We are aiming to increase the number of currently enrolled students from historically and presently underserved backgrounds who attain a bachelor’s degree.
Spotlight: Understanding Mental Health as a College Completion Issue
We know that the pandemic has affected the mental health of learners, but recent studies have shed more light on how much more of a mental strain college students face as they work to complete their degrees. One grantee partner, Active Minds (2020), found that 87% of students they surveyed felt stress or anxiety during the pandemic, while more than three in four felt lonely or isolated.
ECMC Foundation’s College Success investments have worked to address the systemic root issues that stand in the way of a student and their educational goals. In 2019, we launched the Basic Needs Initiative, a first-of-its-kind effort in the philanthropic and postsecondary education sector designed to address and alleviate issues like housing and food insecurity among college students. The pandemic shaped the evolution of this work, affirming for us the importance of addressing basic needs, and further solidified our understanding of what is foundational to a student’s success.
Although support for mental health initiatives has been part of our portfolio for years, our learnings around basic needs have underscored that mental health is a college completion issue—and needs investments to match.
In addition to supporting organizations like The Steve Fund that work directly with institutions, nonprofits and students, ECMC Foundation funded the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), a network of nearly 600 member organizations that reach more than 2 million students per year, to provide six of its members with intensive technical assistance to ensure students most in need have access to culturally competent mental wellness support (NCAN, 2022). Recognizing that students of color are especially affected by a lack of mental health support on campus, we also invested in California State University’s efforts to improve mental health services for students at five Hispanic-serving institutions in the Los Angeles area (CSU5, 2022).
Higher education has long been committed to helping learners along the path to success, an effort made immensely more difficult when students are in distress. With these and future investments, we hope to chart a way forward where mental health is seen as central to college completion efforts.