As tuition prices rise and families are less able to pay for their child’s tuition from savings alone, taking out loans to help pay the amount needed are becoming increasingly popular. Student loans, not to be confused with grants (which do not have to be repaid), are amounts of money lent to students to pay for tuition, books, or living costs.
Loans are not free money and must be paid back usually six months after the student has graduated college, and the catch with loans is they collect interest, and the more money borrowed, the higher the interest is going to be. For students coming into college who have previously had no responsibilities at all, it can be an extremely stressful and emotional time to have the knowledge in the back of their heads that they’re upwards of $4,000 in debt just from going to one term of college.
As students become aware of the amount of debt they will be in after college, an immense amount of pressure is put on them to pick a major that they like, are good at, and earns a lot of money. If they pick a career field that has no opening positions, doesn’t make a lot of money, or even worse, if they don’t even graduate college, the student will have no way to pay off the debt and will be burdened with their loans for almost the rest of their life. That is a lot of pressure to put on someone who only has two years to pick their major.
While this amount of pressure is enough to form a mental illness for anyone, it has been proven by sociology professors Han and Rothwell in an extensive twelve page report that “those with low incomes have been subject to heightened strain”(1), meaning that low income families experience even more stress because the stakes are higher for them, and excessive strain or stress can lead to a plethora of mental illnesses such as Panic Disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression. Using scholarships to help pay off tuition sounds like the most ideal choice to students and their families, and it can be.
The money earned does not have to be paid back and all a student typically has to do is write an essay and have letter of recommendations. But Sandra Gardner, an article writer for the New York Times has found that “there’s less and less of it than needed and more of it coming in the form of loans. “(Gardner) This leaves students with two choices; continue to try to pay off tuition with scholarships, or choose the more available option and take out a loan. Now we already know what can happen to students when they take out loans, but what happens if the student still goes for the scholarship route?
Since scholarships are becoming less and less available, competition is fierce for them. To be awarded a scholarship, a student has to have a high GPA (the higher the better), participate in a plethora of extracurricular activities such as clubs and sports, have an amazing letter of recommendation, and have superb writing skills. Since the student has to have a high GPA, the pressure to obtain that is immense because without one, they will most likely not receive any scholarships and might have to be forced to drop out.
This need for a high GPA means that the student has to do well in classes, most specifically tests in their classes, and this could lead to test anxiety. Participating in extra curricular activities such as clubs and sports requires a lot of time that could be spent studying or doing homework, so the reasonable option for a student who depends on a high GPA for scholarships is to avoid these extra curricular activities at all costs. The problem?
Scholarships aren’t looking for just a high GPA, they want the best of both worlds and they want students to have amazing GPA’s and be extremely active in their community. So if the student really wants that scholarship, they must do both. This leaves them with less time to study which could make them feel unprepared for tests and quizzes in their classes. And as explained by authors Christopher Vye, Kathlene Scholljegerdes, and Ira David Welch, “inefficient preparation can contribute to high levels of test anxiety” (Under Pressure and Overwhelmed, 100) which is a form of mental illnesses.
These days, getting a summer job and having parents help pay the bill isn’t enough anymore. Many students are compensating for the increase in price by getting part time jobs and working 35 plus hours a week which as esteemed New York Times Author Sandra Gardner comments is “hardly a recipe for academic success”(Gardner). For a college student with a part time job, it can be reasonably assumed that since they have less time to study, they will do worse in their classes, their GPA’s will lower, and they might even drop out of college.
But the whole reason students are taking on a part time job is to pay for college and get their degree, so dropping out would be a huge waste of money, time, and energy for them. To avoid having a lower GPA and dropping out, students will try to compensate for the study time lost by studying whenever possible, which is often late at night. This could cause the student to develop insomnia and in a study done by James F. Pagel and Carol F. Kwiatkowski, it was proven that “students who report insomnia, inadequate sleep, daytime sleepiness, irregular sleep patterns and/or poor sleep quality do not perform as well in school as others. (Sleep complaints affecting school performance at different educational levels, 1).
So essentially even though they are staying up later to do better in school, they are ultimately doing the exact opposite. When students are doing everything in their power to get good grades but are still not performing adequately, it is not uncommon for them to develop a subtype of depression known as hopelessness depression. (A Prospective Test of the Hopelessness Theory of Depression in Adolescence)
All of the mental illnesses mentioned in this paper so far are treatable, and one might claim that since they are treatable and since most colleges have health centers that can help treat mental illnesses, then there shouldn’t be a problem with illnesses rising on campuses. This has been proven wrong with countless reports of mental illnesses rising but this does have a truth. If there are health centers available then why aren’t the students going to them? This is because the very reason they have the mental illness is the reason they cant get treated. Time.
Applying for scholarships and having second jobs leaves students spending all their time in class, at work, or studying and in a report done by Daniel Eisenberg, Nicole Speer, and Justin B. Hunt, it was found that 51% of students with untreated mental illnesses “reported not having time for mental health services. “(Eisenberg et. Al) Getting treated for mental illnesses takes time, and activities to overcome them such as going to the gym takes time as well, and these students just don’t have enough time in their day for that when they’re already doing so much just to pay tuition.
College students are also not getting treated for their illnesses because to them, getting the degree is higher on their list of priorities. It has been proven that people with college degrees get higher paying jobs and with the high cost of tuition, students are gambling their present funds in hopes that they will graduate, get the degree, and earn enough money to pay off college debt. Because of this, they prioritize their actions and prioritize their problems.
A student interviewed by professor of graduate psychology Gregg Henriques even mentiones that “the pressure to succeed during school is oftentimes overwhelming, ( and that he) know(s) for a fact that students spend a majority of their time worrying about how to add things to their resume, instead of worrying about how to better themselves as individuals. ”(Holterman) In their eyes, treating a mental illness is not going to help them get the degree and admitting that they have an illness that needs treatment means that they will be losing a lot of time that could be spent studying and bettering their chances of getting a degree.
So they don’t prioritize it. In the same study mentioned earlier done by Daniel Eisenberg, Nicole Speer, and Justin B. Hun, it was found that 47% of students with untreated mental illnesses said they were not treated because they “question(ed) how serious (their) needs are. “(Eisenberg et. Al) Students are so worried about their future that even when they know they have an illness, they wont treat it because in the scale of all of their problems, a mental illness is miniscule. It has been proven that “depression rises dramatically during adolescence. And) the 1-year prevalence rates of clinical depression increase sixfold from 3% to 18% between ages of 15 and 18 years. ” (A Prospective Test of the Hopelessness Theory of Depression in Adolescence, 1)
So the claims that the number of college students with mental illnesses are rising only because of the age level and not college are partly true. But Christopher Vye, Kathlene Scholljegerdes, and Ira David Welch mention in their book dedicated to helping those with mental illnesses that “College is purposely designed to present students with new information, new knowledge, new experiences, and new people.
Experiences like this that might come as a gradual part of anyone’s maturation but they come in rapid succession for college students. “( Under Pressure & Overwhelmed, 45). This means that while teenagers are more susceptible to developing mental illnesses, the college atmosphere can exacerbate mental illnesses because of how fast paced everything is, and paying for tuition is just another stressor that can lead to mental illnesses.