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A female youth works with a mental health professional.

Health Care and Community College: An Often Overlooked Need

The following blog post is by Kathryn Nichols, an intern with the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) at the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL).

While they may not realize it, the structure of high school provides students with access to physical health services. There is a school nurse who is available if students are starting to not feel well. Students are required to turn in immunization records which encourages regular health maintenance at least at its minimum levels. Teachers see students every day which gives them the opportunity to take notice when something seems a little out of the ordinary for one of their students and then check in with them to make sure they are feeling well.

When transitioning to college, students are often responsible for their own health care for the first time. Many times students are not prepared to transition to health care independence successfully. While it is well-known that community colleges often need to provide extra academic supports to their students in order assist them in successfully transitioning, community colleges also enroll young people who are more likely to be uninsured and the supports that they need are often overlooked. Health concerns among students can add more stress to what may already be a stressful situation as they are transitioning to independence at adulthood. A student may not know where to go to get care and how she will pay for it if she does go somewhere. 69% of students who dropped out of college before completing their program said that health insurance would have helped them “a lot” to be able to complete. If a health issue or illness causes a student to miss class multiple times, it may be very hard for him or her to catch up on coursework. A student who is sick, in pain, or who is in a constant state of worry over how he will pay for his next prescription cannot be expected to be able to focus on coursework and succeed. This student may decide that he needs to work more in order to pay medical bills or to drop out of college in order to cut back on expenses.

Not all community colleges have the resources to provide their students with a student health insurance plan and a student health clinic, but colleges can connect students to the resources that are available to them and the organizations that can help them. Some community colleges have partnered with organizations such as Enroll America in order to not only make information on health care enrollment available but also to hold events for the college and the surrounding community to become informed and get assistance in enrolling. Coastline Community College in California has partnered with a local health care agency to provide primary and urgent care to its students. Students pay a health fee at enrollment and then are provided with access to a wide range of services through Memorial Prompt Care. By providing information to their students and making these connections, colleges can help to ensure that their students’ health needs are being met and that students are not leaving college due to health concerns that could have been addressed and treated.

© 2023 NCWD/Youth