University Health Services’ Director of Business Operations Tara Brooks presented a proposed fee increase at the Spring 2017 Tuition and Fee Hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 21 to the Executive Budget Committee (EBC) to raise the Health Services fee from $37.50 to $62.50—this increase has since been denied.
One of the main reasons for the proposed fee increase was to provide funding for three additional mental health counselors. Boise State currently has about one counseling provider for every 3,000 students—based off of the published enrollment numbers. This is half the recommended ratio of counseling providers to students—one to every 1,000 to 1,500 students—according to Brooks. With this disparity, students may wait as long as four weeks to see a counselor during busier parts of the semester.
The increase also intended to add more peer educators within the area of prevention—and graduate assistants to work with them—and to investigate technological resources that will help better communicate prevention efforts with students, according to Brooks.
The EBC met after the hearing to discuss these items—along with other departments’ proposals—as mentioned in the Feb. 27 Arbiter article, “Campus departments propose increases at Tuition and Fee Hearing.”
Associate Vice President for Budget and Planning and Chairman of the Tuition and Fee Hearing Ken Kline said the EBC agreed there is a need for additional counseling providers to be hired.
“The general consensus coming from the Executive Budget Committee was that there is a need for health counselors—and specifically there is a recommendation for additional funds to fund those counselors—but not to increase the Health Service fee to address any deficits,” Kline said.
The deficit Health Services is experiencing is partially due to changes in health insurance policies, according to Kline. As of now, the Health Services fee—paid by each full time student per semester—will remain $37.50, as it has been since 2011.
According to Kline, the recommendation from President Kustra—which goes to the Idaho State Board of Education—will include an increase in the student activity fee, so one full time and one part-time counselor could be hired.
“As long as the funding has been sufficient for (Health Services), we certainly didn’t want to ask for more unless we needed it,” Brooks said.
When finalizing the Tuition and Fee Hearing proposal, Brooks went to the Associated Students of Boise State University’s (ASBSU) Student Assembly to seek input about where the new funds would be allocated.
“We found (the suggestions) very valuable, and we took their recommendation and we switched our proposal,” Brooks said. “We had already submitted everything, and we switched our proposal, because we felt like, ‘These are student dollars, and we went to (ASBSU Student Assembly) for a reason.’”
Junior psychology major, Zacharyah Harbauer, was at ASBSU Student Assembly when Brooks came to ask for suggestions about the Health Services fee proposal. Harbauer said he was pleased to see Brooks used the suggestions to allocate more funding toward mental health, rather than outreach—as it was originally presented.
“We have a lot of people come to assembly and request opinions, but don’t do anything with them,” Harbauer said.
Data collected from 4,500 randomly selected students in 2015 through the Boise State College Health Assessment—conducted by the American Collegiate Health Association—showed students are struggling with mental health related issues. Of the 986 students who responded, the top two factors “reported by Boise State students that negatively impacted academic success within past 12 months,” were anxiety and depression at 42.4 percent, followed closely by stress and other mental health at 41.4 percent, according to data presented in a PowerPoint by Health Services.
Harbauer, who also is president of a peer-run mental health support group called Tender Thoughts, said students don’t always know about their options for seeking help on campus.
“(Students) hear the words counseling center, but they don’t know what counseling entails,” Harbauer said. “They don’t know how it would help them, if it would help them.”
The Tender Thoughts group meets at 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays, in room 124 of the Mathematics Building, to provide a safe space for students to discuss anything they need to talk about. Harbauer said he feels it serves as preventative health care, as well as crisis intervention, which is important when students have to wait weeks to see a counseling provider in Health Services.
Moving forward, Brooks said she is happy to hear additional resources are being allocated toward hiring counseling providers.
“However, we have concerns without additional funding to address the financial needs of Health Services as a whole, we will have to decrease services,” Brooks said. “We will continue to work with student groups to ensure we understand their healthcare needs and will remain dedicated to addressing them to best of our ability.”