Report Reveals One-Third of Postsecondary Students Consider Quitting Due to Stress, Mental Health, and Financial Issues


In the evolving landscape of higher education, the challenges faced by students are becoming increasingly complex and multifaceted. A recent report from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation, published on April 17, reveals that around one-third of students enrolled in postsecondary programs have considered halting their coursework in the past six months.

This alarming trend highlights significant underlying issues, primarily revolving around emotional stress, mental health concerns, and the financial burden of higher education. These findings underscore the critical need for educational institutions to address these challenges comprehensively to support student retention and success. By exploring the primary concerns of emotional stress, financial difficulties, and mental health, we can better understand the factors influencing student decisions to continue or discontinue their education and develop effective strategies to support them.

Report Reveals One-Third of Postsecondary Students Consider Quitting Due to Stress, Mental Health, and Financial Issues

(Photo : PEXELS / Moritz Böing)

Emotional Stress: The Primary Concern

Around one-third of students enrolled in postsecondary programs have considered halting their coursework in the past six months, according to an April 17 report from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation. The leading reason for this consideration is emotional stress, cited by 54 percent of students. This is a significant factor that affects not only their current academic performance but also their long-term educational outcomes. The pressures of academic expectations, social dynamics, and personal life challenges contribute to this emotional strain.

In addition to academic workload, many students are dealing with external pressures such as part-time jobs, family responsibilities, and uncertainties about their future career paths. These stressors can lead to burnout, a phenomenon characterized by emotional exhaustion, reduced performance, and feelings of detachment. The cumulative effect of these pressures can be overwhelming, prompting students to contemplate leaving their studies.

Moreover, the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health issues can prevent students from accessing the support they need. Institutions must work to normalize mental health care and provide comprehensive services, including counseling, stress management workshops, and peer support groups. By addressing emotional stress proactively, educational institutions can help students navigate their academic journeys more successfully.

READ MORE: Carroll University's Free Mental Health Clinic Extends Services To Waukesha Community 

The Financial Burden of Higher Education

The second most significant factor leading students to consider discontinuing their studies is the cost of higher education, cited by 31 percent of respondents. The financial burden of tuition, fees, and living expenses can be daunting, especially for students from low-income backgrounds. This financial strain is compounded by the rising costs of higher education and the limited availability of grants and scholarships.

Many students rely on financial aid to make their education affordable. The Gallup and Lumina report highlights the critical role of financial aid in keeping at-risk learners enrolled. Eighty-four percent of at-risk students say financial aid is very or moderately important to their continuation in higher education. This emphasizes the need for institutions to ensure that financial aid processes are transparent and accessible.

Furthermore, students from racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by financial challenges. The report indicates that Black and Hispanic learners are most likely to consider withdrawing from their programs due to financial concerns. Addressing these disparities is crucial for promoting equity in higher education. Institutions can support these students by offering targeted financial assistance, flexible payment plans, and emergency funds to help them manage unexpected expenses.

Mental Health and Financial Wellness: An Interconnected Challenge

The third primary concern for students considering stopping out is personal mental health, with 43 percent of students identifying this as a significant issue. There is a clear intersection between financial stress and mental health challenges. Financial difficulties can exacerbate mental health problems, creating a vicious cycle that affects students' ability to focus on their studies and succeed academically.

A 2023 Student Voice survey by Inside Higher Ed found that students receiving financial aid are more likely to report poor or fair mental health compared to those not receiving aid. This correlation underscores the need for a holistic approach to student support that addresses both financial and mental health needs.

Higher education leaders must recognize that financial stability is a key component of overall student well-being. Financial literacy programs can equip students with the skills to manage their finances effectively, reducing the stress associated with economic uncertainties. Additionally, institutions should consider providing financial wellness resources, such as budgeting workshops and one-on-one financial counseling, to help students navigate their financial responsibilities.

The Gallup and Lumina Foundation report underscores the critical importance of addressing emotional stress, financial burden, and mental health challenges in higher education. By providing comprehensive support services, transparent financial aid processes, and targeted assistance for at-risk populations, educational institutions can help students persist in their studies and achieve their academic goals. The interconnected nature of these issues requires a coordinated effort to create a supportive and inclusive educational environment that promotes student success.

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