College counselors underresourced as schools prioritize DEI and gender-affirming care

Experts point to a lack of resources and funding in hiring and retaining college and university counselors. Meanwhile, extravagant amounts of money are being spent on things that may exacerbate the situation.

Surveys from many different organizations paint a grim picture of the overall state of mental health among those in Gen Z.

College counseling centers are facing a lack of funding and resources, yet universities are spending money on things that are likely exacerbating the mental health crisis.

Philip J. Rosenbaum, the director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Haverford College, and Richard E. Webb, the former director of CAPS at Haverford write in a July 27 Inside Higher Ed article that the lack of resources inhibits the ability of schools to hire and retain mental health professionals.

“Counseling center jobs have become less desirable and increasingly, it seems, are viewed by applicants with suspicion,” they write. “Along with concerns about salary levels, which are paltry compared to what clinicians can earn in private practice or other systems, counselors have begun to describe working with college-aged students as being like working in crisis centers.”

[RELATED: Post-COVID enrollment down by 1 million as students cite affordability, mental health concerns]

As counselors do more triage and crisis management and less and less talk therapy, prospective clinicians are choosing to avoid counseling work altogether,” they continue.

The lack of resources to hire and retain counselors puts pressure on staff and causes administrators to seek off-campus and third-party solutions, regardless of care quality, they write. 

Counseling centers’ lack of resources also contributes to mental health workers experiencing burnout, the authors write, citing a position paper by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD).

“The impact of these factors on the systems and people that deliver mental health services is especially profound,” the AUCCCD paper states.

[RELATED: REPORT: Universities compounded the student mental health crisis during the pandemic]

A staggering 42% of respondents have been diagnosed with a mental health condition according to a 2022 survey of Gen Z by Harmony Healthcare IT. Of them, about 26% were diagnosed during the pandemic and 57% of respondents reported taking medication for their condition.

And yet, many universities have other priorities, such as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, as Campus Reform has highlighted. 

The University of Michigan, for example, received a $15.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health in June, and added its own $63.7 million, dedicating a total of $79.5 million for DEI in biomedicine and health sciences. 

Meanwhile, the University of Oregon has set up an emergency fund for students to access gender-affirming resources. 

“Hormone therapy can have some of the same effects on your emotions as puberty does,” the Oregon Health and Science University states on its website. “For example, you may swing from highs to lows often. You may have new feelings, and your interests may change.”

Campus Reform contacted Phillip Rosenbaum and the AUCCCD, but did not get comment at the time of this publication. Best efforts were made to contact Richard Webb. This article will be updated accordingly. 

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