La Salle’s troubling lack of counseling services for fifth-year students

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Elizabeth McLaughlin, Editor

La Salle boasts multiple 5-year programs. But they don’t offer free counseling services to students in their fifth year. Why?

Many students in their fifth, and final, year of their program — whether that be Communication Sciences and Disorders, Secondary Education or Social Work, to name a few — also attend La Salle for their undergrad. In other words, these students are used to utilizing services such as the counseling and health centers as means to cope with their ever-stressful lives in both academia and the workforce. Some of them build profound and valuable relationships with their counselors, meeting with them on a weekly basis.

These students continue paying tuition, obviously, and they also continue paying the university fee and student activities fee — but once they officially enter their fifth year, they can’t see their counselor anymore. Now, if their counselor has a private practice, they have to pay out-of-pocket to continue maintaining their mental health. If their counselor doesn’t have a private practice, students are met with a dead end. 

According to Thervo, an average therapy session in Philadelphia costs between $60-$120 per session. Say a student meets weekly with their counselor throughout the school year; based on two 16 week-long semesters, that rounds out to $1,920 to $3,840 spent out of pocket on therapy per year. For many of my out-of-state friends, their insurance won’t cover a dime of therapy costs. I don’t know a single college student who could manage that extra cost on top of everything we already pay to this university. 

So why doesn’t La Salle offer the same counseling and wellness services to its fifth year students that it does to its undergraduates? In September of 2018, La Salle received “a three-year Garret Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Systems Administration, worth over $300,000.” Those three years have passed, and I’m unclear on exactly how La Salle utilized this grant. I have researched and read the plans published by La Salle and the grant manager from 2017 and 2018, but I have yet to find any updates on the program since then.

All of that information on the grant is only supplementary to my point: that La Salle provides no public reason as to why fifth year students cannot access student counseling or wellness services. Instead, they tell students who utilize these services throughout their undergrad, “Good luck! We won’t be helping you anymore.” Or, at least, that’s the impression that one of the students entering her fifth year of the Communication Sciences and Disorders program is under. “I still pay all my fees; I’m actually paying more now than I ever have for school. I pay $1,050 per credit and for some reason, I can’t keep seeing my counselor. It’s beyond frustrating.”

And she’s right, it is beyond frustrating because it’s a liability. Is it really in La Salle’s best interest to not offer free counseling and wellness services to its overworked and underpaid (if at all) graduate students? Another student entering her final year of the five year Communication Sciences and Disorders program showed me her current balance. $9,450 in tuition for 9 credits, plus a $285 “general university fee.” What is that “general” fee going toward, if not a service to help manage depression, anxiety and all the stress that comes with being in an accelerated program?

On Sunday, May 1, I worked my last ever event as a tour guide. Before the admitted students arrived to submit their deposit and commit to La Salle University, my fellow ACEs and I went around the quad, putting up signs with various fun facts about our school. One of the signs reads, “La Salle offers multiple five-year programs.” But what we don’t tell incoming students is that we can’t offer them free counseling services during that rigorous fifth year for their mental wellbeing. We don’t tell them that they’ll reach their final year, feeling more overworked and exhausted than they’ve likely ever felt in their entire life, and that they’ll have to work that out on their own.

Why not?

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