UI lags in counseling

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By Tom Ackerman |  [email protected]

The University of Iowa ranks as the lowest staffed university for counseling in the Big Ten, dismissing students in need for help as a result of a lack in funding.

The school has a total of 12 full-time counselors, or one counselor for about every 2,700 students, said Barry Schreier, the director of the University Counseling Service.

According the UI’s accreditation standards, there should be one employee for every 1,000 to 1,500 students.

“We’re well aware [of the staff shortage],” Schreier said. “We’re already making our way past the one-week mark for wait, and we’re not even out of September yet. Every year, it’s like that.”

Iowa has also just ended its run on a three-year $270,000 grant for suicide awareness and counseling measures.

While the money is no longer being provided, Keri Neblett, the community intervention director at the Crisis Center, said support continues to be available.

“People are working to make sure the work is still relevant, and people are providing services students need,” she said.

This is Schreier’s first year as the head of the University Counseling Service. He plans to look for alternative methods to get the needs of students met, and he has started working with Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin, as well as student-government groups to drum up support for mental health.

“The bottom line is the university is not funded well [for counseling],” he said. “We’re trying to do what we can with alternative funding sources, but it’s going to be difficult.”

Schreier said there is no designated fund in the budget for counseling but rather a general fund for student wellness. He said there was a possibility of creating one to meet demand, but that would raise fees for students from around $5 to $7.

Currently, the counseling staff can be disheartened to tell a student in need to wait for weeks before an appointment can be made.

As a result, many students go outside campus for mental health, Schreier said.

“We do a lot of case management,” he said, meaning that counselors work to help students book appointments for longer-term needs and advise with insurance details.

Neblett will meet with Schreier and others in November to discuss strategy for the issue locally and what direction should be headed.

“I think the momentum will continue with [Schreier’s] contribution,” Neblett said, noting that the community has come a long way in the past five years.

While UI remains on the Big Ten bottom in the number of counselors, the school is ranked 13th in the Big Ten in staff to counselor ratio, Schreier said. Michigan State is ranked last.

Neblett said with the Garrett Lee Smith Grant no longer active, programs will have to be dropped, though many will remain running on the base the money provided.

“We really put our heads together to figure out what would work well for our campus,” Neblett said.

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