UC Students Struggle to Access Mental Health Services

Health services directors at the University of California are raising alarms that students throughout the system cannot access mental health services in reasonable time periods. A typical student who calls in complaining of mild anxiety and procrastination in the first weeks of the semester could be waiting until finals to get a regular therapy appointment.

UC Takes 'Zero Tolerance' Approach to Sexual Assault and Violence

University of California President Janet Napolitano says she wants the system to be a national leader on curbing sexual assault and violence on campus. A special UC task force released seven key recommendations at a Board of Regents meeting on Wednesday. Topping the list is the creation of an independent and confidential office at each campus for these cases.

PBS NewsHour

Black college grads face greater student loan burden than whites

The more than $1.1 trillion in outstanding student debt is not distributed evenly among the country’s college graduates.

In a poll done earlier this year, Gallup and Purdue University found that 78 percent of black college graduates took out loans to pay for their education, compared to 61 percent of white and 63 percent of all grads.

While 35 percent of all college grads and 34 percent of white grads borrowed at least $25,000 in student loans, 50 percent of black grads had borrowed as much.

The financial payoff of getting a college degree has only grown during the last 30 years, as wages for those with associate’s degrees and high school diplomas has stalled or dropped. And the time it takes to recoup the cost of tuition and the earnings a student loses while they’re in school is near all-time lows, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

What the Gallup-Purdue poll shows is that those average calculations that mask the financial rewards of college education may not be equally accessible to all grads.

A recent report estimated every $250 paid toward student loans each month reduces a household’s home buying budget by $44,000. That lost buying power could cost the housing market $83 billion this year, according to the Los Angeles Times. If black college grads have heavier debt loads on average, their home buying power is taking a disproportionate hit.

Census data already shows the net worth of black and Hispanic families dramatically lags that of white and Asian families and that the gap is growing. Unequal debt burdens could mean a college degree won’t necessarily close that gap for any given family.

A look at the Survey of Consumer Finances by the Pew Research Center found college grads who did not have student debts had accumulated about seven times the wealth of their indebted peers.

The post Black college grads face greater student loan burden than whites appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Should our sports heroes also be our role models?

We asked students from around the country: should our sports heroes also be our heroes in real life? Laryssa Wills of Pflugerville High School in Pflugerville, Texas, says professional athletes should be held accountable as role models. See all the student videos here.

In light of the recent domestic abuse issues plaguing members of the National Football League, we asked our student journalists to consider whether professional athletes should be considered role models.

Our Student Reporting Labs network from around the country answered our callout. Watch their video responses.

Videos were created with mentor support from Detroit Public Television, KLRU, South Carolina ETV, Vegas PBS, East Tennessee PBS, KCPT and WHYY.

The post Should our sports heroes also be our role models? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

First weeks of college life can be deadly for some freshmen

Dalton Debrick died of alcohol before his first day of classes at Texas Tech University.

Dalton Debrick died of alcohol poisoning before his first day of classes at Texas Tech University.

Late last month, police responded to a noise complaint at an off-campus residence near Texas Tech University. Among the party-goers celebrating the start of a new school year was Dalton Debrick, a freshman rushing with the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. The police would return just a few hours later to find his body. The freshman died of alcohol poisoning 24 hours before his first day of college.

“Dalton was a good kid with a very bright future helping others,” his family said in a statement. “He was still discovering himself, but he said he wanted to work with kids somehow. He talked about coaching or even youth ministry. What we know is that none of those possible futures will happen because he died because no one cared enough to stop it or take care of him.”

The day before Debrick’s death, an international student at Michigan State University died after a night of drinking during the university’s “move-in weekend.” Two days later, a freshman at Pennsylvania State University committed suicide by jumping from a construction crane on campus. A week after that, a Towson University freshman died after falling into a glass door during a party.

At least eight freshmen at U.S. colleges have died in the first few weeks of this school year. The deaths have cast a shadow over the campuses on which the students spent too little time, but they’re also a cross-section of the kinds of issues and decisions facing freshmen as they begin their college careers — and of the choices some young students may not be prepared to make. Even colleges with the best approaches to educating students about mental health issues may have very little time to reach those who may be vulnerable.

“It’s a huge transition and all the support systems are different,” said Pete Goldsmith, dean of students at Indiana University at Bloomington. “For students who have lived in very structured situations and environments, going to a college campus when very suddenly they have this new kind of freedom and new choices to make, it can be pretty overwhelming.”

IU, too, has recently lost students just beginning their time on campus. In a high-profile tragedy last year, a freshman died after falling down a flight of stairs during a party. Since then, the university has put a stronger emphasis on what’s called bystander intervention through its “Culture of Care” program. In many cases, a student’s life could be saved if his or her peers reacted more quickly in getting help, Goldsmith said. Like those at virtually all colleges, IU freshmen go through orientation programming, including watching a musical sketch about drinking and sexual assault.

