the words student wellbeing in bright colors

2 actions university leaders can take to impact student wellbeing

The acute wellbeing needs of young people today are at crisis levels; it’s time to prioritize wellbeing outcomes

The acute wellbeing needs of young people today are at crisis levels, and higher-ed leaders know that college students require additional supports from their schools, parents, and counselors. In fact, The Council for the Advancement of Standards for Higher Education (CAS) has produced the new Cross-Functional Framework for Advancing Health and Well-Being to address the complex issues of health, well-being, flourishing, and thriving of college students in the context of a healthy community. Further, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) measures the degree to which higher-ed institutions are committed to student success and providing support for students’ overall well-being across a variety of domains, including the cognitive, social, and physical.

Provosts, along with all president’s council members, are required to provide leadership to university accreditations. They have to demonstrate the ability to implement CAS wellbeing standards and improve NSSE results. It is to the benefit of university leaders to prioritize student wellbeing outcomes—e.g., to meet national standards, retain students, and succeed in their mission as educators.

So then, why is higher ed not taking bold action to impact the dire well-being statistics?

Do we really need more data before acting?

Student wellbeing has been a problem for years

“In 2018, researchers who surveyed almost 14,000 first-year college students (in eight countries) found that 35 percent struggled with a mental illness, particularly depression or anxiety,” according to an article in Greater Good Magazine. “Here in the U.S., college students seeking mental health services report that anxiety is their number one concern—and it is on the rise.”

A recent New York Times article states, “Most American teenagers—across demographic groups—see depression and anxiety as major problems among their peers, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. The survey found that 70 percent of teenagers saw mental health as a big issue.”

Related: What is your college doing to help students handle stress?

Clearly, we can agree that there are well-being problems in our society and that we are all struggling with how to impact them. Is the slowness to act not understanding how, or is it a matter of leadership courage? We challenge university leaders to take two actions today!

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