Tuition hike fails to meet promises

According to the Detroit Free Press, one of the reasons that Oakland’s tuition increased was to supply the Oakland University Counseling Center (OUCC) with two additional counselors.

The International Association of Counseling Services (IACS) recommends one to every 1,000 students. At Oakland University, the ratio of staff to students in the OUCC is one to 3,818.

The University of Dayton, which has a similar enrollment and a similar resident-to-commuter ratio, has eight counselors, while OU has five-and-a-half.

Each student at OU is told during orientation that they are supplied with six free counseling sessions. If every single student took their six free one-hour sessions it would total out to 5,250 days of counseling. Which, let’s face it, is not reasonable.

The fact that this is unreasonable is a reflection of how student mental health is treated on campus.

Campus suicide and relevancy

According to a recent study conducted by the National Data on Campus Suicide, one in 12 college students will consider a suicide plan.

At Oakland University, if we use that same statistic, that would be 1,750 students struggling with suicidal thoughts. If each of those students took their free sessions, that amounts to 72.9 full days of counseling.

This is not even accounting for the students constantly coming and going from the university. This only considers if every single student who had suicidal thoughts attended their six sessions. This does not include diagnostic tests done or services offered to faculty.

 Why does this matter?

That Free Press article says that the eight percent tuition hike would pay for two more counselors to aid in the organization and availability of counselors at the OUCC.

I tried to make an appointment at the OUCC in early December. They did an interview over the phone and I was told that I would not have an appointment until the winter semester.

My first appointment was at the end of January. It went well, though started late. The next week I got a call from the center explaining that because my counselor was not able to come in and therefore there was no way, without changing times, I could have an appointment. 

When students were told that we would have two more counselors to alleviate this problem at the counseling center, I was disappointed to see that I would have to wait even longer to go back for another appointment. 

Schwartz said that the tuition increase led to the removal of a part-time position and the introduction of two new full-time positions that the university pays for. Before this, the center was paying for two part-time workers out-of-pocket. This means now there are five full-time staffers as well as one part-time worker.

Though the university created two new positions, technically only one-and-a-half positions were added.

An increase needed

While they were able to increase the number of counselors, the actual demand has gone up as well.

Schwartz said that not only has demand gone up since housing has expanded, as many users of the OUCC are residents, but the severity of the problems has gone up as well.

“Our crisis and emergency work has gone up almost 300 percent in the past five years,” Schwartz said.

This editorial is in no way attacking the OUCC. I’m really relieved we do have free sessions on campus and that Oakland University is trying to combat the problem of college suicides by offering these services. Schwartz even said that he’s appreciative of the upper administrative recognition of what the OUCC does.

Call to action

If students show they care about the center and the services remain in high demand, it will demonstrate to the university that there is a large need.

No student should have to wait a month to see a counselor. While the center says once you’re on a waitlist, you can be expedited if you call and ask to be seen earlier, but that doesn’t help the countless students who don’t know about this feature.

Use the center, and use it right. Keep your appointments and hopefully, show the university this is a service that is needed and that needs to be expanded upon.