Increasing Student Retention In the Wake of Mental Health Crises on Campus

According to the Healthy Minds Study, which collects data from 373 campuses nationwide, “60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem.” Additionally, another national survey found that “almost three quarters of students reported moderate or severe psychological distress.”

So is it possible to increase student retention while simultaneously supporting more students than ever before in the wake of the most challenging mental health crises to ever hit campuses? We think so.

The Student Affairs Conundrum: Having to Do More With Less

According to a recent Salesforce Report, “76% [of] Students say maintaining their wellbeing is a top challenge.” And many of these students look to their Student Affairs professionals for help.

Despite NASPA CEO’s sentiment that student affairs will be linked to “student success rather than crisis management,” a recent NASPA survey found that “70% of [higher ed professionals] anticipate having an increase in responsibility to handle crisis management for students in the next 5 years, and 50% anticipate having an increased responsibility with student counseling.” 

In order for admins to not become overwhelmed by this increase in responsibilities, it’s important to establish centralized, holistic strategies, and implement effective tools to make sure every student feels supported, in whatever way suits them best.

Hiring More Staff to Combat Mental Health Issues

With the increasing number of daily challenges student affairs professionals are faced with, making sure at-risk students don’t fall through the cracks is easier said than done. According to the CCMH Annual Report, 2021, “the average annual caseload for a typical full-time college counselor is about 120 students, with some centers averaging more than 300 students per counselor,” nationwide.

And while some campuses are hiring more support staff to deal with this uptick in challenges, according to Michael Gerard Mason, PhD, associate dean of African American Affairs at the University of Virginia (UVA) and a longtime college counselor: “Our counseling staff has almost tripled in size, but even if we continue hiring, I don’t think we could ever staff our way out of this challenge.”

Leveraging the Right Tools

Did you know:
The otter is one of the few mammals that use tools; typically a rock that can be used as a hammer or anvil to break open hard-shelled prey?

Like our company mascot: the otter, we at Raftr love using tools. And like us, an increasing number of student affairs professionals are looking to leverage new tools, to help them address both old and new challenges across campus.

While it isn’t realistic to have a growing number of counsellors on retainer, making sure students can easily locate mental health and counseling services is an easy way to efficiently overcome this problem. By offering easily accessible resource guides, a dedicated support center (or virtual services!), and all necessary contact information & details in one easily accessible guide that students can share and refer to when necessary, admins can start easing the pressure, while feeling confident that their students feel supported.