2/24 – 3/2

Quadcast: A conversation about community college student mental health

On this week’s episode of the Quadcast, MCF Executive Director speaks with Dr. Brian Mitra, the Vice President for Student Affairs at Kingsborough Community College, and advisor to the JED Foundation, about the mental health and wellbeing of the community college student population before, during and after COVID-19. Mitra explains that “Mental health and student wellness is all about responsibility, and really doing check-ins with people” and asks, “How do we keep that up as we get back onto campus? How do we keep those services and that high touch that really has allowed our students to be successful, to continue as budgets decline and hiring freezes happen?”

You can listen to the episode here or on  Apple Podcasts. While you’re there, give us a rating and review – It helps us reach a wider audience. We hope you’ll enjoy listening.

College Affordability

In an op-ed in the Hechinger Report, Andre Perry, a columnist and a Brookings Institution David M. Rubenstein Fellow calls for the cancellation of student debt. He refers to a Brookings Institution report that he co-authored, “Student debt cancellation should consider wealth, not income,” that claims that federal student debt cancellation and free public college are universal programs that would prevent Black students from being burdened with large debt in their attempts to climb the socioeconomic ladder, and allow all children to receive a quality education. “The promise of education as an equalizer will always be a false one,” he writes. “Unless we actively seek to change the wealth divides in this country and cancel student debt.”

Greek Life

Virginia Commonwealth University suspended the Delta Chi fraternity after a freshman, Adam Oakes, 19, was found dead over the weekend at an off-campus house. A family member said Oakes had been blindfolded and given alcohol. The fraternity’s national organization also said it had suspended the chapter.

Mental and Behavioral Health

Main Stories
The NCAA released results from the Student-Athlete Well-Being Study examining the impacts of the pandemic on the physical and mental well-being of college athletes. The report looks at all three divisions of the association throughout 2020. Nearly 25,000 athletes participated in the survey, which  showed an increase in mental health struggles among women and athletes of color. Forty three percent reported academic worries, 31% reported health concerns (31%) and 24% reported financial worries. A large number of athletes of color cited racism as negatively impacting their mental health.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, college students with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder are more likely to drop out and receive lower grades. Researchers analyzed the academic performance of about 200 students with ADHD (including medicated and non-medicated students) and 200 without the disorder over four years. Students with ADHD self-reported poorer mental health and study skills, and on average had “significantly lower” GPAs than their peers. George DuPaul, a co-author of the article, professor of school psychology and associate dean for research at Lehigh University’s College of Education, said that students with ADHD “require academic support prior to and throughout their college years.”

NPR reports on recent college graduates struggling to maintain friendships in the post-grad transitional period, an already-challenging time made more difficult during the pandemic. Many young people are unable to find jobs in the recession, and are figuring out how to keep their friends close amid social distancing and the insecurities that come with navigating a difficult job market.

In Psychology Today, Marcia Morris, a psychiatrist at the University of Florida and author of The Campus Cure: A Parent’s Guide to Mental Health and Wellness for College Students, offers parents advice on how to encourage their young adult children to overcome emotional and social loneliness. According to Morris, emotional loneliness refers to the lack of a close relationship, and social loneliness refers to the lack of a network of friends and family who share common interests. “Now is the time to encourage your college student to seek an array of social connections,” she writes.

According to a study commissioned by the nonprofit arm of Chegg, more than half of the 17,000 undergraduate students across 21 countries who were surveyed said their mental health has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventy-five percent of American students surveyed said their mental health had suffered due to the pandemic, second only to Brazil (76%). Among US students, 91% said their stress and anxiety had increased during the pandemic, 30% reported seeking help for mental health, 26% said they’d considered suicide, and 5% said they’d attempted suicide. Sarah Ketchen Lipson, co-principal investigator of the national Healthy Minds Study, said of the Chegg survey, “From a research perspective, it’s good to have more and more data and sources of information as the pandemic goes on.” Healthy Minds Data has also shown high levels of distress among college students amid the pandemic

Other News
This week, a group of medical students will hold virtual Capitol Hill meetings with more than 250 members of Congress to advocate for a few key issues, including the elimination of restrictions on where telehealth may be used, a tool that has been instrumental in providing mental health care during the pandemic.

On March 8th, This Is My Brave College Edition for Boston University, a program that uses storytelling to start conversations about mental illness and end the stigma among college students, will present stories from three Boston-area college students who live with mental health challenges. Registration is free and open to the public.