But there’s only so much a student can learn — and only so much a university can say — during a few hours of orientation, Goldsmith acknowledged. So the university tries to reach out to incoming students earlier and earlier, he said, so that they have a better understanding of what to expect before they even arrive on campus.

“We urge parents to have conversations with students about drug and alcohol use,” Goldsmith said. “We encourage parents to think through what their own expectations are for this first year. Parents and students are so focused on getting into college, there’s not always a lot of attention given to what’s going to happen once they’re actually there.”

Even the most prepared students can still fall victim to the high-risk behaviors that sometimes accompany the first few weeks and months of college, however. Amy Murphy, dean of students at Texas Tech University, said most students actually arrive at college with healthy attitudes and behaviors, but then fall under the spell of “the college effect.”

Texas Tech began the new school year with campus flags at half-mast. Seven of its students have died in the last month, six of them in off-campus car accidents.

“The ‘college effect’ is the idea that once students are on campus, they’re exposed to these higher-risk behaviors and are then more likely to participate in them,” Murphy said. “It’s this unhealthy minority that is somehow so influential on the healthy majority. Colleges have to work on better messaging to convey to new students that the majority of campus does actually have the same healthy attitudes as they do.”

Murphy said this misconception comes from images in movies and television and even from older siblings’ memories of what college is supposed to be. When the freshmen arrive on campus, they see older students still attempting to live up to that image and they try to follow suit, particularly when it comes to alcohol consumption, said George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institutes of Health.

“Humans are copycat organisms,” Koob said. “There has to be a standard of appropriate behavior that can be conveyed by juniors and seniors who managed to get that far in college without any problems. I really think there has to be standards that kids can look up to in their peer groups, appropriate behavior that they can model.”

Koob also said that today’s students generally tend to arrive on campus exhibiting healthy behaviors and attitudes about drinking. In fact, according to the institute, binge drinking has decreased among college students in recent years. But, at the same time, alcohol-related hospitalization has increased as much as 70 percent.

While fewer students are binge drinking, Koob said, those who still do are drinking more than ever.

“Anecdotally, we’re hearing about higher numbers of students, particularly freshmen, ending up in ER situations,” he said. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a fairly dramatic increase of alcohol-related hospitalizations in this age group. It does seem that there’s an attitude now to drink as fast as possible and as intensely as possible and that’s very dangerous.”

Jiayi Dai, a Michigan State University student from China, died in August. Police said alcohol was likely involved in
         her death.

Jiayi Dai, a Michigan State University student from China, died in August. Police said alcohol was likely involved in her death.

In the case of Jiayi Dai, the Chinese student who died at Michigan State, the university acknowledged that it provides education about alcohol abuse during international student orientation, but not information on where students could seek help after drinking too much. “That’s probably what we will now do in the future,” Peter Briggs, director of the university’s office for international students and scholars, told the Lansing State Journal.

Drugs and alcohol abuse are not the only issues that have college officials worried.

The mental health of freshmen, and students in general, remains difficult to address. Suicide is the second most common cause of death for college students, according to a 2011 study, and is more prevalent than alcohol poisoning. Gwyn Ashcom, the health promotion chair at the American College Health Association, said it’s important for colleges to stress that it’s normal for students to feel “a whirlwind of emotions.” And colleges have to be careful that the advice they provide doesn’t get mixed into that same vortex and spat back out.

“During those first few weeks students are bombarded with information, which can be overwhelming,” Ashcom said. “I think we do the best we can to educate students. I think not being afraid to have conversations with students as well as staff and faculty is important. Conversations need to be happening not just via the health and counseling centers and other typical routes, but in the classroom as well.”

At Texas Tech, Murphy said, officials try to split the university’s population into “subgroups” like first-generation students or fraternity members so that specific issues common to certain types of students can more easily addressed. Speaking to smaller numbers of students at a time can also help the freshmen know who they can go to for help, she said.

“The current generation of students may be less equipped for dealing with stress than previous ones, or at least equipped in different ways,” Murphy said. “Universities have to understand their students as they are now. There’s a combination of factors that are influencing these early behaviors. They’re freshmen. They’re seeking out ways to feel more comfortable in this new social environment. That’s the challenge we’re presented with. How do you help those students feel supported in a short amount of time?”

Inside Higher Ed is a free, daily online publication covering the fast-changing world of higher education.

PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The post First weeks of college life can be deadly for some freshmen appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Malala explains why she risked death to speak up for girls’ education


Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, a different take on education. It comes from Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Pakistani activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education.

She has since become an international figure. Her story has inspired children all over the world.

