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The American Council on Education, the central association of college presidents and the key lobbying group for higher education, on Monday canceled its annual meeting next weekend, citing health concerns and travel limitations prompted by the novel coronavirus.

The ACE annual meeting, which was to be held March 14-16 in San Diego, is one of the most-visible conferences in higher education, attended by nearly 1,500 college presidents, provosts and other senior campus officials.

As such, the group's decision to cancel the meeting could influence similar choices made by other groups in the higher education sphere (some of which beat ACE to the punch in canceling their meetings). Membership associations have particularly difficult decisions about their conferences, which are both gathering places for leaders and a key source of revenue for the groups.

Ted Mitchell, ACE 's president, said in an email that "events have overtaken our meeting and much of higher education. A number of institutions, along with many in the corporate sector, have decided that out of an abundance of caution now is not the time for domestic travel and attending large meetings.... We have been cognizant of the fact that ACE’s Annual Meeting brings together over 1,500 people from hundreds of colleges and universities in virtually every state -- all of whom return to their campuses after we all finish spending several days with each other.... ACE has an obligation to conference attendees and speakers, and the many vendor and hotel employees they would encounter, to help them be safe."