The main challenge in two-year college is mental health

Community college students who experience mental health issues are more likely to stop dating compared to their peers who don’t, according to new research.

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Community college students make up 41 percent of college students, and among students who completed a bachelor’s degree in 201516, 49 percent enrolled in a public two-year college in some capacity in the past 10 years, according to the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University.

A new working paper published by CCRC, Challenges and Opportunities: An Examination of Barriers to Postsecondary Academic Success, identifies how students’ time use, commitment to campus resources, and financial and mental well-being can affect academic persistence and educational achievement.

The researchers found that mental health conditions were the largest predictor of persistence and credit accumulation among students, with a negative correlation between conditions and achievement.

Game Status: Community colleges serve disproportionately high numbers of low-income, racially minority, first-generation, immigrant, and adult students compared to their four-year counterparts.

Despite becoming more diverse, equity gaps in community college completion still exist, particularly for low-income students and students of color.

According to the report, most interventions for community college students focus on students’ financial and academic needs to increase engagement and persistence.

Similarly, fall 2023 data from EdSights found that among institution types, students at public two-year institutions have the highest levels of stress due to financial hardship, despite the most affordable in all sectors.

The working paper’s researchers, Sade Bonilla of the University of Pennsylvania and Veronica Minaya of Columbia University, wanted to understand how first-time low-income community college students persist in terms of time utilization and resource commitment. of the campus, as well as its financial and mental resources. Health.

Methodology: The researchers surveyed 277 community college students at Hispanic institutions and linked this data to college records. The students were first-time, low-income learners who enrolled full-time in the fall of 2022 and were seeking an associate degree.

The survey measured students’ academic engagement, commitment to the institution, financial stressors, and mental health, while institutional records provided sociodemographic characteristics, prior academic preparation, academic records, and financial aid.

Student characteristics: The study, in addition to highlighting persistent trends, also identified trends among community college students.

Data comparison

In a 2023 Student Voice survey conducted by Inside Ed. superior and College Pulse, 55 percent of students at two-year colleges reported spending 0 hours per week participating in extracurricular activities, and one-third spent between one and five hours in extracurricular activities.

30% of two-year students surveyed said stress negatively contributed to their ability to concentrate, learn and do well, which was a higher proportion than those at four-year institutions.

  • Students said they spent an average of 13.5 hours per week studying and preparing for class, and an average of six hours per week on campus attending class and participating in other campus activities. This is significantly lower than historical data among four-year college students (students averaged 40 hours per week in 1961 and 7 hours studying in 2004, and 16 hours per week in class in 1981 and 13 hours in 2004, according to the ‘report).
  • The majority of participants said they worked, with 44 percent working full-time and 10 percent working part-time with an average of 13 hours worked per week.
  • The typical student said they participated in four of the eight activities provided by the campus (advising on course selection and planning, new student orientation, advising on academic issues, faculty office hours, assessment and career advising , academic support or tutoring, campus events and career). exploration programs). The most common activities were academic planning (80%) and new student orientation (64%), and the least common were career exploration activities (33%) and campus events (35%).
  • More than a third of students reported feelings of anxiety (38%) and depression (34%), which is in line with estimates for students at four-year institutions. A quarter of students reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress.
  • Four out of 10 students experienced some level of food insecurity and 60% of respondents experienced some level of housing insecurity.
  • After the first year, 99 percent of respondents completed the first semester and 82 percent completed the spring semester. Students earned an average of 14.8 credits out of 22 credits enrolled, showing a high level of dropping out or failing courses.

Results: The study found that financial and mental well-being and engagement with campus resources were unrelated to students’ fall-to-spring persistence; however, the number of hours a student spent on campus and working for pay were closely related.

Students who spent more time on campus were more likely to persist, and those who had jobs were less likely to do so.

One notable finding was that students experiencing anxiety tended to spend more time on campus, but those experiencing depression were less likely to engage with campus resources. Despite this, students with anxiety were slightly less likely to persist to the end of the spring term.

Students with high mental health problems also had decreased academic progress.

For every extra hour students studied, they were more likely to complete 0.18 additional credits, and an extra hour spent on campus had a similar positive association with credit attainment.

And what: Based on the studies’ findings, the researchers recommend that higher education leaders create targeted interventions to identify students’ mental health problems and help them address those problems. Many community colleges do not have sufficient on-campus capacity to address all of the mental and physical health needs of their youth, so investing in wellness centers and resources for students to develop coping strategies can support academic success

To promote student participation and success, student advising and guidance can also serve as stepping stones for more students to participate in these activities.

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