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. 

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.