Colorado’s higher education department launched a pair of checklists to guide the state’s colleges and universities in supporting students who are in need of mental health care and experiencing food insecurity. To meet the state’s Healthy Minds Campus Checklist requirements, a campus must include mental health services information on syllabi and student IDs, offer at least two mental health prevention programs, hold a mental health awareness event each year, and offer ways to access online mental health support or connect students to community resources.

The University of Colorado Police Department is bringing on a mental health clinician to support officers responding to mental health crises and to serve as a consultant and liaison between CUPD and Counseling and Psychiatric Services.

New data from the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) and Total Brain, a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform showed that among 1,100  high school and college students who took the Total Brain assessment, 48% were at risk of general anxiety, 45% for social anxiety, and 39% for PTSD.

The Daily Tarheel highlights how pandemic-related challenges like a lack of routine, being stuck in the house and struggles with mental health have impacted the sleeping habits of UNC Chapel Hill students.

The Columbia Spectator explores the challenges students continue to face when seeking mental health care, building meaningful connections through the screen during virtual counseling and attempting to productively work through traumas and issues.

To help students cope with the pandemic, the University of Pennsylvania is offering students, faculty and staff free access to Wellnest, a mindfulness app that promotes self-reflection and journaling.

Two University of Southern California students founded the GIVE Foundation, a content creation-based club that compiles mental health resources and publications like podcasts, blog posts and other forms of media.

Unmasked, the anonymous platform dedicated specifically to discussing mental health issues started at Dartmouth College, is now available at University of Southern California.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The Chronicle’s Sarah Brown explores how University of North Carolina at Greensboro diversified its faculty, which took “years of hard work” and disrupted informal practices like promoting job openings within existing professional networks. One key aspect of the undertaking financially incentivized individual departments that focused on diversity in hiring. Frank Gilliam, the university’s first Black chancellor, whose tenure began in 2015, said that to secure additional funding and resources from the chancellor and the provost, departments must ensure that their candidate pools are diverse. From 2015 to 2020, the number of Black faculty members at the university nearly doubled, the number of Hispanic faculty members rose about 50%, and the number of Asian faculty members increased by about 25%. Andrea G. Hunter, a professor of human development and family studies who is the chancellor’s fellow for campus climate and serves in Gilliam’s cabinet, said that progress required curricular reform, training, and deep, reflective conversations with professors.

The New York Times covers a story at Smith College where in the summer of 2018, Oumou Kanoute, a Black student said she was racially profiled while eating in a college dormitory, a case that garnered national press attention and was taken on by the American Civil Liberties Union. However, months later, a third-party investigation found no persuasive evidence of bias; The student had eaten in a deserted dorm that had been closed for the summer and the janitor accused of profiling her had been told to notify security if he saw unauthorized people there. The lives of the workers accused of bias were in some cases acutely affected. According to the Times, the story highlights tensions between “a student’s deeply felt sense of personal truth and facts that are at odds with it.”

The Texas Tribune published emails from University of Texas Austin alumni and donors threatening to pull financial support from the university and demanding that the president take a stronger stance supporting “The Eyes of Texas,” a school song played at athletic games that has been criticized for memorializing a racist figure. The song was historically performed at campus minstrel shows, and the title is linked to a saying from Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Students have protested and petitioned the school to get rid of the song in recent months, but many donors, some in racially charged emails, demand that the school stand up to “cancel culture” and defend the song.

Student Success

According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the share of U.S. adults aged 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree jumped nearly 17% over a 15-year period up to 2019, though equity gaps persist.  The data measures degree attainment prior to the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected college enrollment.

Coronavirus: Safety and Reopening

Science News looked at five universities that opened in the fall, comparing how they handled pandemic policies and testing. Every school utilized some kind of testing protocol (at various frequencies) and differential rules about masks and social gatherings.

The New York Times is tracking COVID-19 cases and deaths on college campuses. More than 120,000 cases have been linked to US colleges and universities since January 1st. According to the Times, increased testing,  social distancing rules and decreasing cases nationwide have curbed the spread on campus, but some major outbreaks continue to occur.

The University of Maryland moved all classes online for a week and asked students on campus to stay in their residences in response to an outbreak. “We have reached a critical point in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 and we all have a responsibility to keep our community and our neighbors safe,” U-Md. President Darryll J. Pines wrote in an email to the campus community. “It is imperative that every campus citizen follow our 4 Maryland protocols and these new interventions.” One week after the “sequester-in-place” mandate, the campus lifted the order, citing promising metrics.

The University of North Texas is requiring that students planning to attend student organizations and events get a COVID-19 test starting March 2nd. This change comes as Texas Governor Greg Abbott rescinded the mask mandate and said the state would be 100% open by March 10th (defying the CDC’s warning against complacency in the face of emerging variants).