By Maddison Cervantes
Since 2007, Counseling Services at University of Nevada, Reno have possessed a staff to student ratio of approximately 1:2,143. The ratio is a result of the $35 Counseling Services fee, which does not allow the center to function at current staff levels, according to Director at Counseling Services Cindy Marczynski. Counseling Services has proposed a $15 increase in their general fee (from $35 to $50) which will assist in providing additional clinical staff, and help to make the services more accessible to students.
The final outcome of the proposal will be determined this week.
The money produced by the increase would be approximately $500,000, and if passed, the fee will be paid by all students enrolled in over six credits at the university.
“[Counseling Services] are hoping to add additional prevention and outreach services as well as we move into the new Pennington Student Achievement Center, which will provide the space we need to add staff,” Marczynski said.
The resolution for the proposed fee increase was presented by Sens. Anthony Ramirez and Catie McCrillis, who are in favor of the increase.
McCrillis stated that if passed, the fee will go to hiring two more professional staff members, along with supporting the Services in implementing the second psychologist doctoral program in the state.
“Not everyone will use it but for those who need it it’s important,” McCrillis said. “For that student struggling who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, here is a free service to help them.”
Although Sen. Thomas Green agreed with Ramirez and McCrillis that the university’s Counseling Services is an important asset to the university, he disagreed that the increase in fees for the center is necessary.
Green explained that the proposed increase of $15 would equate to roughly 43 percent of the current fee students are currently asked to pay.
“After raising tuition over the summer, which I voted in favor for, I did not feel this increase justified what the students on this campus want,” Green said. “With the increase of roughly 6,000 new students this semester, these services are already receiving more money than they had initially anticipated.”
Green is skeptical about whether or not the Board of Regents will approve the proposal, regardless of the senate’s decision.
Despite Green’s argument, Ramirez found the increase to be essential for the future of Counseling Services. He stated that over the past few years, Counseling Services has been forced to break into their reserves in order to continue operating. Therefore, Ramirez believes that the price raise is necessary.
“I myself have used this resource when I was going through some hard times in my life,” Ramirez said. “I think it’s important that the university offers an easy-to-access resource like the Counseling Services for students to use on campus.”
With the fee increase, Ramirez said that Counseling Services’ resources will become easier to access.
Sen. Ryan Hood, also in favor of the proposal, added that the increase is approaching at a crucial time for Counseling Services. He stated that Counseling Services are at risk of losing their recognition due to the lack of necessary funding to support the necessary staff for the growing student population.
“I want to see the university continue to grow, develop and prosper,” Hood said. “A university that cannot provide for its students’ mental health needs cannot do so. Providing mental health services helps to create a safe environment for the entire university.”
Some students at the university, including those who have not used Counseling Services to their full capacity, are in favor of the fee increase.
Sophomore Tino Ragone believes that if the increase provides what has been said, the proposal should be passed.
“If better services for students that possess mental problems due to high stress or whatever it may be are provided, I don’t see the problem in a slight price raise,” Ragone said.
Marczynski agreed with Ragone, stating that Counseling Services provide a key resource in assisting students who present behavioral or emotional concerns to others. If these concerns are expressed daily and as they arise, Marczynski said that it is more likely to prevent more significant behavioral disruptions or danger to the community later on.
The Board of Regents will decide on the fee proposition during a two-day meeting on Dec. 4-5.
“In many ways, our fee acts as an insurance policy for students,” Marczynski said. “They often assume they won’t ever use it or need it, but when they do, it is really important to keep it readily available without further charge. That way, cost is never a barrier to getting someone in.”
Maddison Cervantes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @madcervantes.