House Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Address Student Mental Health
July 20, 2022

​The House passed two bills last week that seek to address the growing mental health crisis on college campuses. The legislation, which is endorsed by ACE and a number of other higher education groups, was approved with bipartisan support.

The first bill, the Enhancing Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Through Campus Planning Act (H.R. 5407), directs the Department of Education to support campus efforts to develop comprehensive approaches to mental health and suicide prevention. As Inside Higher Ed writes, the bill does not include funding for additional campus services, but Congress could still act to provide more funding to existing programs like the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which provides federal grants to states for youth mental health and suicide prevention efforts and is funded at $7 million annually. The program is set to expire at the end of this fiscal year.

The Campus Prevention and Recovery Services for Students Act (H.R. 6493) modernizes Section 120 of the Higher Education Act, updating the existing requirement for institutions to provide substance abuse prevention and support programs. It authorizes $15 million annually to help to fund addiction prevention and recovery programs and create a grant program to help institutions create and implement new standards.

The mental health of students has been a serious concern for college leaders since before March 2020, but studies show COVID-19 exacerbated mental health conditions among students. Research from The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice shows that 4 in 10 students reported experiencing anxiety or depression at the height of the pandemic.

In a series of Pulse Point surveys conducted since the start of the pandemic, "mental health of students" was the pressing issue cited most frequently by presidents in almost all surveys through the fall term 2021.

The Department of Education also has responded to the increasing need for support, releasing guidance in April on how colleges and universities can use Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds from the American Rescue Plan to invest in student mental health support.