For College and University Presidents, Mental Health the Top Short-Term Concern

For College and University Presidents, Mental Health the Top Short-Term Concern

Rory Kelly
Editorial Contributor, Christie Campus Health

On March 27, 2020, Inside Higher Ed published results from a pulse survey conducted with Hanover Research investigating presidents’ and chancellors’ responses to the COVID-19 crisis. Presidents represented 95% of the 172 respondents with chancellors rounding at the remaining 5%. These administrators hailed from four-year private, four-year public, and two-year public institutions. 

With most students now off-campus and most faculty, staff, and administration working from home, colleges and universities are looking ahead past the immediate health effects of the coronavirus, such as limiting infection and meeting the healthcare demand. Instead, the results illustrate respondents’ top short-term concern includes student and faculty mental health, in addition to transitioning in-person learning online. Additionally, respondents’ report significant short- and long-term financial concerns regarding stability of the institution, including employing all faculty and staff, decreased student enrollment and retention, student reimbursement, and the overall value of higher education.

92% of presidents are somewhat or very concerned about the mental health of students, and 88% are concerned about that of faculty. These are respondents’ top two short-term concerns. 18% of respondents’ institutions have already invested in additional mental or physical health resources, and of the institutions who haven’t, 44% expect to invest in the near future.

A potential barrier for universities seeking to invest in additional resources dedicated to health and wellbeing is that the current situation demands a level of social distancing not previously experienced in modern higher ed. As a result, colleges and universities have no precedent to inform their decision-making; instead, institutions are looking to one another and to their communities to assess the greatest needs and identify solutions to meet them.

Across industries, including higher ed, digital health interventions, and especially telemedicine, have seen a massive spike in utilization and investment. Remote behavioral health tools on the rise include telemental health or teletherapy, meditation or mood-tracking apps, and online skill-building courses. In the face of this pandemic, presidents and chancellors appear ready to pivot the delivery of learning as well as implement other student success and wellbeing support services to ensure the value and academic life of their institutions, both in the moment and going forward.

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