Here’s another reason why many community college students do not get their degree

  • 2016-03-23
  • The Conversation

The growth of community colleges in the U.S. has improved access to higher education tremendously, especially for students from low-income families. However, completion rates at these schools are less than 30 percent.

Could the mental health of community college students play a role in their degree completion?

We recently partnered with researchers, nonprofits and community colleges across the country to study the mental health conditions of community college students.

Mental health on college campus

The first signs of most mental health conditions often appear during or before the typical college age range – 18 to 24 years. Symptoms can include lack of energy, loss of concentration, lack of sleep or even substance abuse, which can affect school performance. Depressed or anxious students can also feel pessimistic and lose their motivation.

In previous research, we and other research groups have extensively documented the high prevalence of mental health disorders in four-year institutions. Recent studies also indicate that mental health disorders could be increasing among the youth.

What about mental health issues of community college students specifically?

Compared to four-year schools, community colleges draw student populations with higher poverty and other socioeconomic disadvantages, which could increase their vulnerability to mental health conditions.

So in winter 2015, we conducted an online survey of a random sample of over 4,300 students at 10 community colleges across the nation, and used standard brief assessments to measure symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

To compare with four-year school populations, we examined these same measures from Healthy Minds Study, a national survey from the academic year 2014-2015, which included nearly 16,000 respondents from 16 institutions.