Effective support is highly important for college students, and the Texas State Counseling Center is failing to allocate adequate resources to accommodate the growing student population.
There were 1,700 students turned away from the Counseling Center during the 2011-2012 academic year, according to a Feb. 14 University Star article. University officials should be ashamed students are being denied counseling services. Going to the counseling center takes courage, and the significant lack of funding, staff and space has likely discouraged some from ever seeking counseling help in the future.
The first step to utilizing services at the Counseling Center is to set up an initial consultation. This is a task that some might deem insignificant, but others strapped with unbearable anxiety can find this menial task overly demanding and exhausting. Some students are not being properly rewarded for their courage in scheduling appointments, and are instead told there is not enough counselor availability or space to support their needs.
Off-campus counseling is not a viable alternative for many students as it requires additional time for transportation to-and-from the office as well as an additional fee for the student. It is unfair for Counseling Center officials to suggest off-campus support to students, especially since tuition bills allocate a percentage of funding for these counseling services. Going off campus is hardly a solution for students who have already paid their dues through their tuition, though many counselors have agreed to a reduced flat rate of $40 per hour.
The university has failed to prioritize adequate funding for counseling services. This lack of funding makes it difficult for students who need help the most to receive support. At this point, it appears as though Texas State officials have developed a familiarity with the theme of disadvantaging those who are most vulnerable on campus.
Mental illness and health have recently become a large part of the national discussion amid recent mass shootings. However, Texas State is not properly serving and catering to those in potential need of counseling services. One counselor is assigned per 3,400 students at Texas State, according to the same University Star article—over twice the number the International Association of Counseling Services regards as adequate. Center officials should be creating a type of peer counseling system instead of turning down students for appointments.
Texas State recently received permission from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to install a master’s program for Psychological Research in the near future. Graduate students in this program and other undergraduate psychology degree plans could train for their future careers by helping students through peer-to-peer counseling. It might even encourage more students to reach out for help if a student had the ability to speak with a peer directly for counseling. These students are likely in a similar stage in life and may to be closer in age than an older counseling professional. A peer counseling program could hold meetings at nearby coffee shops or on a park bench overlooking the river because meeting spaces and staff sizes are issues in the Counseling Center currently. Granted, those places might not be ideal for meetings that are more emotional in content. However, those options would be much better than declining to see students at all because of insufficient funding, space and staff sizes.
The worst action the university can do for a student seeking help is to ignore them or make them feel that their problems are not significant enough to see a counselor. A simple talk on a park bench might not be a bad solution to help students in need of counseling services until the university can reallocate its revenue to account for this injustice.