COVID taking toll on college students’ mental health: Survey

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – In a survey to nearly 1,000 Kentucky college students, 74 percent say they have felt an increase of mental or emotional exhaustion due to COVID-19.

Released on Wednesday, March 31 at the Council on Postsecondary Education’s Student Success Summit, the Prichard Committee’s Coping with COVID Postsecondary Impact Study also found that 57% of current students have felt an increase in anxiety that interfered with daily functioning; 17% reported having increases in thoughts of suicide.

“Throughout our Coping with COVID survey work the last year, the need for mental health supports has come through loud and clear,” said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, Prichard Committee President & CEO.

“These survey results from postsecondary students are a call to action to ensure high-quality mental health supports are available for students of all ages as they persist on their path to skill up for the future.”

In our survey of institutions, 92% said they are somewhat to very concerned about the mental health of their students due to COVID-19. Additionally, 90% of campuses said utilization of student mental health services increased due to COVID-19.

“Kentucky postsecondary leaders have recognized the need to support student health and well-being. This is why the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) announced in March 2021 $1.5 million in grants for campuses to expand and improve student mental health services,” said CPE President Aaron Thompson.

The survey, conducted in January and February, measured the impacts of COVID-19 on Kentucky’s postsecondary community. Survey respondents came from across Kentucky’s postsecondary education landscape – 57% from public 4-year institutions, 21% from public 2-year community or technical colleges, and 20% from private 4-year campuses. Other key findings show that:

  • Concerns among current students about basic needs such as food and shelter have intensified;
  • More students are struggling to afford college;
  • Learning virtually has yielded mixed results;
  • The pandemic has cause a shift in college plans for many students.

“We hope the results from this survey will help educators, students, parents and families, community leaders, and policy makers better understand the challenges students have faced throughout the pandemic,” said Prichard Committee President & CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey. “The data will surely be useful for plans to better support students on their path to college graduation.”

The Coping with COVID Kentucky Postsecondary Student Impact Survey represents a continued approach to combining survey data and interviews guided by a multi-generational team of students, adults, and education professionals.

The research team consisted of nine currently or recently enrolled postsecondary students and five education professionals engaged in postsecondary administration or advocacy.

This survey is the sixth in a series by the Prichard Committee on the impact of the pandemic on education from early childhood through postsecondary. You can find all  survey results here.

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