Mental and Behavioral Health
Last week, Diverse Education hosted a panel of experts for a virtual discussion on how to better support the mental health needs of minority students. Recommendations included hiring and retaining diverse mental health staff, focusing on cultural competence, paying close attention to student needs, moving beyond the walls of the counseling center and into the community, and exploring alternative models, including digital modes of support.
University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson told the The Daily Iowan on Thursday that the university has hired more mental health counselors this year and instituted the 24-hour UI Support and Crisis Line. “Every university is challenged right now to figure out how to manage the mental health and wellness needs of students,” she said. “Do we have it figured out? No. Are we doing better than we were six months ago? I hope so.”
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
CNBC explores why the student debt crisis disproportionately affects the Latinx community. According to a 2020 study from the Student Borrower Protection Center, around 72% of Latinx students take out loans to attend college, compared with 66% of white students. The study also found that 12 years after starting college, the median Latinx borrower still owes 83% of their initial student loan balance, compared to only 65% for the median white borrower. CNBC attributes this disparity to the lack of knowledge of the financial aid system, fear of accumulating more debt or the lack of support experienced during college and beyond.
The Wall Street Journal highlights the problems with the federal Plus student-loan programs that have plunged millions of families into debt, and why lawmakers are not eager to fix them. The Plus loan programs allow parents and graduate students to borrow essentially unlimited amounts towards the total cost of attendance – tuition, room and board, books and personal expenses – for as long as it takes to get the degree. These programs have left many with balances they struggle to repay, but congress has repeatedly neglected to change them amidst questions as to why. According to the Journal, lawmakers don’t want to restrict disadvantaged students’ access to funds, are afraid of angering universities, and the programs have made money for the government.
Starting next fall, Ohio State University and Smith College will take loans out of their financial packages and instead use philanthropic dollars towards more grant aid for undergraduates. According to the Washington Post, the national conversations about student debt is forcing colleges to confront their role in the lending system. Removing student loans can help colleges attract and retain strong students, but scaling the policy is challenging.
The Washington Post reports on a surprising reason that many students do not finish their education – affordable, reliable transportation. The vast majority of U.S. college students are commuters, many of whom struggle with getting to and from their classes on a daily basis. According to the College Board, transportation can account for almost 20% of the cost of college for commuters. The Post cites a study listing four ways that transportation can be a barrier for students: the cost; stops or stations aren’t close enough to where they live or work; available routes and times don’t sync with college schedules; and it’s unreliable.
Many community colleges have used much of the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund money invested in non-academic support to help students navigate barriers that keep them from getting a degree. But with the federal relief money coming to an end, leaders are concerned about how they’ll keep paying for the changes, which they say are helping students succeed.
This fall, massive student protests at colleges across the country were calling on administrations to permanently remove certain fraternities from their campusues, often in response to allegations of sexual assault. The Chronicle tracked more than two dozen institutional sanctions against fraternities and sororities this semester, finding that none have been expelled. More than two dozen fraternities and sororities were suspended by their institutions this semester, but the suspensions ranged widely, from a matter of days to years. For most though, the timeline is unknown, as colleges and universities work to complete investigations. Activists argue that suspensions won’t deter sexual violence or other common problems in Greek life.