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How Mental Health Impacts Scholarship Recipient Degree Attainment and Financial Aid Eligibility

Health, Safety, and Well-being Wellness and Health Promotion
Thomas Van Norman

Annually 40% of low income students accepted to college never enroll. Additionally, 64% of those who leave college do so for mental health reasons. When affordability is of upmost importance and diagnosis in college is on the rise, mental health professionals must understand implications for financial aid. This presentation will focus on how Purdue Promise, a scholarship program for low-income students from Indiana, collaborates with mental health professionals to support students in keeping their scholarships and persisting towards graduation.

The Purdue Promise program helps income-eligible 21st Century Scholars (a State of Indiana need-based scholarship program) be successful at Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus. The Purdue Promise four-year experience is comprised of financial assistance and targeted coaching rooted in academic, social, leadership, and life skills development, and is both an access and success program, targeting student who are under-resourced and historically labeled as “at risk” for low matriculation and degree attainment. The Program’s main purpose is to retain and graduate students who believe they can succeed, know how to advocate for themselves, and have the help-seeking skills to overcome life’s obstacles during college and post-graduation.

After the first year of coaching, Purdue Promise staff began to speculate that most students who were struggling academically were not struggling for academic reasons. Thus, we began tracking 53 non-academic issues or concerns that may affect students’ academic success and/or ability to graduate on time. Six out of the top 10 issues are non-academic, and all 10 issues could impact feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression (retaking courses, motivational issues, family financial issues, changing majors, personal finance issues, personal medical issues, working while in college, feeling not academically prepared for college, difficulty with study strategies, death of a family member).

Thus, the Purdue Promise program staff collaborates with our Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) staff and makes referrals to them in numerous ways. However, supporting students on scholarship who need to seek mental health assistance is challenging because of the regulations that protect information discussed in those meetings. While students can sign waivers for CAPS to release information to Financial Aid for appeals, there are many times when students are struggling but not going through appeals processes or not aware of that option, and we are limited in our ability to support them without the expertise of CAPS. 

Learning Outcomes

Participants will:

  • gain a comprehensive knowledge of the Purdue Promise program, its relationship to mental health professionals on Purdue’s campus, and the strategies it uses to support its program participants dealing with mental health issues.
  • have a raised awareness of how counseling services’ recommendations may impact students in other areas, including financial aid and academic progress. 
  • identify opportunities for education and collaboration between mental health professionals and student affairs professionals.
  • participate in active discussion to analyze mental health barriers to student success, retention, and graduation.
Course Length
Course Type
On Demand

Register Online