Maximize Your Funding Resources for Student Mental Health Services

Budgeting process. Photo by Oleg Magni.

Insufficient funding can impact an institution’s ability to expand mental health services, attract and retain clinical providers, and adequately prepare for peaks in demand. Learn how to maximize funding for the health and well-being of college students and leverage existing resources to improve the success of your on-campus mental health care.

Here are some ways you can advocate for mental health funding, stretch your current budget, and better support your existing counseling centers and mental health programs:

Utilize Grants to Improve Mental Health Across Campus

In addition to securing private grants, which can help expand student mental health resources, colleges and universities should be leveraging federal and state grants which can increase funding for student affairs and counseling services.

As of May 19, 2022, the Biden administration released new guidance on how best to spend Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF), which are extended through June 30, 2023. The administration strongly encourages colleges and universities to address student, faculty, and staff mental health and allocate the funds to “evidence-based best practices for meeting the growing and diverse mental health needs of students.” 

Some of the administrations suggested practices include:

  • Investing in Telehealth platforms offering therapy 
  • Offering wellness activities, such as skills-based workshops
  • Providing suicide prevention training to staff and faculty
  • Securing a crisis care hotline which offers 24/7 call/text options
  • Hiring additional in-person mental health professionals 
  • Hosting Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) trainings

Luis Manzo, PhD, Executive Director of Student Wellness at St. John’s University, suggests looking into additional federal government reimbursements for COVID-related expenses, such as telehealth services. While you may be required to provide proof of use for COVID-specific activities, this source of funding should be utilized for campus mental health services before it runs out.

Reassess the Budget for Student Mental Health Services

While student health fees, donations, and tuition fees are often primary sources of funding for mental health services, this isn't enough to support the high demand for student mental health care. In many cases, only a small portion of these funds are available for mental health services, and administrators in charge of allocating these funds may not be aware of the difficulties facing their counseling center.

While higher education budgets are hard to change once established, you can reallocate and adjust your budget to better support counseling services.

Communicate regularly with counseling center directors to better understand student needs, care gaps, and pressing mental health resources. Present this information to relevant stakeholders with the hope of attaining more funding for mental health programs and raising awareness of the problems around student mental health.

Partner with Student and Community Organizations

Higher education leaders may overlook the benefits of partnering with student organizations and other local groups, but these offer additional sources of funding. These groups are likely already advocating for on-campus mental healthcare, but can generate funding through fundraising efforts and provide more mental health resources.

“Student organizations can advocate for additional resources for your center," says Dr. Manzo. "That’s how we’ve been able to get staffing approved as well as specific staffing for specific areas, whether in athletics, residence halls, or in certain colleges.”

Students advocate in addition to administrators and leverage their personal stories to coincide with relevant data; often this motivates higher education leaders to take mental health conditions more seriously.

Foster a Collaborative Environment for Clinical Providers

One of the primary concerns on college campuses is attracting, securing, and retaining college counseling professionals. The supply does not meet the demand and counselors face salary limitations, administrative burdens, and resource constraints. Attracting and retaining providers isn't easy in higher education, but offering a rewarding work environment is an important factor to consider.

Mental health counseling center directors and counselors should be given more flexibility, autonomy, resources, support, and mental health care so they can excel in their roles while maintaining a healthy work/life balance. This may require additional service offerings, such as off-campus therapy, psychiatry, and crisis care services, so on-campus providers can shift their focus to developing mental health resources, implementing programs for suicide prevention, and responding to widespread needs across the college campus.

Maximize Telehealth Services for Student Success

More and more students are demanding telehealth services, but most university counseling services don't have the bandwidth to offer this. Expanding your service offerings by securing a telehealth provider can lessen the strain on your counseling center, while simultaneously increasing access to college students.

At Mantra Health, we understand that most institutions face budgeting constraints, which is why we work directly with colleges and universities to fill gaps in care and provide additional support to on-campus providers. Our provider network can not only accommodate the growing need for more mental health care, but offer students more diverse and flexible care options. We work with our partners during and outside of the academic year to ensure that every student, regardless of their situation, can access therapy when needed. We want to ensure that students everywhere have equitable access to efficient and quality mental health services.

Reducing the workload for on-campus providers and expanding mental health services via telehealth is critical now more than ever. Since attracting and retaining providers with limited funding is a significant concern among higher education administrators, we encourage you to read our white paper on provider burnout to better understand the challenges facing your college counseling services.