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USF is a depressed university.

At least 2,500 of its students were suffering enough from various emotional problems last year to seek counseling. The Tampa Tribune pointed out that 2,500 students could “fill one of Hillsborough County’s largest high schools.” The Tribune also pointed out that the demand for one-on-one counseling at USF has risen 50 percent in the past six years – at a time when budget cuts have forced the Counseling Center to lose one full-time counselor and two graduate assistants.

The cuts have resulted in some students not finding the help they need. What’s worse, that’s only the students who sought help in the first place – mental counseling is still largely taboo in much of America, so it is especially unfortunate when those who muster the courage to seek help don’t find what they need.

Of course, keeping students happy and healthy is in the University’s interests. Depression can cause dropouts. Worse, it can cause suicide attempts. The anger and anguish that can stem from emotional issues can cause a student to flunk classes, leave the University altogether or even take his or her own life. And it’s not just USF students, either – it’s students all over Florida and the nation.

From Stetson University College of Law and Florida State University all the way to the University of Pennsylvania, universities are seeing more students who desire counseling. And most schools don’t have any help to give.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that college students are depressed. Take any group of people who work hard but are poor anyway, have the prospect of bright futures but no assurance of future wealth and are largely in transitional phases in their lives – either from adolescence to adulthood or one career to another. One is bound to find that depression runs rampant in any group that meets those qualifications, and college students fit that bill to a “T.”What can be done about it is the difficult issue. It would be easy to merely endorse the hiring of more counselors, but that requires money, which in turn has to come from somewhere.

The University should charge a special fee called a Mental Health Services Fee. It wouldn’t have to be large – even $10 per student per year would give the Counseling Center an annual budget of nearly half a million dollars. In exchange, the University would have higher graduation rates and better students, and more importantly might save some lives. Anyone can spare $10 a year to help do that.