Justin Peligri: Keeping counseling affordable

The ongoing construction on campus hasn’t been the only example of change at GW. The University Counseling Center has experienced its own fair share of remodeling this year.

The UCC has seen changes including the replacement of the center’s director, multiple new psychologists and, after a vocal student lobbying effort in the wake of a student suicide, the offering of six free preliminary counseling sessions for all GW students.

The counseling center has also seen a 20 percent increase in the number of individual student sessions as well as a seven percent increase in UCC services overall. With this sharp increase from last year, it is clear students feel more comfortable seeking mental health assistance.

But the overwhelming rise in students using the counseling center’s service has been accompanied by a decrease in UCC revenue over the course of the year, prompting administrators to potentially rethink the future of programs, like the six sessions free of charge.

“As we wind down the academic year, these programs will be reviewed, and the financial implications are still being evaluated,” Peter Konwerski, Senior Associate Vice President and Dean of Students said.

A review of potential price changes will happen this summer.

As the University reviews the counseling center’s budget this summer and considers how to raise revenue, it should continue to offer the valuable six free sessions.

Rachel Krausman, co-founder of Active Minds, a student organization that works to promote positive mental health on campus, told me there has been “great feedback from the GW community” regarding the free sessions.

Abolishing these sessions would send a negative message to Colonials who have opted to seek psychological help. Removing the six free sessions is a step backward.

It may seem far-fetched to consider offering all counseling services free of charge, especially since there is a $60 fee per session after the six free preliminary sessions. But American and New York universities offer completely complimentary counseling services to students. At the very least, the University can continue to offer the first six sessions for free.

The good news is that Krausman said while she thinks there might be changes based on the revenue numbers, she would be extremely surprised “if the system went back to where it was before.”

I hope she is right. Mental health is essential to student success. The University should continue to make sure that amid potential changes at the center’s 2033 K St. offices in the coming months, the needs of students continue to remain the top priority.

In this time of transition, the University should not sacrifice programs that are beneficial to students in the name of securing steady revenue.

Justin Peligri, a freshman majoring in political communication, is the Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

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