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Fresno State is raising student fees to help fund additional mental health staff

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Fresno State will raise student health fees by $52 per year to fund the hiring of additional mental health counselors. The new student health fee of $278 will go into effect in fall 2020.

Frank Lamas, the university’s vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, said the fee increase will generate about $1 million to go toward hiring two mental health counselors and an additional case manager at the Student Health and Counseling Center in order to reduce staffing ratios and wait times. The fee also pays for the existing eight counselors and other operations at the center, which has a total budget of about $5.5 million.

Fresno State has one of the highest student-to-counselor ratios in the California State University system, with about 3,000 students for each counselor. During peak times at the end of the semester and during midterms, waits for an appointment can reach up to three weeks, which advocates say endangers students in crisis.

Lamas said that students with specific preferences, such as seeing only a female counselor, may also experience longer waits.

The California Faculty Association is pushing to reduce counselor ratios and wait times at CSU campuses, asking for $20 million in the state budget for the purpose of hiring additional counselors.

Lamas said if the state did provide additional funding, the university would use it, but that schools can’t wait for that to happen.

“It’s great that there’s more awareness by the state government and others about these issues, but when it’s talked about a lot, when you see the results of these surveys, you can’t really wait,” Lamas said. “You don’t want generations of college students dealing with this.”

Without the student fee increase, the center likely would have had to cut services, Lamas said.

The student health fee is mandatory. Lamas said Fresno State has one of the lowest total student fees in the CSU system at $843 per year.

Lamas said he expects that the university will write the job descriptions for the new positions this summer and hire for them by fall 2020. He added that the university has also hired additional advisers and counselors in non-mental health capacities, such as financial services, in order to further serve students.

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