When Lucie Lapovsky was earning her master’s and PhD in economics, the University of Maryland—and higher education, in general—looked considerably different than it does today.

For instance, out of 80 students in Lapovsky’s graduate program, only eight were women.

“None of the men wanted to let us into their study group,” Lapovsky recalls. “So, we made our own study group and it turned out we did a lot better than they did. Then they wanted to get into our study group.”

Lapovsky describes it as a “tough environment for women” and a demanding program, but an experience she looks back on with pride and warm feelings. While completing her degrees, she balanced a full-time job and raised two young children. Lapovsky remembers routinely waking up at 2 a.m. to work on writing her dissertation until 6 a.m., when she would then get ready to go to work for the day. She never thought about dropping out;

“I was brought up to finish whatever I  started; it never occurred to me to not finish,” she said.

Even after leaving the University of Maryland, Lapovsky never truly separated from higher education. She spent the next forty years working in higher education finance in both the public and private sectors. She served as President of Mercy College in New York, Vice President for Finance at Goucher College and held posts at the University of Maryland, the Maryland Higher Education Commission and the Maryland State Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning.

“I just find the economics of higher education fascinating,” Lapovsky said. “It’s a complex industry with many different kinds of institutions and it is very political. Unfortunately, there are too few truly innovative institutions. Actually, my economics program at College Park was ahead of its time as much of it was competency-based, rather than structured around a set of required courses.”

Today, Lapovsky owns her own consulting firm where she advises, writes and speaks widely on issues related to higher education. Her hobby is advocating for and strengthening women’s leadership.

As a regular contributor for Forbes, Lapovsky has been writing a great deal recently about the potential lasting impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic on colleges and universities around the country.

“I think from here on out we will see schools having more flexibility built into the curriculum with remote learning and hybrid experiences,” Lapovsky said. “I think there are ways colleges can be much more efficient with resources and in how they operate. We haven’t been particularly creative about the way we’re doing things and, because of that, we haven’t been particularly economical.”

As for students contemplating how to navigate these uncharted waters during the pandemic, Lapovsky has this advice: Just keep going.

“You may not have the on-campus experience of your dreams this fall, but make the best of it. Now is not the time to step out or to take a gap year.”

Lucie Lapovsky