Maryland Passes Cameron Carden Act, Ensuring Students' Right to Mental Health Withdrawal from Universities


In a significant move towards prioritizing mental health in higher education, Maryland has enacted the Cameron Carden Act of 2024.

This legislation, named after a student who faced challenges due to mental health issues at Salisbury University, aims to provide a safety net for students grappling with mental health challenges. By requiring public universities to offer formal withdrawal policies that include mental health as a valid reason for stopping out, the law addresses a critical gap in support for students' well-being.

Maryland Passes Cameron Carden Act, Ensuring Students' Right to Mental Health Withdrawal from Universities

(Photo : WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Maryland GovPics)

The Need for Change

The journey towards the Cameron Carden Act began with a stark realization: existing university policies often did not adequately address mental health concerns. Cameron Carden's experience at Salisbury University highlighted this gap. After racist vandalism on campus exacerbated his mental health issues, Carden sought to leave mid-semester but faced resistance from the university's withdrawal policy. Despite his struggles, the policy did not cover mental health as a valid reason for withdrawal, leaving Carden torn between his well-being and financial concerns.

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Legislation and Impact

The Cameron Carden Act, signed into law by Governor Wes Moore, mandates that Maryland's public universities must offer formal withdrawal policies including mental health reasons and ensure refunds for students who withdraw mid-semester due to mental or physical health-related issues. This legislation is a pioneering step in the United States, setting a precedent for other states to prioritize mental health in higher education policies.

The law's impact extends beyond individual cases like Carden's, signaling a broader commitment to student well-being. It not only provides a safety net for students facing mental health challenges but also encourages a culture of openness and support on college campuses. By formalizing mental health withdrawal policies, universities can better communicate the process and resources available to students, ensuring a smoother experience for those in need of assistance.

Challenges and Solutions

Implementing the Cameron Carden Act poses challenges for universities. While some institutions within the University System of Maryland already had policies allowing withdrawals for extenuating circumstances, including illness, not all explicitly included mental health. As a result, universities now face the task of updating their policies to comply with the new law.

To address these challenges, the University System of Maryland is consulting with campuses to revise their policies. This process aims to ensure that students are aware of the available support and procedures, facilitating a more seamless withdrawal process for those in need. By formalizing these policies, universities can create a more supportive environment for students facing mental health challenges.

Looking Ahead

The Cameron Carden Act of 2024 represents a significant milestone in recognizing and addressing mental health issues in higher education. By prioritizing students' well-being, Maryland is setting an example for other states to follow. Moving forward, it will be essential for universities to continue improving their mental health support systems. This includes not only formal policies but also access to resources and a campus culture that destigmatizes mental health issues.

The Cameron Carden Act is a landmark legislation that emphasizes the importance of mental health support in higher education. By formalizing withdrawal policies and ensuring refunds for affected students, Maryland is taking a proactive approach to student well-being. As universities continue to evolve their mental health support systems, the impact of this legislation will be felt for years to come, creating a safer and more supportive environment for all students.

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