be responsible for overseeing and carrying out the different elements of the recovery and reopening plans created by the groups?

5.  Secure relevant background information and available resources.

  1. Gather background information and resources task force members can use to (a) gain an overview of the problem they are trying to address and (b) communicate potential solutions and best practices that already exist. These materials will set the stage for the success of your task force.
  2. Provide opportunities for local experts to share strategies and lessons learned. Invited guests should align with the overall purpose of the task force as well as its calendar of deliverables. Share varied resources from other states and institutions to spark planning. Be careful to share resources that showcase a variety of solutions so the team can brainstorm the ideas that work best for your state or institution.

6.  Establish a multi-faceted communication plan.

  1. Clear and frequent communication between state systems, institutions, partner organizations, and the public is essential. Almost all states and higher education institutions have no established websites with information and advice about COVID-19 and updates on education and economic recovery plans. This information is often shared daily through a combination of press releases, conferences, social media and the web.
    1. Post the calendar of task force meetings and resources on your institution or state system website.
    2. Use institutional task forces to identify successful communication tools at the local level.
    3. Utilize a communication strategy that provides no-tech, low-tech and high-tech options.
    4. Provide ongoing updates in alternate formats and multiple languages.
    5. Evaluate the communication plan monthly to determine which tools are working well and which need to be revisited.
No-Tech Low-Tech  High-Tech
Flyers and “how to” guides that are mailed to students’ homes (in multiple languages)          Auto-calls to enrolled                                   State system or institution websites                            
Local newspaper promotional segments Radio broadcast announcements                                                                 Related social media resources, like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram
  Television broadcast announcements                      Recorded or live-streamed task force meetings                                                                                               

7.  Stay attuned to decisions by external organizations that can influence higher education institutions’ responses.

  1. Higher education institutions and state systems should additionally pay attention to the decisions of external organizations that may impact their own operations or students.
    1. The NCAA has a webpage with regular COVID-19 updates that affect college athletes.
    2. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website includes information about critical updates to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program policies and requirements. As of early July 2020, students on F-1 and M-1 visas may not remain in the United States if their institutions have moved to an online model and they are enrolled in a fully online course load.
    3. Pay attention to the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs updates regarding visa services for international students.

Continue to review and understand federal, state, and local COVID-19 policies and resources

National Guidance and Resources

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – COVID-19 Recommendations for Colleges, Universities and Higher Learning
  2. American College Health Association – Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education in the COVID-19 Era
  3. U.S. Department of Education – Additional Resources for Higher Education Institutions
  4. Federal Student Aid – Guidance for Interruptions of Study Related to Coronavirus

State Guidance and Resources

  1. Education Commission of the States – State Policy Tracker
  2. U.S. Chamber of Commerce – State-by-State Business Reopening Guidance
  3. Arkansas Division of Higher Education – COVID-19 Information
  4. Delaware – For Schools and Universities: Slowing the Spread of Coronavirus
  5. Florida Department of Education – Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  6. University System of Georgia – Coronavirus Diseases 2019 (COVID-19) Updates for USG
  7. Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education – Update on COVID-19
  8. Louisiana Board of Regents – COVID-19 Response
  9. Maryland Higher Education Commission – Information for Postsecondary Institutions on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  10. Mississippi Public Universities – System Guidance for University COVID-19 Action Plans
  11. University of North Carolina System – Coronavirus Resource Center
  12. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education – COVID-19 Campus Resources
  13. South Carolina Commission on Higher Education – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information
  14. Tennessee Higher Education Commission – COVID-19 Campus & Financial Aid Information
  15. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board – Coronavirus Update for Higher Education
  16. West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission – Coronavirus Higher Education Updates
  17. State Council of Higher Education for Virginia – Higher Education and COVID-19 Information