Emotional stress is forcing a large number of college students to consider taking a break.
A third of all college students in the United States considered withdrawing from their studies in the past six months, according to a Lumina Foundation and Gallup poll released Wednesday.
Some 32% of bachelor’s degree candidates reported considering withdrawing for at least a semester. And 41% of associate degree students considered taking a break in the past six months, according to the State of Higher Education 2022 Report.
Still, most students in the study still see college as valuable.
“Those who had stopped out or had never enrolled are still reporting that they think an education beyond high school is a pathway to a better job and a better life,” said Stephanie Marken, executive director of education research at Gallup.
Emotional stress caused by COVID-19, the cost of tuition and difficult coursework were the three most-reported reasons students considered taking a break.
“Mental health crises have been popping up on campuses across the country for several years, pre-pandemic, but COVID-19 really exacerbated these issues for students,” Marken said.
Colleges are adding mental health counseling to existing academic help. Virtual classes, which became a quick necessity during the pandemic, make education accessible to those students who need a break. And many schools are offering de-stressing activities to reduce anxiety before midterm and final exams.
At Illinois Central College, students can enjoy massage chairs, oxygen bars and some arcade games. The University of Houston’s stress-free finals include Lego building and ice cream. And at Kellogg Community College in Michigan, students smash electronics during Stress Busters Week.
Other colleges offer days off to color, ride tricycles or play with puppies.
A Washington State University study in 2021 found dogs are a big help for stressed students. Students reported feeling less anxiety after petting therapy dogs than they did after taking stress management courses.
“Dogs are such a great, happy distraction from our troubles. I think they bring you out of your head,” Amy Hrin, national director of special projects at American Human, said at the time. “And when you think about this particular population — students who are away from home — and here they can have this chance to give and receive affection with this warm, friendly animal. If you can’t have a hug from Mom right now, this is the next best thing.”
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