While mental health services at four-year universities are expected and generally well established, this is not always the case at two-year colleges. Only 70% of community colleges nationwide offer mental health counseling, and few community college counselors are solely responsible for providing mental health counseling. Like high school guidance counselors, they often split their time between mental health counseling and other responsibilities, including administrative, school, or career counseling.
Community colleges have a student-advisor ratio nearly double that of four-year institutions, which means students may have to wait longer for access to on-campus counselors, may have fewer appointment hours -you accessible and/or less access to advisors who reflect their personal demographics or can meet their specific needs.
This limited access to care is particularly notable because community college students likely have a higher need for mental health services than four-year college students. Rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation are all higher among community college students. Two-year-olds are almost 45% more likely to attempt suicide than four-year-olds, an even more compelling statistic given that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college-aged people.
Four-year colleges are most often home to what education circles call “traditional students”: full-time students straight out of high school with no dependents and no full-time jobs. These students are more likely to have more privileged identities: white, able-bodied, cisgender students from middle- to high-income families. Community colleges, on the other hand, tend to more frequently enroll marginalized students, including those from racial or ethnic minority groups and low-income families, as well as first-generation students. caring for family members while attending school or balancing responsibilities beyond those of a “traditional student”.
Community colleges often have fewer resources to support their students due to a lack of funding.
The Center for American Progress found that Michigan community colleges receive an average of $8,179 less per student in annual education revenue than Michigan’s public four-year colleges. With more state and federal funding and higher tuition, four-year colleges have more flexibility to provide crucial student services, including mental health services. Community colleges do not have the same luxury.
On top of that, students who can afford four-year tuition often come from families with higher median incomes and are therefore more likely to be able to afford mental health care outside of school. school than students who attend community college.
For example, the district’s median annual family income at Wayne County Community College is $25,400, while Wayne State University, located just 2.5 miles from Detroit, has a median family income of $58,600. Thus, community college students are both less likely to find mental health care in their school and less likely to have the financial means to access such care outside of school.
The most important step in removing barriers to mental health care for community college students is to increase funding for two-year institutions and those that serve larger proportions of historically underserved students, and to support research dedicated to examining the mental health of community colleges. Community colleges themselves and organizations such as the JED Foundation and the American College Counseling Association have helped shine a light on the critical need for mental health infrastructure in community colleges.
Additionally, a burgeoning Michigan-specific research group, the Improving Mental Health Through Community Colleges Team at the University of Michigan, focuses on mental health needs at community colleges across the country. Michigan. This research is critical to identifying effective ways to improve the availability and accessibility of mental health resources for community college students.
With mental health conditions further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are safe in the midst of a mental health crisis. It’s time to level the playing field and make sure community college students get the mental health resources and support they need.