Poor mental health among community college students linked to lower persistence rates

Two- and four-year students were found to report similar levels of anxiety and depression; both are higher than non-student respondents. 

A working paper from the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University studying two-year students’ habits has linked mental health-related issues, such as anxiety and depression, to worse persistence rates and credit accumulation.

These issues may be more pronounced at the community college level due to the array of off-campus challenges their students often have to juggle as well. Housing and food insecurity challenges take away students’ ability to focus, and at the root of the issue is prolonged financial struggles. One study it cited found a link between financial stress and cognitive bandwidth, which hurts students’ ability to work on difficult tasks.

Community colleges and policymakers have tried to address these challenges through heightened scholarship opportunities and wraparound services.

However, mental health is still a problem community colleges have yet to tackle, the study found. Community college students are less likely than four-year students to receive such help on their own due to—again—the financial barriers they face. At the same time, the study noted how community colleges currently lack primary care and counseling centers that could compensate for that.

Two- and four-year students were found to report similar levels of anxiety and depression; both are higher than non-student respondents.

CCRC believes further research should study whether “college initiatives aimed at enhancing mental and financial well-being may influence students’ academic outcomes.” Until then, community colleges should leverage existing campus engagement offerings, like student orientation and and advising to match students with tailored support networks.

Researchers for CCRC surveyed nearly 300 community college students at two Hispanic-Serving Institutions and linked those records to their first-year academic and financial aid records. It asked students various questions based on their academic engagement, engagement with campus resources and mental well-being.

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Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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