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Tanner Palmer

Jessie Richards
Writing 2010
April 5, 2016

Tuition and Mental Health in College Students


Introduction
The mental health of college students is quickly becoming one of the most
discussed and studied issues in our universities. It seems that many college students are
experiencing a rapid decline in their mental and emotional health while they are attending
their university of choice. This can be attributed to many different factors and surely
cannot be boiled down to one single issue. Things such as family relations, academic
success, work, marriage, living expenses, and many other stresses can lead to a decline in
mental health and seeing as most college students have to deal with these stressors on a
daily basis, it is no wonder that many of them are going through things such as anxiety,
depression, and even suicide ideation.
Elizabeth Skowron studied the effects that college has on young adults and
different ways that they can deal with the stress. She states in an article that was
published in the Journal of Counseling and Development, Among the general population,
higher levels of stress have been shown to tax one's cognitive resources (Glass & Singer,

1972), increase strain on the immune system (Cohen & Herbert, 1996), and may lead to
the development of learned helplessness and depression (Seligman, 1975). Among
college students, for example, academic exams have been associated with suppression of
the immune system (Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 1986), leading to increased physiological
difficulties. Stress may also arise from challenging course loads, university
bureaucracies, problems in managing one's time and personal finances, and challenges in
creating and maintaining satisfying interpersonal relationships (e.g., Hilsman & Garber,
1995; Jones, 1993; Kenny & Rice, 1995; Solberg et al., 1998), potentially leading to
increased levels of depression, anxiety (e.g., O'Malley, Wheeler, Murphey, O'Connel, &
Waldo, 1990), academic failure, and "emotional exhaustion" (D'Aurora & Fimian, 1988,
p. 48). (Skowron 1)
Though I would like to address every single factor that contributes to the stress,
anxiety, and depression in this short paper, a comprehensive analysis of all of these would
fill volumes and volumes of books. Instead, I will put my focus on only one of these
issues in order to show how making small changes to the way that we educate our youth
can have a major effect on our society in the long run. I strongly believe that one of the
biggest stresses that college students have to deal with is the rising cost of tuition that is
crippling them with mountains of debt that they may never be able to pay back and is
greatly affecting their overall mental and emotional wellbeing. College students attend a
university in order to further their education and open up opportunities for them in the
future. But the ridiculously high cost of this education is discouraging a lot of people to

attend college in the first place and is also preventing many from finishing once they
start.
Elizabeth A. Skowron said in her article that was published in the Journal of
Counseling and Development, College is a time of transitions, change, and new
experiences for students and their families. Among college-bound individuals, a
constellation of stressors is frequently experienced, including academic issues, financial
concerns and/or social strain. Among the general population, higher levels of stress have
been shown to tax one's cognitive resources (Glass & Singer, 1972), increase strain on the
immune system (Cohen & Herbert, 1996), and may lead to the development of learned
helplessness and depression (Seligman, 1975). (Skowron 1) From this quote we can
learn that many of the things that college students have to go through are taking their toll
on not only their mental and emotional health, but are also affecting their physical health
as well.
In all of my research one of the things that I came across over and over again was
that the cost of tuition is such a burden on most college students that it is driving many
student into the dark depths of depression. Is this how we want our education system to
function? In the book Sick of our loans: Student borrowing and the mental health of
young adults in the United States we read Over the past three decades, the cost of higher
education in the United States has increased by over 250% adjusting for inflation (Baum
and Ma, 2012). Simultaneously, wages for the average family have stagnated or declined
(Grafova, 2007). These two trends have made borrowing money for college essential for

many students. In 2012, student loans amounted to a staggering $1 trillion in the United
States, making it the largest source of loans second only to home mortgages.
(Walserman) This shows that the burden that is placed on college students is bigger and
heavier than it has ever been. It is becoming harder and harder for student to get out of
college without mountains of debt. This is a major contributing factor to the stress that
these students are facing.

Why is Mental Health Important in Students?


Students are people who go to school to learn more, because they want to either
learn how they can make a difference in society or they want to gain more experience so
that more opportunities will be opened up to them. So in large part it is this community of
college graduates who contribute to society and make lasting change. Now, dont think
that I am saying that it is only college graduates who contribute to society and make
change, because that is just not true. But we do rely a lot on college grads for a lot of our
different services. So if our college grads are experiencing higher and higher rates of
mental illness, isnt that cause for concern.
Many of the articles that talk about the mental health of students and how it affects
society show how these different stress factors can lead to mental instability or even lead
to mental disorders. Depression is rising in young people and in college students it is
even more prevalent. In an article titled Chronic Stress and Suicidal Thinking Among
Medical Students the author states Trend data clearly suggest an increase in levels of

stress, depression and anxiety at least since the 1980s. It is worth to consider that one
reference found that the average high school student in the year 2000 has the same level
of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient did in the 1950s, and those rates have only
increased in the last decade. (Wasserman)
More and more college students are developing mental illnesses before they
graduate. If they do make it to graduation but suffer from a mental illness, then they are
probably less qualified to enter the workforce. For this reason I believe that we should
focus on removing some of the stressors that college students go through. From my
personal experience, balancing the stress that comes from academic performance, work,
and family pales in comparison to the stress that I feel thinking about how expensive
tuition is and trying to come up with a solution to pay for it without going into a load of
debt. I strongly believe that I am not alone. Many college students are driving themselves
into depression because they dont have any idea how they can pay for their education
without crippling themselves financially.

Is all Stress Bad?


