Student Mental Health and COVID-19

Due to the long-lasting pandemic that has led to stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, and social distancing, COVID-19 has had a disastrous impact on the mental health of college students. During this time, students have been feeling isolated which has led to an increase in their stress, anxiety, and depression. Many schools have shifted to online learning, and, for some students, this less interactive form of learning has increased that feeling of isolation and its adverse effects.

During increased levels of stress, students may have thoughts of hurting themselves and thoughts of suicide. Due to the lack of access to care, students may put off seeking help when amid a mental health crisis. That is why it is important for school officials, family members, and peers to look for warning signs to make sure that those who need support receive it. Some common warning signs to be aware of are:

  • Isolation from friends
  • Expression of feelings of tiredness or sleepiness more often than normal
  • Drug and/or alcohol use that is more than normal
  • Increased mood swings

It’s also important that students recognize the warning signs in themselves. Students should be aware of these common signs of chronic stress, anxiety, and depression:

  • Feeling like a burden
  • Being isolated
  • Increased anxiety
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increased substance use
  • Looking for a way to access lethal means
  • Increased anger or rage
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Making plans for suicide

If you or someone you know is struggling to cope and need immediate assistance you should call 911, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1800273TALK), or call/text the Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990).

Questions for Higher Ed Leaders:

  • Are schools ready to take care of their student population knowing the increased mental health crisis facing them?
  • How will schools lead the next generation of students to better health and a better life?

The college campus will never be the same again, and old solutions will not solve new problems. Higher education has a responsibility to its students to provide them the mental health resources that they need.

Beyond the Post: 1/8/21

Beyond Academics asks to hear your thoughts, comments, and opinions on the topics we’ve covered throughout the week. Let’s keep the conversation about Higher Education going.

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Listen to Beyond Academics members Joe Abraham and Joel Mathew on The Scott Becker Business and Private Equity Podcast as they discuss what motivates BA and how we are actively transforming Higher Ed.

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BA’s Top 10 Predictions for Higher Ed in 2021

Though 2020 is over, Higher Ed still has a lot of work to do. We must continue to adapt and transform—as we should be doing every year—to create a better future for students of today and beyond. Take a look at our top 10 Higher Ed predictions for 2021.

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Video: Flexible Learning Options” by Maricopa Community Colleges

Maricopa Community Colleges recently posted this videos outlining their flexible learning options which include online (asynchronous), live online (synchronous), in-person, and hybrid (a combination of in-person and online).

Schools like Maricopa that have adapted their classrooms to better accommodate students are leading the way in higher education. Though creating a campus that works for everyone is still something we need to work toward, offering a variety of learning options is a huge step in the right direction. But we still have some questions.

BA Bold Thoughts:

  • This is great in theory, but how do we execute this in reality?
  • Maricopa lists “campus life” as something all their students (even the online ones) will have access to. What is campus life and how does it translate to digital, asynchronous learning?
  • What technology will be required to allow classrooms to exist on multiple platforms and operate smoothly?

Let us know your thoughts and answers to these questions.

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Excerpt: 8 things that could derail innovation at your company—and how to avoid them” by Alex Salkever, Ismail Amla, and Vivek Wadhwa via Fast Company

Replace the word “company” with “university” and these 8 things still apply.

In this excerpt, the authors talk about “ambidextrous leadership,” which gives resources to internal innovations and start-ups without “being eaten or crippled by legacy business units.” In order to transform, universities must give their institution the funding and space to actually innovate.

BA Bold Thoughts:

  • Innovative ideas are not enough, they require action, funding, and support.
  • The entire institution must be willing to change and willing to compromise in order to allow essential transformations.

Read the full post >>>

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BA’s Top 10 Predictions for Higher Ed in 2021

Higher education faced some unprecedented challenges in 2020 and we were forced to adapt. But though 2020 is over, Higher Ed still has a lot of work to do. We must continue to adapt and transform—as we should be doing every year—to create a better future for students of today and beyond.

Here are our Higher Ed predictions for 2021, including the challenges still to overcome:

Online and hybrid education will be here to stay post-pandemic.

Schools will continue to use online and hybrid education to expand their geographic market and reduce costs. The quality of remote learning will continue to increase as faculty build up their skills and schools enhance their technical capabilities. The prevalence of online courses will make it easier for students to transfer between institutions. More students will continue to live off campus which will greatly reduce housing and fee revenue.

COVID mitigation protocols will continue to impact campuses through 2022.

Schools plan for the possibility that the pandemic won’t significantly ease and many COVID protocols become permanent. The appearance of more contagious variants and the slow roll-out of the vaccine will mean academic years 2021 and possibly 2022 will look a lot like Fall and Winter of 2020. The Federal DOE will issue comprehensive COVID guidelines and institutions will have to change their current protocols to meet the new nationwide standard.

Students will expand their choice of institutions beyond traditional boundaries and transfer credit will increase at 4-year institutions.

Student transfers will continue to increase. Remote education will make it easier for students to assemble their diplomas by taking relevant classes from a series of institutions. At the same time, responding to the drop in number of college age students, schools will increase recruiting Sophomores from other schools to become Junior transfers.

Many institutions will reduce their workforces (faculty/staff) and many programs will be sunset due to budget constraints.

Tenured and tenure-track faculty positions will continue to dwindle. Schools will soon have faculties made up entirely of adjuncts and short-term contractors. State systems will consolidate their smaller, financially weaker schools. All schools will start evaluating their programs and close low enrollment programs that are losing money.

ERP / SIS transformation projects will be scrutinized.

The technology budgets of state and private schools will be slashed over the next two years. As a result, schools won’t be able to afford 9 figure ERP/SIS transformation projects anymore. Instead, they will focus their resources on smaller technology initiatives with clear strategic goals targeted on specific processes. There will also be an increase in high-impact transformation initiatives that are not technology based.

Consulting firms dependent on ERP and SIS will downsize.

Without a steady pipeline of large ERP or SIS initiatives, consulting firms that specialize in technology implementations will have to downsize. However, firms that specialize in developing strategy, business process transformation, and the student experience will thrive.

Parents will be more critical of the ROI of sending their child to college.

Parents (and students) will question why they are paying pre-pandemic tuition and fee rates for their children to take online classes. As the pressure to reduce tuition and eliminate fees increase, schools will have to find ways to redefine the value students receive from their tuition investment.

Schools will struggle to maintain their campus affinity with remote learning.

Online learning makes transferring from one school to another significantly easier. Students will see an individual school they’ve attended as simply one stop of many on their way to a degree. This weaker affinity will make it harder for a school to develop its students into institutionally loyal, lifelong learners, supportive alumni, and long-term donors.

Enrollment of socioeconomically disadvantaged students will continue to drop, especially in community colleges.

Enrollment for both 4-year and community colleges dropped in 2020. Economic uncertainty, housing and food insecurity, lack of internet access, and having to teach their children at home are leading many people to put off enrollment. As long as these roadblocks remain, the downward trend in enrollment will continue.

Private schools will have to increase discounts.

In the Fall of 2019, the average tuition discount rate for private colleges was 53%. Institutional aid paid, on average, 60% of the published tuition price, leaving colleges in a tight financial bind. In an effort to keep their enrollments stable, colleges will continue to increase discount rates and institutional aid—further weakening their financial position and causing some schools to close.


Do you agree with these predictions? What other predictions for 2021 do you have?