Three Ideas for Post-Coronavirus Educational Recovery
There are many ways that schools can proactively address the inevitable and inequitable gaps caused by coronavirus-related school closures.
The Center / May 03, 2022
Though students’ mental health remains a chief concern on many college campuses, the mental well-being of first-generation college students is a particularly crucial topic for those committed to student success. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and offers numerous opportunities to #AdvocateFirstgen.
Colleges and universities have reported increases in students seeking mental health services for several years. In a longitudinal study of 155,026 students from 196 campuses spanning 2007 to 2017, college students’ rate of mental health treatment increased from 19% in 2007 to 34% by 2017. Additionally, the percentage of students receiving lifetime diagnoses increased from 22% to 36%.
The Gallup-Lumina State of Higher Education 2022 report found that 76% of bachelors’ degree students and 63% of students working toward an associate’s degree considered stopping out–citing emotional stress as a primary reason. Pandemic-era learning environments caused isolation and academic challenges that students consistently cited as reasons for their increased mental health struggles.
In the March 2022 College Pulse Insights survey on mental health, 36% of respondents were first-generation college undergraduate students. Keeping up with coursework, pressure to perform well, and financial concerns were the top three stressors reported by survey respondents.
Keeping the mental health resource needs of first-generation students top-of-mind offers the ability to #AdvocateFirstgen for critical funding and services.
Despite these concerning developments, student success advocates can find some hope in the fact that financial support for institutions and college students with mental health concerns are on the rise.
The United States Department of Education has funding available for institutions through the Project School Emergency Response to Violence Program (Project SERV) to address students’ mental health needs following traumatic or violent incidents. Students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) have been particularly vulnerable to trauma with a recent rash of bomb threats against those institutions, which remain eligible to apply for grants to support mental health services for their students.
Institutions are noting a rise in scholarships to support students with a variety of mental health needs. Those eligible for scholarships range from students with diagnosed mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder to students suffering from the effects of cyberbullying or substance use disorders.
Advocacy efforts to increase mental health funding or services for college students, including those who are first-generation, are underway as well. The Center for First-generation Student Success joined nearly 100 other organizations representing students, higher education institutions, mental health providers, and others to urge members of Congress to prioritize the mental health needs of students enrolled in higher education.
Student success advocates can find some hope in the fact that financial support for institutions and college students with mental health concerns are on the rise.
In Illinois, the Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act was signed into law in 2019. It requires all public two- and four-year colleges and universities to improve campus mental health education, supports, and screening for students. Legislators are now considering HB5424/SB4055, which was filed in January 2022 to appropriate $19 million in the state’s 2023 budget to fully fund the services outlined in the previous law.
A student-driven advocacy campaign is currently underway in California. Assembly Bill 2122 would require all community colleges and California State University campuses to print a 24-hour mental health hotline phone number on student identification cards. The hotline information would be optional for the University of California because the Legislature doesn’t have authority over the institution.
The increased focus on and activity around expanding services and funding for mental health in the higher education sector is encouraging. The National Conference of State Legislatures Postsecondary Bill Tracking Database provides up-to-date information on bills introduced in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This resource enables advocates to search for mental health legislation and connect with legislators, as appropriate. Keeping the mental health resource needs of first-generation students top-of-mind offers the ability to #AdvocateFirstgen for critical funding and services.
What strategies have helped you to champion first-generation students successfully? Share your perspective on first-generation student advocacy and pertinent policy issues across social media with #AdvocateFirstgen.