Stress is needed to push us outside of our comfort zone. I am a firm
believer that some degree of stress is actually healthy for us and is a driving factor in our
growth and development as human beings. Because I believe that stress is important for
us, I also believe that life should not, and was never meant to be easy. I hope that you
dont think that I want universities to take all stress away from students, because I dont

believe that we would see any progress. But I do believe that when stress is at such a high
level that is causes students to break down mentally and develop disorders such as

anxiety, depression, and even suicide ideation, you know that there is too much stress
and pressure on that student.
I understand that running a university is very expensive and has to be paid for
by someone. I am not advocating for free college education, because I believe that is
not a practical and responsible solution. I am suggesting that college tuition be can
lowered by spending more responsibly and less on things that are not valuable to
education. Dont get me wrong, I am a huge fan of college sports, but I am not a huge
fan of spending more than four thousand dollars every semester so that the university
can have every single sport for every single person. I think that if the university wants
to have a certain sport, then that sport should have to receive all of its funding from its
ticket and merchandise sales and not out of the pocket of your average everyday
student who doesnt even like sports.
If colleges and universities can learn how to spend their money more
responsibly and in the best interest of the student, I believe that we would see a
decrease in the growth of tuition and might even be able to reduce the cost. If
universities are able to reduce the cost of tuition, it would effectively remove one of
the most stressing factors that contribute to the mental illness of college students, this

would lead to better academic success and I believe a higher rate of success in college
students.

What Can Students Do?


As a college student, you have a lot of different things that are thrown at you and it
can be hard to balance everything out in a healthy manner. With mental health issues
becoming more and more prevalent in our society, it is clear that we have to identify the
causes and treatments that is going to improve the lives of everyone who is affected by
these disorders. If we can isolate the main causes of stress, anxiety, depression, and
suicidal thoughts in college students we may be able to avoid these chronic depression,
mental disorders, and even death in a lot of these vulnerable college students .
Students dont really have a whole lot of options to pay for these massive expensed
that the university inflicts on them. Working a part time job and going to school full time
is possible, but the affect that it has on a students health is awful. In my experience it is
still nearly impossible to go to school, and work thirty hours a week without having to
take out some sort of loan to pay the rest of tuition. This burden of knowing that no
matter what they do they will still have to go into debt can take its toll on students . They
feel like they are backed into a corner and there is no way out. This is when the effects of
depression begin to take hold on a students mind, when they begin to feel like there is no
way out of the hole that they had to dig themselves into.

With the rising cost of tuition, more and more students dont know how they are
going to pay for their education once they graduate. In some cases it is even more
stressful than academic performance. Students do have the option of applying for a
student loan, but they just add to the stress that students have to deal with knowing that
the minute they graduate they are going to be met by a wall of seemingly insurmountable
debt. Katrina M. Walserman says of student loans, Unlike most other types of loans,
student loans come with obligations for repayment and are difficult to discharge even in
standard bankruptcy filings (Hancock, 2009 and Sallie Mae, 2012). Students may worry
about these loans as they obtain them during school, as well as during the repayment
period after graduation. Thus, these loans may confer some amount of psychosocial stress
for student borrowers. (Walserman)

Conclusion
There are many different factors that can lead a population of people to develop
mental disorders. College students in particular are extremely vulnerable to develop these
unseen diseases, because of the great amount of stress that they are put under . Many
different things could be contributing factors to the development and diagnosis of these
different disorders. Some may include, family, friends, academic success, work, or
spouse.
One of the greatest stresses that a college student is going to feel both during and
after his or her higher education studies is the tuition that they are going to have to pay .

Many student acquire a lifetime worth of debt just to achieve their four year degree, only
to be left financially crippled, trying to pay off debts that they simply cannot afford .
It is extremely difficult to pay for tuition semester after semester while trying to
support a family, and work a full time job. This forces many college students to enter into
debt to pay the cost of tuition and cause an extremely heavy burden to be placed upon
their shoulders. This increase in stress and financial responsibility is driving some
students into a depressive or even suicidal state and something must be done to relieve
this stress.
Colleges and Universities need to develop a new system of budgeting that can
allocate funds to the departments that actually need it and cut back on the superfluous
spending that is driving up the cost of tuition for everyone. A decrease in tuition cost will
effectively eliminate one of the leading causes of stress for many college students and
allow them to more fully devote themselves to furthering their education. I truly believe
that if students can afford college, or at least have some options available to them that
wont leave them backed into a corner at graduation, They will be able to perform better
in virtually all aspects of their life. They will come out of college better prepared to enter
the workforce and wont have a financially crippling amount of debt that they have to pay
off looming above them like a dark rain cloud. If we can accomplish this seemingly
simple, but truly complicated task, not only will the students benefit, but I believe the
university and the community as a whole as well.

Works Cited
Iarovici, Doris, Dr. Mental Health Issues and the University Student. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2014. Print.
Rosiek, Anna, et al. "Chronic Stress and Suicidal Thinking among Medical Students."
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 13.2 (2016): 212.
Print.
Skowron, Elizabeth A., Stephen R. Wester, and Razia Azen. "Differentiation of Self Mediates
College Stress and Adjustment. Journal of Counseling & Development 82.1 (2004): 6978. Professional Development Collection. Web. 4 Mar. 2016.
Walsemann, Katrina M., Gilbert C. Gee, and Danielle Gentile. "Sick of our loans: Student
borrowing and the mental health of young adults in the United States." Social Science &
Medicine 124 (2015): 85-93. Print.