How To Improve On Campus MH Services Op-Ed

How To Improve On Campus MH Services Op-Ed

By Nathen Ortiz

As a first-generation college student, I experienced many emotions as I prepared for my first year of college. I was excited to be on a beautiful campus like Cal State Fullerton and meet so many new people but I was also very nervous and often stressed about the responsibilities that awaited me. As I learned more about the resources available on campus, I was relieved to learn about on-campus mental health services. I always wanted to seek assistance with my mental health, and I was grateful my university offered therapy sessions. Seeking help was something new to me, as I have often neglected my mental health. Yet, I was excited about this new opportunity to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone. 

The first time I decided to schedule an appointment to meet with an on-campus therapist was very frustrating. I called Counseling and Psychological Services to schedule an appointment and was on hold for almost an hour. Finally, I got through and I was told I was not able to make an appointment because I called in the afternoon. The next day I called again, this time in the morning, and I was once again on hold for a while. This time I was told the next available appointment was three weeks away. After hearing this I decided to give up on setting up an appointment to meet with an on-campus therapist. 

During the pandemic my university offered virtual services for each of their departments, this included Counseling and Psychological Services. Like many others, the pandemic impacted my mental health, and I took this opportunity to seek help from a therapist. Although the services were virtual, I once again had to wait three weeks for the next available appointment. Finally, on the day of my appointment, I met on Zoom with a therapist. However, I struggled to communicate with them because I did not feel comfortable due to the lack of representation and connection. I did not schedule a second appointment. 

Following my experience with on-campus mental health services, I understand the frustration many other students have experienced on their campus. As a student advocacy intern here at Let’s Go to College CA, I wanted to encourage students to advocate for themselves to improve on-campus mental health services. Therefore, our team decided to conduct a survey to gather feedback from college students across California and learn about their experience with on-campus mental health services. Through the survey, we found that students wish for campuses to hire more diverse staff to reflect the diverse student population, improve the ratio of mental health professionals per student, decrease the wait time students have to wait for an appointment, and allow students to have more free therapy sessions. We will continue to analyze survey results and create opportunities for students to advocate for improved mental health services on college campuses. 

If I Were A College President

If I Were A College President

By Dixie Samaniego

There are many college affordability challenges that must be addressed for our students today. If I were a
college president, I would tackle costs beyond tuition specifically transportation to better support
students. Whether students are driving or using a rideshare service, we all struggle and spend much more
than we need to. Colleges must address transportation costs for students and introduce creative ways to
lower costs such as allowing parking permits to be shared.

As a first-generation college student attending Cal State Fullerton (CSUF), I experienced unknown
transportation costs of commuting to campus during my first year amounting to over $800. When I look
back on this experience, I recall all the times I struggled and worried over getting to class and hoping my
car would start. My car had small, but costly maintenance issues throughout the semester. Yet, I never
thought that I would have to miss a final exam because of them. I remember feeling like I was in some
soap opera as I sat in my car missing my English 100 final exam. I never knew that my academic success
in college was contingent upon having enough money to even get to campus. I know as a student at a
commuter school so many other students have the same worries and the same struggles.

This year due to COVID-19 I’ve been able to save money by not having to commute and pay for parking
permits, gas, and unexpected car issues. The lingering question I ask myself and the question every
commuter student is asking–what happens when we transfer back to in-person instruction? In Fall 2019
the parking permit was $285 and now, in Fall 2020, it is $334 due to a new parking structure. According
to the California Aid Student Commission’s (CSAC) Student Expenses and Resources Survey (SEARS),
a third of students reported housing insecurity in the past month and 35% reported food insecurity or
hunger. When students are forced to pay for permits they weigh whether to eat a healthy meal, eat at all,
or have stable housing. A breakdown of CSAC’s survey also reports that Black students that receive Cal
Grant and Pell Grant report the biggest food and housing insecurity–54% and 47% respectively. If
students had the option to share parking permits they would be able to use the money they save to eat
meals and/or have stable housing while pursuing their degree.

With no clear forecast of whether or not parking permits will decrease in price, allowing students to share
permits will alleviate the financial burden for current and future Titans. Many students are only on
campus a couple of days a week. Even during days students are on campus, many only stay for a couple
of hours and then head to their job. While it isn’t an issue for some students now that they’re at home, the
uncertainty is still there for students having in-person instruction. Allowing students to share parking
permits would reduce the indirect cost of college for almost half the student body at CSUF.

Continuing my education is important to me as a first-generation college student. Allowing students to
share parking permits and split the costs of expensive permits would relieve a financial burden for so
many. This is especially the case in the COVID-19 era and the financial insecurity students across the
nation are facing. Continuing to operate like we did before COVID-19 will not only make it more difficult
for current and future students to succeed but further increase inequities that have already existed in
higher education. Students have enrolled in CSU’s and overall higher education institutions nationally in
record-breaking numbers, in spite of a global pandemic. As we recover from this pandemic, it is
imperative for our higher education leaders and institutions to ensure every student is able to afford costs
beyond tuition. It is time to create policy solutions that are centering the most impacted. It is time to listen
to students and allow parking permits to be shared.


How Scholarship Displacement Affected Me

How Scholarship Displacement Affected Me

By Celeste Rojas

Scholarship displacement impacts students who depend on financial aid like me. Scholarship displacement is the term used to describe the situation when a student reports an external scholarship awarded to them to their university, and their original financial aid award gets reduced because of the additional scholarship, usually by the same amount of the scholarship.For this reason, I always had to think critically about applying to private scholarships or external aid for college. The best scholarship opportunities for me were those that either gave me the money directly or would provide me with a stipend. Scholarships that would be sent directly to the financial aid office were unfavorable because I knew that UC Berkeley would automatically reduce my gift aid since I was receiving extra money. There were instances where they would increase my loan offers to fill in for any gaps in my financial aid package.

In 2019, I was in an accident that caused me to get 15 stitches across the left side of my face. I reported it to UC Berkeley since I was unable to attend class and participate. To help me out they gave me $500 dollars for a hotel so my mom can take care of me. However, I didn’t know they were going to reduce my financial aid package because of those $500 dollars.

Another experience I had with award displacement was when the Cal Alumni Association, part of UC Berkeley, gave me aid through an emergency fund. During the pandemic, the Cal Alumni Association was generous enough to launch an emergency fund for students experiencing pandemic-related concerns like housing, food insecurity, or medical bills. I applied to the fund and later received about 10 Visa gift cards in the mail that amounted to my award. I was shocked they gave me Visa gift cards and asked why I couldn’t receive it all in one check to make it easier for me to retrieve the funds through my bank. They notified me that UC Berkeley would consider the check as financial aid, which would then decrease my financial aid package.

Award displacement affects all students, especially low-income students who aspire to apply to as many scholarships as possible to help with all the costs related to going to college. It’s unfortunate that institutions like UC Berkeley reduce aid amounts because scholarships can give more money to students.