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While students are gearing up for a relaxing spring break, NAU Counseling Services in the Health and Learning Center is taking action to increase the HLC fee by $50 a year.

The current fee is $250 each semester, and includes low-cost mental and physical health services, public health efforts and the promotion of healthy living. It also gives all students access to the gym and pool with all of its free exercise classes. With LouieCare, NAU's health insurance, students are able to receive counseling for as little as $10 each visit. If you don’t have insurance, it could cost as much as $50 each visit. The first visit is free. If this fee increase passes, students will be paying, in total, $550 annually for these amenities, plus the fees for their appointments after their first visit.

This fee increase will allow NAU to hire two additional counselors, three psychologists and one psychiatrist. With more mental health professionals, the waitlist will be shorter and staff will be more readily available to help more students. It will also help establish more programs and opportunities for students to practice mental health awareness.

There was a campus forum Monday for students to voice their opinions about the potential fee increase. Members of ASNAU will also be tabling March 12-14 in order to get student input as well. The final decision will be voted on by ASNAU on March 14 after the last of their tabling.

I know there have been many complaints from students wanting to receive counseling but having to get on the waiting list because there weren’t any available counselors. I’ve also heard of some people being encouraged to attend group therapy in order to maximize the amount of people getting help at the HLC.  

My friend utilizes the counseling services at the HLC and said it can be a confusing process just to get an appointment, and even worse for new people who want to see a professional. The waitlist is the biggest issue as there are some people who may need immediate help if they are struggling with thoughts of suicide or other severe mental health issues. My friend said one-on-one counseling can feel very “interview-like” and there aren’t many established personal connections with counselors because of the lack of employees and bi-weekly appointments.

From his experience, my friend feels this fee will be beneficial for NAU and students since depression and anxiety are two of the top mental health issues affecting students. According to the American Psychological Association, 41.6 percent of college students list anxiety as their top mental health concern. Depression is a close second, with 36.4 percent of students affected. Within the United States alone, 14.8 million adults struggle with depression and 40 million deal with anxiety. So, this issue is not only related to college students, but also for the health of most of the community.

I hope this fee passes because I think it will help many students. Mental health is so important for people’s well-being. You can’t fully live life and go to school if you do not have good mental health or ways to manage mental health issues.

Paying $550 annually for an HLC fee may seem like a lot, and some students might be opposed to spending even more money than they do now, but the fee itself will be multi-functional and can help students stay healthy — physically and mentally. The Athletics Fee that was proposed last year seemed to only impact a small group of people and was an added cost that 92 percent of students did not want.

The increase of the HLC fee will make for a happier and healthier NAU.

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Ariel Cianfarano is the circulation director of The Lumberjack, Northern Arizona University's student newspaper. College Chronicles aims to connect Flag Live! readers to various aspects of campus life.

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