As the needs of the student body evolve, Purdue is stepping up to face challenges such as rising enrollment rates and student mental health concerns. Below are changes students can expect to see on campus in the near future, according to several vice provosts.
Mental health on campus
Purdue is developing a new initiative to address growing mental health issues among college students. The initiative, “Steps to Leaps,” aims to equip students with tools and resources to build supportive networks, develop healthy habits and cope with setbacks.
“Steps to Leaps will (provide) a comprehensive approach to overall well-being,” said Beth McCuskey, vice provost for student life.
As demand for Purdue’s Counseling and Psychological Services escalates, Steps to Leaps will provide a source of support in cases where clinician intervention may not be appropriate. The Office of the Dean of Students will be repositioned as the first line of support for students who may benefit from non-clinical mental health support. The office has hired three new employees to help meet the anticipated demand for its services.
“While we clearly want students who need mental health services to connect with CAPS, we also know that many students need a listening ear or reassurance and not necessarily mental health therapy,” McCuskey said. “In these cases, ODOS will be there to help.”
Steps to Leaps will also seek to address stress from financial insecurity by providing resources to educate students about financial planning.
The Purdue Federal Credit Union will fund a financial literacy program beginning next semester. Students can meet one-on-one with a financial literacy education coordinator at the Recreation & Wellness center to discuss topics surrounding their finances, from developing budgeting skills to comparing job offers. The coordinator, as well as trained student employees, will be available to host programs and workshops for student groups.
“We know that finances can be a significant stressor for students and believe this program can help students develop strategies to build their financial acumen,” McCuskey said.
According to McCuskey, a group of students and staff is working on Steps to Leaps program modules to be integrated into Boiler Gold Rush this August. The entire initiative is expected to roll out in the fall.
A growing student body
According to Frank Dooley, vice provost for teaching and learning, every university in the Big Ten has seen an upsurge in enrollment over the past few years, which has made it difficult to provide housing for all students. At the beginning of last semester, 107 freshmen were housed in converted spaces in Purdue residence halls due to room shortages. Next fall, students are scheduled to have an additional 1,300 beds to choose from in the new Third Street North and Meredith South dorms, along with new private apartment complexes like Aspire at Discovery Park.
The University has been making an effort to increase enrollment since 2014, though Purdue President Mitch Daniels admitted last semester he wasn’t sure how long the trend could continue. Of the more than 50,000 undergraduate applications Purdue received for fall 2019, over 8,000 students are expected to accept admission, according to Dooley.
As a result, next year’s freshman class size may once again set a record, and it’s likely that students will be inconvenienced by campus construction for several more years. Though Dooley admits it will be challenging to accommodate growing class sizes, he is pleased with the heightened interest in higher education.