This is an important article from The Atlantic. It highlights the complex issues surrounding how colleges and universities manage mental health issues of students.
A key point to recognize is that despite clear rights of students, it is sometimes difficult to clearly determine the fitness and well-being of a student. To require a student to take a leave of absence is a serious matter. Schools should only do so when the safety of the student or others is in question.
What is more concerning is that these policies must be clearly articulated and disclosed by schools prior to enrollment.
The Atlantic article suggests that in the case of Yale, “the school’s withdrawal and readmission policies….make it especially difficult for students with mental health issues to feel comfortable leaving campus, even when taking time off from school may improve their wellbeing.”
As UCLA’s Freshmen Study indicates and has been widely reported on CBS and other news sites such as The New York Times indicate that more freshmen face mental health issues and depression. “The survey of more than 150,000 students nationwide, “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2014,” found that 9.5 percent of respondents had frequently “felt depressed” during the past year, a significant rise over the 6.1 percent reported five years ago. Those who “felt overwhelmed” by schoolwork and other commitments rose to 34.6 percent from 27.1 percent.”
Given these findings and trends it is vital that schools embrace processes that promote greater transparency. This is particularly true – for transparency that promotes a reliable understanding of how the investment in college will be handled in the case of a medical withdrawal.
We assert that all schools should provide “notice” of the refund policies of their institution and also the objective criteria that will be used by the school to determine fitness to attend classes.