The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Higher Ed Responds to Growing Mental Health Needs by Adding More Counselors on Campus

According to data from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, the number of college students seeking mental health counseling services on campus increased by nearly 30 percent from 2009 to 2015. Similarly, a new study by the American Psychiatric Association found that the rate of treatment of college students for mental health issues rose from 19 percent in 2007 to 34 percent in 2017, while the percentage of students with lifetime diagnoses increased 14 percentage points over the same time period.

New research from CUPA-HR shows that institutions appear to be responding to this uptick by adding more counselors on campus.

Data from CUPA-HR’s research report Focus on Student Affairs, 2018: Understanding Key Challenges Using CUPA-HR Data show that compared to the overall 7 percent growth rate for student affairs positions in higher ed, the number of student counselors has increased 10 percent, and the number of student counseling psychologists has increased 8 percent from 2016-17 to 2017-18. In contrast, the number of student career counselor positions has only increased 2 percent.



Demographics of Mental Health Counselors

Like student affairs positions in general, most counselors are women (77 percent) and are White (75 percent). Also, similar to other student affairs positions, Blacks (12 percent) and Hispanics (6 percent) are underrepresented in counselor positions when compared to the overall student body.

Other Findings

Among the report’s other findings:

  • The increase in median salary from 2016-17 to 2017-18 for student counselors (0.5 percent) and student counseling psychologists (1.8 percent) lags far behind the median increase for student career counselors (3.2 percent). This is likely driven by the hiring of more entry-level student counseling positions compared to the number of student career counselors, which has remained relatively flat.
  • Associate’s institutions employ a much smaller proportion of student counseling psychologists, whereas doctoral institutions employ the largest proportion.
  • The labor market for student counseling psychologists appears to be tighter in the Northeast and West, where median salaries are much higher for this position than in the Southeast and Midwest.

Read the full report and CUPA-HR’s other research publications.



The CUPA-HR national office will be closed July 4 in observance of Independence Day.