The motto at the University of Texas is: "What Starts Here Changes the World." This week, the university's governing body, The University of Texas System Board of Regents, backed that motto with a $16.5 million investment that supports the mental health of the very thing that starts at UT's 13 academic and health institution — its students.
In a Tuesday, June 28 release, the UT Regents announced that the data-driven, multi-million investment over the next five years will build upon the institution's "long-standing commitment to student safety at all UT academic and health institutions."
In 2011, the university became the first system of higher education to approve an investment toward comprehensive alcohol prevention, education, and recovery programs at each of its academic campuses, and this latest investment will both further support and broaden the scope of those programs. The release detailed a special meeting held on June 28 to approve the $16.5 million investment for expanding and enhancing student mental health, student safety, and alcohol education resources at 13 institutions, including the University of Texas at San Antonio.
“Student safety is always top of mind for the UT System Board of Regents,” said chair Kevin P. Eltife in the release. “Our unanimous support of new funding speaks to the Board’s commitment to ensure the very best learning environments for all students across all UT institutions.”
Chancellor James Milliken said UT System leadership recommended additional investment in student mental health resources based on national studies and internal data that show a significant rise in the diagnosis and treatment of student mental health issues — including stress, anxiety and depression — over the past 10 years or more. Unsurprisingly, the release notes how the coronavirus pandemic and its associated challenges accelerated this trend, as the percentage of students at UT institutions who were diagnosed by and/or received mental health services from a professional increased from 20 percent in 2011 to 30 percent in 2021. During the same period, student counseling centers reported a 38 percent increase in psychiatric hospitalizations.
UT Austin will continue to oversee the expanded student mental health initiative, as it has since 2011. The chancellor emphasized UT Austin’s capacity and history of success as a leader in student mental health in his remarks to the board.
The total allocation of $16,500,000 will fund five initiatives, as well as the evaluation of their impact, for five years across the UT System:
- Mental health crisis line
- Expanding clinical mental health services to students via telehealth
- Web-based alcohol education and sexual assault and harassment prevention for students; harassment, safety, and other training for faculty and staff
- Faculty and staff training
- Thrive at UT mobile app
“Student safety and wellness remain a most critical priority for UT institutions, and the Board of Regents’ newest investment will support, educate and treat students at all UT academic and health institutions throughout their journey toward a degree,” Milliken said. “Our campuses are grateful for the timing of these new resources that will allow them to expand and enhance the student services determined to be most effective over the past 11 years and during the pandemic.”