We invited our Student Reporting Labs to submit questions for Malala. And, when she visited New York recently, Hari Sreenivasan put them to her.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Malala Yousafzai, first, we’re going to have you listen and react to some reporter questions. Student Reporting Labs has generated these questions out in the field.

EMILY VARNADORE, York Comprehensive High School, South Carolina: Hi. My name is Emily from York Comprehensive High School. My question for you is, when do you think your battle for education for all will finally be won?

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, she says when will your battle for education for all be won?  You have a simple dream. When will that be accomplished?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI, Author: When dreams do come true — and, in our history, we have seen that 100 years ago, women didn’t have the right to vote, but now they’re able to vote and they have achieved their — this right.

And long ago, people were struggling for the rights of black people, so that they can vote as well, and they are respected in society. And it’s getting better every day. And now we see that there were dreams in the past, and now they are becoming a reality. So I’m hopeful that the dreams which I have now to see every child going to school, to see equal rights for women, I think, soon, in future, if you continue the struggle, if you work hard, then I will see those dreams becoming a reality.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Here’s Jeff Love of the Philip’s Academy.

JEFFREY LOVE, Philip’s Academy Charter School, New Jersey: Malala, why did you continue to speak out for women’s education, even though you knew you could be killed?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: It’s a very good question.

So, when I was in Swat Valley, at that time, there were more than 400 schools destroyed. And women were flogged, because we’re not allowed to go to school. And, at that time, I had really two options. One was to remain silent and wait to be killed. And then the second was to speak up and then be killed.

And I chose the second one, because I didn’t want to face the terrorism forever. And I wanted to come out of the terrible situation. And I wanted to go to school. It was my love for education that encouraged me to continue the campaign. So, I think, in hard times, we need to raise up our voice. Otherwise, we will have to live in that terrible situation forever.


I also asked on my Facebook page and on my Twitter feed. And so I’m going to get some of — get to some of those questions as well. So, several people asked, how can people in the United States, from this distance, support education in a country like Pakistan effectively?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: When it comes to the developing countries, I think you can do advocacy for that. You can ask the responsible people.

And now social media can be used for this good purpose. And I know it’s good, like, sometimes if you ask — if you put a selfie on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but it’s also good that you use it for the good purpose of raising awareness, of doing advocacy, and of highlighting the issues that children are facing, but as well if you donate to the organizations and to the foundations who are working on the ground and who need your support.

And even if, like, you give one dollar, it can really bring a big change in the life of those children who are waiting for someone to help them.

HARI SREENIVASAN: How do you convince, say, a government or an aid agency to say, you know, these 300,000 kids, you need to give them some instruction and education right now, because, otherwise, you are going to have a lost generation that could come back in a much, much more horrible way?

I mean, they are still in many places in the refugee camps are tent cities. They still don’t necessarily have steady food or steady shelter or water. I mean, how do you convince a family that it’s really important to make sure your kids spend some time learning today?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: The first thing is that when we do advocacy and when I do advocacy, I do not speak for my side, but I speak on the behalf of those children, on the behalf of those parents who are suffering so many problems.

So, when I went to Nigeria for the campaign to make sure and to ask the government that the girls who are kidnapped and who are abducted by Boko Haram, more than 200 girls, that they are released as soon as possible, before asking the president, I met some parents, and I met some girls who escaped from the abduction.

And they were crying, and all they were asking was that they want their daughters to come back home. And the girls, they still do not get any education. No one is supporting them. They do not even get, like, health facilities. So I ask the president that I’m raising the voices of these people and raising the voice of those parents who want their daughters to come back. I’m raising the voice of those girls who now need support and help.

And the president then promised me that he would meet the parents and the girls. And he did right at the next week. And I went on my 17th birthday, so I was really happy that I spent my birthday in a place where there are so many children out of school, 10.5 million children out of school.

It’s only about the primary level, but I was happy that the parents and the girls’ voices were heard. So I had a very nice birthday.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, I know you don’t have a cell phone…


HARI SREENIVASAN: … because you don’t — that would actually make you more busy and distract you.


HARI SREENIVASAN: So what do you as a teenager?  I mean, you are a 17-year-old woman growing up in the U.K. When you are not — this is your summer break, and you are doing press interviews all over the world. Well, how do you relax?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Oh, well, sometimes I play cricket, and I play badminton. I also listen to music sometimes. And then I have an iPad.

I don’t have a phone, but I do have an iPad. And I watch the news. I read some articles to be updated.


MALALA YOUSAFZAI: That is important for me. And I also fight with my brothers, so that’s a good way to be busy.


HARI SREENIVASAN: OK, Malala Yousafzai, thanks so much for your time.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Yes, thank you so much. Nice to talk to you.

PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The post Malala explains why she risked death to speak up for girls’ education appeared first on PBS NewsHour.