College Students Need Additional Support Upon Returning to School

College Students Need Additional Support Upon Returning to School

Kaitlin Gallo, Ph.D.
Chief Clinical Officer, CCH

College students, many of whom were off campus and dealing with social distancing for the past year and a half, will be returning to campuses this fall. A return to some version of “normal” will be a welcome change to many students. Unfortunately, the pandemic has exacerbated and introduced problems that will follow students to their campuses, including health and mental health concerns, food and housing insecurity, and financial instability.

Even prior to the pandemic, many college students found it challenging to meet their basic needs. In fact, the rate of food insecurity in college students is higher than the national average, and that has been worsened by the negative effects of the pandemic. Tens of thousands of students report that they are experiencing homelessness, with many students, particularly those who live off-campus not with relatives, living below the poverty level. For example, in 2019, community college students in Oregon who responded to a survey about their level of need in the last year reported that they had recently experienced housing insecurity or homelessness (52% and 20%, respectively) and 41% did not know how they would acquire enough nutritious food. Most of these students reported not taking advantage of on-campus, government-offered, or local resources to help meet their needs.

When students’ basic food, housing, and financial needs are not being met, their health and mental health will almost definitely suffer, which can negatively affect their attention, mood, behavior, academic performance, and likelihood that they will graduate on time—or even graduate at all. Institutions of higher education can and should play a role in ensuring that students do not needlessly suffer because of financial, housing, or food insecurity. Given the allocation of recent Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) funds, some of which has been allocated for student health and mental health, colleges and universities have an opportunity to direct funds toward assisting students in basic ways in order to bolster their health and success in school. In addition to HEER funds, schools may have access to other funds, such as the recent bill that passed in Oregon devoting almost $5 million and compelling every Oregon public institution of higher education to hire a “benefits navigator” to help students to get connected with programs and resources, such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits (also known as food stamps).

As part of our comprehensive platform of services, Christie Campus Health offers access to trained Navigators who support individual student needs, including but not limited to mental health and wellness programs and resources to support students’ basic needs, such as food banks, housing resources, and other support services both on- and off-campus. Navigators can then communicate back to the school about the specific types of support that were provided to students, helping to expand the capacity of the school to meet students’ needs.

As student needs continue to increase, Navigators can help to bridge the gap between what students need and the information and services they need to meet those needs. Contact if you’d like to learn more about how Navigators can help your students.

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