Staff Editorial: University Counseling Center fee removal a victory for GW

The mental health of members of the community is everyone’s business.

In this community of Colonials, students should have the comfort of knowing that when they need help, they will find assistance, regardless of their financial status.

That’s why the University Counseling Center’s new policy to provide six free sessions for students is truly fantastic.

The old University Counseling Center fee structure, which charged $50 per appointment, was often cited as a deterrent to visiting the center. The appointment fee was seen as exorbitantly high, pressuring students to focus on their financial constraints when they should have been primarily concerned with their mental health.

It’s not a surprise that few issues have united this campus so strongly as the demand for the removal of UCC fees.

The University’s decision to provide six free sessions to students is due in large part to an outpouring of advocacy, action and genuine compassion from a variety of community members. Students, organizations, Student Association representatives and administration came together and the University deserves praise for responding effectively to this chorus of concern and confronting UCC fees with a significant change.

The University made the right decision to draw the line for free counseling at six sessions. This structure strikes the right balance between providing students with an adequate number of free appointments while at the same time not asking the UCC to provide complimentary long-term care.

This policy switch came about from combination of grassroots student outcry intense lobbying by the Student Association and willingness by the administration to listen to all of these groups and respond to their concerns. This change shows that when the community is impassioned, the University will respond positively. As students, we can feel safer at this school knowing our mental well-being is a concern of the University’s.

It is somewhat troubling, however, that the University took this long to drop its counseling fees. Ninety-three percent of universities nationwide don’t charge at all for personal counseling, and of those that do, the average appointment fee is $14, according to the National Survey of Counseling Center Directors. But the University’s response to the community appeal for removed UCC fees shows that it is listening to the student body’s concerns.

While one may not personally know someone who has visited the UCC, that does not mean that the issue of mental health is inconsequential to that person.

When a student struggles with his or her mental health, so does the entire community. An individual’s on-campus network – including professors, friends, classmates and floormates – is involved with that person’s personal pitfalls and triumphs.

To that end, this change is both a personal and collective victory for GW.

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